Clicky

Impending iOS 4.2 Update Shows Apple Lagging Behind Android

By  |  13 Comments

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.

Warner Crocker is a professional theatre director, producer and playwright and also a Tablet PC enthusiast. He is also a Microsoft MVP for Tablet PCs. Send email to Warner. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+

13 Comments

  1. drnkusv

    11/10/2010 at 3:58 pm

    Warner, I think you are wrong on this one. iTunes is absolutely a pain. But I own an Android phone too, and you know what’s a bigger pain? Waiting around while the carriers figure out the schedule for rolling updates so as not to overwhelm the OTA system by upgrading everyone at once. It literally takes Verizon three weeks or a month to upgrade all the Droids to Android 2.1. As much of a pain as iTunes is, it’s great that when Apple releases an update, everyone who wants to can just go their computer — on their own schedule — download the upgrade and install it on their device

    Neither system is perfect, but if these are the two options, I still pick iTunes.

  2. drnkusv

    11/10/2010 at 3:58 pm

    Warner, I think you are wrong on this one. iTunes is absolutely a pain. But I own an Android phone too, and you know what’s a bigger pain? Waiting around while the carriers figure out the schedule for rolling updates so as not to overwhelm the OTA system by upgrading everyone at once. It literally takes Verizon three weeks or a month to upgrade all the Droids to Android 2.1. As much of a pain as iTunes is, it’s great that when Apple releases an update, everyone who wants to can just go their computer — on their own schedule — download the upgrade and install it on their device

    Neither system is perfect, but if these are the two options, I still pick iTunes.

    • Anonymous

      11/10/2010 at 4:10 pm

      Good to hear from an Android user on this as I don’t use Android. Waiting for the carriers is another issue entirely as I see it. But the time lag once released is another issue as you point out.

      • drnkusv

        11/10/2010 at 6:00 pm

        I agree it is important to distinguish between the “fragmentation problem” — that is, some phones getting upgrades before others, and the “rollout problem” — that is, once a phone “gets” a sanctioned update, it can take a month to get the OTA update rolled out to every owner.

        I think the rollout problem is the one that most directly goes to your point, Warner. The rollout problem is purely one of bandwidth and resources, and it would be avoided by an iTunes-like setup where the upgrade was downloaded to a computer.

        The fragmentation problem is a much deeper issue with Android that has to do with the multiple handset makers and carriers that all have a say in how Android is implemented.

  3. Michael Anderson

    11/10/2010 at 4:20 pm

    I would only say he is ‘partially wrong’. Everything you (drnkusv) say about Android is true, as my multi-month wait for Froyo on my Droid and my various friends with Android versions from 1.6 – 2.1 on their phones would attest.

    And honestly I understand the need to update iTunes due to the iOS update. But it also reflects the sorry state of having to have your device physically tethered to a computer. My MBP is in my basement, and I would sometimes like to be able to wirelessly sync across our speedy WiFi home network – yet I can’t. Why? No clue.

    And while with my iPod Touch I accept it as ‘just an iPod’ and deal with it … my iPad is a *computer* that I use all the time at work and home, and as such I really dislike having to plug it in like an iPod to get it updated.

    Also … MobileMe … I think this is the year I break free, I have spent $800 being a member – and what do I really have to show? That I spent nearly a grand on a service that lags behind free alternatives in nearly every way?

  4. Gort TheBot

    11/10/2010 at 4:36 pm

    Android – ya, you may wait while carriers sort out the up dates, but for someone like me where my phone is a mission critical device, that’s fine, because I have yet to have a ‘disaster’ update.
    As for updates from ITunes vs over the air – dude, that’s so last century – get a life….
    For those of you where it is a toy, then I guess waiting is a problem.
    At least I’ve not had to go with a semi functional phone – like 3G owners did.

  5. James Beltran

    11/10/2010 at 5:03 pm

    Gort TheBot:
    Just a heads up, over the air updates sometimes go wrong and you end up with a bricked phone. The solution is to go to the carrier and get a replacement. And these are not rooted phones, or phones that people messed with. They are updates directly from the carrier. They don’t seem to get much response in the news, perhaps because it is rolled out over a few at a time instead of everyone at once so they affect a smaller population of users.
    Some recent ones:
    Sept 23, 2010
    http://wwwery.com/8293-samsung-captivate-update-gps-fix-bricking-phones.html
    Sept 07, 2010
    http://www.techeye.net/mobile/o2-bricks-phones-with-android-froyo-update
    June 28th, 2010
    http://www.sprintdroids.com/forum/sprint-android-news/343-dont-update-evo-some-getting-bricked.html

  6. Eochaid

    11/10/2010 at 5:13 pm

    I would have to disagree as well. Over the air updates are a symptom of Android’s greater problem of fragmentation, and not its benefit. I have a Droid X and I absolutely love the phone, but I’ve always felt a huge downside is the fact there is no unifying software to backup and restore the phone. For instance, when iOS 4 came out, there were massive problems with the iPhone 3G taking the software. While there is no easy way to roll back the update, at least you could load up a jailbroken rom or find an older rom from somewhere else. Then when iOS 4.1 comes out to fix the issues, just plug in your iPhone and wallah! Its restored along with all your apps, photos, music, videos, podcasts, etc.

    With Android there are 3rd party ways to backup and sync data and even apps, but they are often lacking in functionality or not quite as polished. Also, since the OEMs are actually modifying and distributing the software for the phone, and NOT Google, Google has no way to actually create something like iTunes to allow for backup and restoration. As a result, I haven’t actually had the balls to try to “root” my phone or load up custom roms because its inordinately hard to get the original software back on. In fact, one reviewer (I don’t remember who) was trying to restore his Droid X to the Motorolla 2.1 software in order to get the OTA update to 2.2, and ended up with a dead battery in the middle of the installation. As a result, he has to rewire his battery to an external source, charge it, then power it back up and get the update. Holly crap! As much as MotoBlur sucks, I’d rather have that then brick my phone. I would love the ability to connect my phone to my pc and restore it…

    But Android cannot have a unifying software like iTunes because Android is not being run on Android phones, it is the OEM’s annoying overlays that are. This is an issue (fragmentation) that Google needs to solve, but its going to take a lot of work to get it working right. And while the Android platform is amazing and I prefer it to the iOS platform, this is one place where iOS is better and I hope that Android eventually gains something to compete with it.

  7. jondrew

    11/10/2010 at 5:18 pm

    “Impending iOS 4.2 Update Shows Apple Lagging Behind Android” – I saw this and was already formulating a smart assed response without even reading the article. However, since I did read it I certainly agree that for all of Apple’s pluses (at least in my mind) this whole iTunecentric update ritual is really getting old. If Apple is as cash rich as we are lead to believe I would hope that they are starting to spend some R&D on replacing this dinosaur.

  8. Tatej

    11/10/2010 at 6:25 pm

    I don’t have a problem with having to connect my iDevice to iTunes to get updates. Every few months, I have to connect my iPhone to to iTones to get an update. Other than that, I seldom connect my to my computer.

    Yes, OTA updates would be more convenient, but for me, plugging into a desktop every few months is not much of an inconvenience for me.

  9. Bpjen

    11/10/2010 at 6:42 pm

    I think it is somewhat humorous, but also somewhat sad that we have gotten to the point where something that takes 3 steps- updating iTunes, plugging in the iPad, updating the iPad- where it takes about 10-15 minutes, is referred to as “tedious”- man have we gotten spoiled.
    For me, as a Droid user, not knowing when I will ever get the update, even days and weeks after others have gotten it, is far more inconvenient.

  10. pu$$y

    11/12/2010 at 4:07 am

    Why are people commenting on platforms that they admit they have never used? Please do some research first before formulating an opinion.

Leave a Reply