I am thoroughly enjoying the debut crop of iPhone Apps — a welcome improvement over the (mostly) second-rate half-baked apps available in the Jailbreak era.
Here are a few imaginary apps and functions I wish I could be using right now.
1. Batch Sync
Most New Yorkers with iPhones will recognize this scenario: You get on the subway and decide to catch some headlines on NetNewsWire, or maybe you want to catch up on the last hour or two of tweets on Twitteriffic. But when you open up each app, you find yourself looking at the same headlines you were looking at ten hours ago — the last time you launched the app. And now you’re underground and it’s too late to sync.In fact, many subway commuters have learned to practice a little ritual where, on their way to the train station, they launch each of these apps one by one just to sync the data so that when they go underground the data will be there ready for them.
“Batch Sync” is my solution. It’s simple an icon on the Home screen that, when clicked, launches each and every of the apps the user wants to synchronize with the cloud.
I realize that this app is probably impossible unless Apple does it themselves: Wisely, Apple does not permit any third-party iPhone apps to run in the background, a privilege reserved exclusively for a select number of Apple’s own apps (Mail, iPod, etc). But I can imagine a scenario in which Apple permits third-party apps to run in a limited way in the background, under specific user request and control: First, they can only sync in the background — no other functions besides syncing is permitted; and second, only if the user grants those apps specific permission to sync behind the scenes (or on demand) on a case-by-case basis.
This could most easily be done via a Preferences panel (a checkbox list, for example, listing all apps that offer the ability to sync automatically. UPDATE: Allegedly Apple is working on this, but no current apps seem to use it.
2. WiFi Switch
I turn my iPhone’s WiFi antenna on and off fairly frequently (to conserve battery life, for example), and it’s a pain to have to drill down into the System Preferences every time I want to do it.”WiFi Switch is a simple app that will provide Home-screen-level access to toggle WiFi on and off. That’s all it does — you click it and it turns WiFi on, click again and it turns it off. The icon could even change color to reflect the current state.
In fact, I sense some promise in the general idea of having a Home screen icon that simply switches some iPhone service on and off. There must be other uses for such a model.
3. A Decent To-Do List.
All of the current options really suck, IMHO. They’re either bloated GTD-crazed apps where it takes longer to write down and classify most tasks than it does to actually do them, or they are misbegotten piles of bad visual design, non-standard iPhone UI elements, and thoughtlessly inelegant user interaction design processes. More on this later.