While many writers are concentrating on the anxiously anticipated Apple tablet, I have chosen to leave that topic alone until after its official announcement. If you are interested in that, see Alex Lindsay’s and Chris Meyer’s great articles here in ProVideo Coalition. I have decided to publish my predictions for iPhoneOS 4.0, based upon my own desires for features, as well as those expressed by the general market, and some features offered already on some Google/Android-based mobile devices -especially the recent Nexus One- which are currently missing from the iPhone. I am surprised that these desirable features haven’t even been mentioned by other popular media outlets who have reviewed the Nexus One. So keep reading to discover my predictions for iPhoneOS 4.0, and some little known capabilities of the Nexus One and some other Google/Android devices.
How Google/Android beats today’s iPhone for podcast reception
If you are a frequent podcast listener as I am, you are probably tired of having to sync your iPhone to a computer just to get your latest batch of podcasts. This is currently the only way to get your subscribed podcasts into your iPhone, and so far, Apple has decided to reject any third-party application that attempts to improve upon this situation. The iPhone should be able to download subscribed podcasts automatically via WiFi, Edge, or 3G. On the other hand, more than one podcasting subscription application already exists for Google/Android Phones that does allow for what I just described. The best one I’ve seen so far is called DogCatcher, which has received excellent reviews, and even offers the option to avoid downloading large files except when the phone is being charged, to avoid excessive battery consumption during the download.
Since Apple is considered a pioneer in podcasting, I find it quite ironic that the competing Google/Andoid phones have already beaten the iPhone at podcasting reception, at least for now. So you guessed it: Over-The-Air automatic retrieval of subscribed podcasts is on my list of iPhoneOS 4.0 desired features. If you are a podcast listener/viewer, you will certainly appreciate this. If you are a podcast producer (as I am), you will certainly appreciate how you will get many more listeners/viewers who don’t yet get the multi-step process of subscribing on the computer and then syncing the iPhone or iPod Touch to the computer.
UMA: What is it, and why it matters
For those of our readers who are not already familiar with UMA, here’s an executive summary:
The letters UMA actually stand for something inappropriate: Unlicensed Mobile Access. In practical terms, UMA means seamless call switching between a GSM and a WiFi connection with a single phone number. UMA has been existence for many years, and I have been a happy user of it. Among UMA’s benefits are:
- Reception where the GSM signal won’t normally reach (i.e. your home or many office buildings)
- Saving on minutes (especially if you are not already on an unlimited plan)
- Zero roaming fee when you are out of your home country, and connected via WiFi (Look for the UMA indication on the screen.)
- Better battery life, since the phone’s transmitter produces a much lower wattage to reach the closest WiFi router, rather than the closest GSM tower
- Less radiation to your head, for the reason mentioned above
If you visit UMAToday.com, you can find out what mobile carriers support UMA, by country. You can also see a listing of current and past UMA-cabable handsets. In the USA, there are only two carriers which currently support UMA: T-Mobile and Cincinnati Bell. Of those, only T-Mobile is a national carrier, and it happens to be my preferred carrier since way before they offered UMA. Unfortunately, T-Mobile has changed the service name for UMA several times over the years that they have offered it. It has had at least three names so far, including [email protected] and WiFi Calling. Many of the salespeople in the T-Mobile stores are unfamiliar with the technical term UMA, even though that name appears on the screen of the headset. For those who may be wondering, T-Mobile’s UMA does indeed support e911, although only when you are at the registered e911 address you supply them.
True UMA handsets so far
So far, true UMA handsets have been limited to several Blackberry models, and a few from HTC, LG, Nokia, Sagem, and Samsung. I owned a UMA-based Blackberry, but received an iPhone, and began to love it. But I really miss UMA!
Quasi-UMA on the iPhone so far
The closest Apple-approved thing to UMA that has come to the iPhone so far has been the iCall application and service. The iCall application is free from the iPhone AppStore, and the service -if you want an incoming phone number- costs US$9.95/month. iCall is very good, but it is not true UMA because:
- iCall gives you a different number than your GSM number.
- The iCall application cannot run in the background (because Apple currently prevents it).
At first, the only way you could receive incoming calls directly via iCall/WiFi was to keep the application active in the foreground. Later, iCall added Push notification of incoming calls. Also, you can program your iCall number to forward to your GSM number when it can’t reach you via WiFi, and then, after you receive the call, you can manually transfer that incoming call from GSM to WiFi, once you reach a WiFi area.
UMA on Google/Android devices
At first, UMA-lovers like me couldn’t understand why none of the Google/Android devices supported UMA, even those that have WiFi. In fact, even the Android devices sold by T-Mobile in the USA (G1, Motrola CLIQ, MyTouch 3G, Samsung Behold) don’t have it. However, it became clear what Google’s intentions were after they purchased the Gizmo5 company in November of 2009. For those who aren’t familiar with Gizmo5/GizmoProject, it was a company that offered Internet-based calling software for mobile phones and computers. In other words, it was a direct competitor to Skype. Google’s press release about the acquisition says:
“While we don’t have any specific features to announce right now, Gizmo5’s engineers will be joining the Google Voice team to continue improving the Google Voice and Gizmo5 experience.”
Despite their ambiguity, it is quite clear to me that Google is going to add the Internet Telephony front-end to its GoogleVoice product, and obviously this will add UMA to Google/Android devices. The only difference will be that the UMA provider will no longer have to be the GSM provider. Once this happens, you’ll be able to port your GSM number to GoogleVoice. Of course, Google will likely decide not to call this feature “UMA”. They’ll probably just call it “Seamless switching between GSM calling and WiFi calling via GoogleVoice”.
UMA’s future on the iPhone
I don’t know whether Apple will choose to partner with the upcoming GoogleVoice enhanced service, or to partner with (or purchase) the iCall company, which is based in Connecticut, USA (coincidentally, where I grew up) and incorporate the iCall technology into iPhoneOS 4.0, using iCall’s telephone structure to bridge the Internet call to the POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) network. However, I do expect (and hope) that one or the other will happen. I really think it’s a no brainer to do one or the other… and since the upcoming UMA or “Seamless switching between GSM calling and WiFi calling via GoogleVoice” will be on Android devices soon, Apple will really need to have it too, one way or another. Isn’t competition great?
The Nexus One is unlocked, no matter how it is purchased
Whether you buy a Nexus One without any contract for US$529 or with a contract with T-Mobile for US$179, either way, the device is unlocked. Many people (and even tech journalists) are spreading misinformation about that, incorrectly stating that the US$179 version is locked to T-Mobile. The US$179 price requires a 2-year contract with T-Mobile, but does not affect the phone’s unlocked status. If you choose to buy a Nexus One, it will always be unlocked, so you will always be able to install a foreign SIM when you travel internationally, whether you choose the US$529 option without contract, or the US$179 with a 2-year contract or extension. (The US$529 price is still a better buy because better plans are available from T-Mobile when doing it that way, and you end up saving money.)
Unlocked iPhones today
Today, there are two types of unlocked iPhones:
- The ones that are hacked to be unlocked
- The ones that are unlocked with Apple’s blessing
The second category is not currently offered in the USA. Click here for an official Apple page showing which providers in which countries offer “authorized unlocking”. It’s the fifth column from the left of the chart. Those people who choose the first category always need to wait before upgrading to a new MacOS version, until a new “hacked” upgrader is available. At least that’s the way it has been so far.
Oh, and there’s just one more thing!
This is what Steve Jobs might say after showing all of the other iPhoneOS 4.0 features. (Steve, you are welcome to use this as your script!):
“As soon as you upgrade your iPhone to version 4.0, it it will be automatically unlocked forever! From now on, the phone will be unlocked, independent of your contract status with your mobile provider. Oh, and if you have already unlocked your iPhone previously, no more hacks are required. Our 4.0 updater is friendly to all iPhones, whether they have been jailbraked or unlocked in the past, or not! Just as we have removed the DRM from our music on the iTunes Store, we are eliminating locks on iPhones as of today. Your contract is one thing, but your freedom to roam with a foreign SIM or to break a contract while paying a cancellation is quite a separate issue.”
Standing ovation from the public 🙂
Summary of desired/predicted new features in iPhoneOS 4.0
- Over-The-Air automatic retrieval of subscribed podcasts
- UMA/Seamless switching between GSM calling and WiFi calling
- Unlocked automatically, and forever forward
Allan T©pper’s articles and seminars
Get a full index of Allan T©pper’s articles and upcoming seminars at AllanTepper.com. Listen to his podcast TecnoTur, together with Tanya Castañeda, Rub©n Abruña, and Liliana Marín, free via iTunes or at