How Apple, Google & Microsoft Can learn from WebOS
This was originally posted on my tech blog. Shameless plug: www.techbyteuk.com
I wrote a huge post about the phones I've owned over the last 5 years a while ago. To summarise I basically concluded that I always end up back in Apple's corner despite trying a bunch of other phones. I think this is a pattern that is probably set to continue and I'll probably buy an iPhone 5 when it's released in the coming weeks but there are a number of ways that I think that all of the "big 3" players in the phone space can learn from Palm's fantastic WebOS.
The only phone that I have managed to keep as long as the iPhone is the Palm Pre and despite its long list of shortcomings there were some very good reasons for this.
In my opinion, the only mobile OS that can come close to matching WebOS in terms of aesthetics is Windows Phone. There is an elegant simplicity about it that Apple makes a good effort of equalling but ruins it with all of the unnecessary fake leather, linen and wood textures. One of the most popular features of WebOS was its multitasking switcher and it's influence can be seen in the switchers of both Android and Windows Phone but neither are quite as pleasing.
WebOS and the Pre phones were way ahead of the game when it came to gestures. The ability to swipe away an app from the multitasking switcher was obvious and simple and navigational gestures were far more intuitive than anything the competition offers even today. Swiping back or forward under the screen to navigate back and forward just makes sense and swiping up to show the dock makes it super easy to access your most used apps. These below screen gestures would perfectly suited the space under the iPhone screen and the upward swipe would be perfectly suited to activating the multitasking bar, something that the brilliant chpwn has added with a Cydia tweak.
This is something that many Android phones and some Windows Phones include these days but it's something the iPhone is seriously lacking in my opinion. Sure, you can sort of use the flash as a notification light but how often do you have your phone screen down on a desk? It surely wouldn't be too much trouble for Apple's engineers to squeeze one in under the home button or near the earpiece without ruining the aesthetics of the iPhone.
As far as I'm concerned this is something that all modern smartphones should include and it's great to see Nokia doing it with their new phones. A lot of people seem to argue that it's unnecessary but I bet these people never spent any time with the Palm Pre. The convenience of just having to place your phone down is great and the features that using it activates are even better such as the way it automatically answers in speakerphone mode when docked. Many of the negative comments I've seen around the subject seem to say that they want to be able to pick up and use their phone while charging. What these people for some reason seem to fail to grasp is that inductive charging is just an option. It doesn't mean that everyone has to use it all of the time.
Better Tablet Interactivity
The best thing to come out of HP's brief time with WebOS in my opinion was the way that the phone interacted with the tablet. Sharing a webpage from your phone to your tablet was as simple as touching the two together. Features like this are being integrated fairly well with cloud services from the big players now but there are some things that just don't seem to be looked at at all. Most notably for me is the ability to answer calls and send text messages from the tablet. Just like WebOS allowed you to dock your phone when you got home and do everything through your tablet, you should be able to do the same with your iPhone and iPad, Android phone and tablet or Windows 8 devices. iMessages is half way there but not all of my friends own iPhones so it's not that much use.
Am I alone in thinking these features were great and should be carried forward into the mobile operating systems we use today? Can anybody think of any that I missed? Please leave a comment!