Impending iOS 4.2 Update Shows Apple Lagging Behind Android

So, at some point in the near future, possibly Friday, Apple will release its next update to its iOS devices, iOS 4. This is supposed to be a unifying update bringing the iPad, the iPhone, and the iPod Touch all together, in what many anticipate as a road that leads to some sort of merging or mashing up of OSX and iOS in the future. But after I posted about this possibly coming this week, I started thinking about getting ready for the update.

That thinking made me realize just how far Apple has to go when it comes to pushing updates to its mobile devices. I don’t use an Android device, so I have no experience with Android’s over the air updates. But with Apple and its umbilical chord to iTunes, we’re not only looking at having to download and install the update through a computer, but we’re usually looking at an iTunes update as well. Talk about tedious and time consuming. I may be going to far, but Apple’s iOS updates are fast approaching the same kind of tedium that one associates with setting up a new Windows computer. We’re also potentially looking at an OSX update (OSX 10.6.5) that apparently allows for the AirPrint (maybe, maybe not) and other features to work together with the iOS devices.  So, in my case, I’m backing up my MacBook Pro, which is the device that my iOS devices are tied to. But before I do those backups I make sure my iOS devices are backed up there first.

Overly cautious? I don’t think so. OS updates have been known to have issues (not just Apple’s) and it is better to be safe than sorry when you mess with the guts of any machine. But the fact remains that Apple’s hugely successful mobile devices still require users to reconnect the umbilical chord to a computer to move forward with the platform. While that seems counter intuitive for a mobile device, there is a benefit. If you take the time to back things up, you at least have that data somewhere else in your possession. But wait, you say, what about the cloud? Google backs up your data in the cloud and syncs it back down after an update. Yes, that’s true and hugely beneficial to Android users. I may be wrong on this next statement, but I’m guessing that’s not the case with bandwidth sucking media though and there’s still some tethering going on there. But it points up another front where Apple lags behind. Apple’s MobileMe service will handle your contacts, email, photos, calendars, etc.. and you can sync them down from there. But that service still costs $99 a year, and to put it kindly is a weak stepchild compared to Apple’s other initiatives and has been known to be unreliable. That said, rumors suggest that may be changing when Apple’s new North Carolina data farm comes on line. If Apple is ever going to sever its umbilical chord that can’t happen too soon from a competition standpoint.

UPDATE: Steve Jobs is apparently responding to the AirPrint issue. This is apparently from an email exchange:

Q: As a release-day purchaser of an iPad, I was elated when you revealed iOS 4.2 would support AirPrint. Now comes reports AirPrint support has been pulled from 4.2. Between announcements/assurances of the white iPhone, and now the pulling of AirPrint, is Apple going to lose credibility and become known for announcing “vaporware”?

A: AirPrint has not been pulled. Don’t believe everything you read.