I have recently bought an iPod Touch, to replace an old iPod that got dropped in water. One of the reasons for choosing the Touch was the ability to run apps, including the 3CX softphone, allowing it to be used as an extension to my phone system.
I know this will not be a popular post with some people, but I have to say that my experience of multi-taking on the iPod Touch is horrible, and it’s certainly ensured that I won’t consider an iPhone when I next look for a new mobile. Apple makes some great products, and I just can’t understand how they came up with an implementation of multi-tasking that is so clunky, and actually makes Symbian S60 look like a shining example of good UI design.
This is the 3CX phone in action. It works pretty well, and means that I can effectively use the iPod Touch to replace my DECT cordless phone, when I’m around the house or in the back garden. Pretty neat; as I’ve mentioned before, my phone system is all VoIP now.
Of course, for a soft phone to be useful, it has to be running, and 3CX goes into multi-tasking mode. That’s fine – I don’t want it to suddenly disconnect from the phone system and miss calls as a result. But what happens when an app is multi-tasking? You get a big red pulsing bar at the top of the iPod screen, that’s what. It looks like this:
In a way this is useful, as it lets me know the application is running, and I haven’t accidentally quit it, but I can’t help thinking it could have been a little more subtle, perhaps? Just turn the title bar red, maybe? That’s particularly important, because not all apps appear clever enough to know about this, and in some of them, if the red bar is at the top of the screen, the labels for some buttons disappear off the bottom. Oh dear.
Now, let’s see what happens when you double click the button on the Touch, to see the app list.
This is the task switcher / list of recent apps. First, it seems to be essentially doing two things – allowing me to either close a running app, or remove something from the recent list. That’s fine, but there’s absolutely no context here. If the way that 3CX is running is significant enough to merit that pulsing red bar elsewhere, why isn’t it indicated here in some way too? If the app is multi-tasking, then closing it from here will stop it doing so and that might be important – in the case of 3CX, it means you won’t get your phone calls.
So, why can’t there be something to indicate that?
The other bugbear I have about this is that it all seems a hell of a palaver; I’m used to Symbian, and I know it’s fashionable to knock it, but if I wanted to kill an app, I’d hold down the menu key, pick it from the list, and press the C/Delete key to kill it. Job done.
Here, I’ve got to double click the button, then hold my finger on an icon until they all wobble and the minus sign appears, and then tap the one I want to kill, and then press the button to get back to ‘normal’ mode.
I really am struggling to see that as an advance. Yes, I know there are lots of things that iOS does that people think Symbian makes impossible; I know that many of the settings in Symbian are tucked away and confusing; and I know that I can just tap on an app in iOS and it’ll carry on where I left off, which is probably find for most users.
But I still really find this multitasking business – as described here, with 3CX – utterly bonkers on the iPod Touch. And since SIP functionality is something I consider very important in a mobile, it really has put me right off having an iPhone.