Is Apple's iOS too static compared to Android, Windows Phone 7, or webOS?

The iOS homescreen, notifications, and lock screen haven't really changed much over the years - is Apple falling behind in these areas?

Earlier today, I offered some reasons why the Verizon iPhone launch hasn't had the turnout of previous iPhone launches. Among the comments on that post was an anonymous statement about Apple's iOS being old technology and static:

it is an old static os, why go with that when win phone 7 has live tiles and a screen fior static apps. The iphone os has not changed in 5 years so why wait for that junker???

One could easily dismiss this comment as anti-Apple or anti-iOS rhetoric, but this reader does have apoint. Windows Phone 7, Android, and even webOS do provide instant access to more dynamic content than Apple's iOS running either on an iPhone/iPod touch or an iPad.

Windows Phone 7 uses its tile approach to display dynamic content from messaging, social media, and other installed apps directly on the Start screen. A number of very useful tiles ship baked into the OS, requiring no special configuration or additional software to be installed.

Android similarly supports widgets that can be placed on the home screen. This is arguably even more dynamic and useful than tiles in Windows Phone 7 because of the sheer number of widgets, their overall larger screen presence, and the broader level of data that can be instantly accessed.

webOS takes a somewhat different approach with its multitasking card view, but that view also allows for instant access to dynamic content from installed apps and websites.

All three platforms also offer a more robust notification system. Android and webOS use a bar at the top of the screen to display notifications from all manner of built-in and third-party apps. Windows Phone 7 builds notifications into its dynamic tile approach. Honeycomb for Android tablets and webOS on HP's TouchPad both provide useful extensions of their notification systems and interfaces that are make use of the added screen real estate offered by tablets. They all also offer the ability to display useful data onscreen while the device is locked or charging while iOS simply displays a lock image and date/time (or the most recently received notification).

By contrast, the static iOS homescreen that displays just the icons of apps or folders does seem a bit dated. Retrieving any useful information requires launching an app – even simple tasks like checking the weather.

Similarly, the notification system in iOS is very limited. Notifications simply appear interrupting any task until they are either responded to (which almost always involves leaving the current task and launching the app related to the notification) or ignored (after which they simply vanish never to be seen again). There is no easy way to delay reviewing notifications, come back to them later, or respond in a manner that doesn't close one app and open another.

The lock screen issue could also be improved by allowing the screen to show information about new emails or other messages, showing upcoming appointments, displaying the weather, or grouping notifications into a list (as opposed to bubbles that essentially sit one on top of the other) – all of which can be accomplished on a jailbroken iPhone or iPad.

Does that mean Apple's approach is fundamentally flawed? I guess that's a matter of taste. For example, while I'm not thrilled with the notification system on my iPhone or iPad, it is sometimes easier to interpret than all the notification icons on my Android phone. But, after the recent presentations by Google and HP, I do think Apple needs to consider updating its home screen, notification, and lock screen approach – and I think there's still a lot of room for innovation in all three areas as I'm not sure anyone has truly created the perfect combination of features in any one of those areas.

What do you think? Is Apple's iOS display getting long in the tooth? If so, what mobile platform is doing the best job in terms of continually presenting useful information? Share your opinion in the comments.

Ryan Faas writes about personal technology for ITworld. Learn more about Faas' published works and training and consulting services at www.ryanfaas.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanfaas.

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