webOS 1.4 – How Far Along Are We? (Part 2)

Here’s Part 2 of the webOS 1.4 overview (the complete changelog can be found here):

Email

  • You can customize calendar notification sounds in Preferences & Accounts. The options include Mute, System Sound, Ringtone, and Vibrate. The Ringtone option includes new notification sounds to give you more customization choices.

As in the Calendar app, the ability to set a customer ringtone for each email account is welcome.

  • A new Sort application menu item allows you to sort the message list in any email folder. The sort options are By Date, By Sender, and By Subject. Tapping the currently selected sort option changes the sort from ascending to descending or descending to ascending. Tapping another sort option sorts by that option in ascending order.

Analysis: This is the kind of basic functionality that Palm needs to continue adding to webOS. Now, the ability to select multiple messages would be welcome.

  • If the message body contains a phone number and you tap and hold the number, a menu appears displaying options to Call, Text, or Add To Contacts (if the number is not already saved in a contact).
  • If the message body contains an email address and you tap and hold the address, a menu appears displaying options to Email or Add To Contacts (if the email address is not already saved in a contact).

Analysis: Palm has added this functionality elsewhere, including Messaging, and makes adding new contacts much easier.

webOS Email Screenshot

  • For POP email accounts, a new preference lets you choose to delete a message on the phone when it is deleted on the server. The default is that messages deleted on the server are not deleted on the phone.

Analysis: If you use POP email, this is an important setting that allows the phone to be an archive while keeping the server email clean.

  • You can successfully move a message from the Trash folder to the Inbox in a Yahoo! account.

Analysis: This was a frustrating aspect of the Email app, particularly when the Email app slows down (usually when email is being fetched) and a message is inadvertently deleted.

  • You can select and edit text from a message that you are forwarding.

Analysis: This makes the Email app much more useful for more than just reading and originating messages. Often, a message needs to be massaged before it’s forwarded on.

  • This release includes multiple performance improvements in Email, including improved handling of message replies and forwarded messages and quicker response times to gestures.

Analysis: As mentioned above, the Email app definitely performs better in all aspects.

Memos

  • If a memo contains a phone number and you tap and hold the number, a menu appears displaying options to Call, Text, or Add To Contacts (if the number is not already saved in a contact).
  • If a memo contains an email address and you tap and hold the address, a menu appears displaying options to Email or Add To Contacts (if the email address is not already saved in a contact).

Analysis: Same as with the other apps, this is a nice usability enhancement.

Messaging

  • You can dial a phone number directly from a conversation by tapping Text or the IM account name displayed in the upper-right corner and tapping the phone icon next to the number you want to dial. Phone numbers include the type of number: home, mobile, and so on.

Analysis: Same as with the other apps, a nice addition.

  • You can attach a video to an outgoing multimedia message.

Analysis: This functionality works well, except it’s sometimes difficult to trim a video to make it sufficiently small to reach all carriers.

  • You can forward a text or multimedia message via email by tapping and holding the message and tapping Forward Via Email in the menu that appears. The Email application opens in compose view with the message text as the body of the new email message. If the message was a multimedia message, the multimedia message appears in the Subject field of the email, and any attachments from the multimedia message appear as attachments in the email.

Analysis: A nice feature that would be that much nicer if multiple messages could be selected and forwarded at once.

  • If a message contains a phone number and you tap and hold the number, a menu appears displaying options to Call, Text, or Add To Contacts (if the number is not already saved in a contact).
  • If a message contains an email address and you tap and hold the address, a menu appears displaying options to Email or Add To Contacts (if the email address is not already saved in a contact).

Analysis: Same as with the other apps, a very nice enhancement.

Phone

  • Multiple sequential calls to and from the same person are now grouped as a single entry in your call history.
  • You can tap the contact photo or icon in a call history entry to display options for that entry, including dialing an alternate number, sending a text message, opening a contact, or adding the number as a contact. The expanded display also includes call details such as phone number type.

Analysis: The webOS call log has been significantly enhanced in webOS 1.4. On non-Sprint phones, the log also indicates call duration.

webOS Phone Call Log

Screen & Lock

  • New blink notifications (a blinking light in the gesture area) alert you when email, text message, or other notifications arrive. You clear the blink notification by turning the screen on and off or unlocking the screen. The blink notification preference is on by default; you can turn it off in Screen & Lock > Blink Notifications.

Analysis: LED notifications was one of the most popular homebrew patches, and an oft-requested feature. It’s nice to see Palm finally implement this functionality, and it significantly enhances the usability of the device.

  • Screen lock now supports any timeout interval assigned by a corporate Exchange system administrator.

Analysis: Likely requested by an enterprise company.

System

  • This release offers better overall performance, including faster loading time for apps and increased battery life across a wider range of user scenarios.

Analysis: As discussed in Part 1, system performance is indeed improved in many cases, while battery life is a mixed bag. Overall, while webOS has introduced a number of new bugs, it provides a hint of very nice things to come.

  • A startup card appears when you tap an icon to open an application.

Analysis: This is a somewhat controversial change to a very fundamental aspect of webOS. Some users have speculated that the animation actually slows application loading, which hasn’t been verified. It’s possible that webOS 1.4 created issues for some applications that make them slower to load, and overall the animation is an improvement–in previous versions of webOS, it wasn’t clear that a screen tap was actually registered by the system, causing multiple attempts to open an application and general user frustration. The new animation fixes this issue by providing immediate feedback that an application is actually loading.

  • If you are playing a game and a phone or calendar notification arrives, the game pauses while the notification is coming up.

Analysis: A welcome enhancement for game players frustrated by losing a race or being killed by a monster because of an appointment reminder.

  • You can quickly unlock the screen by dragging up from the gesture area across the onscreen lock icon.

Analysis: This is a curious change; the previous method seemed to work fine.

  • This release improves the speed of downloading applications and files.

Analysis: Another nice performance improvement.

Videos

  • You can upload a recorded video to YouTube or Facebook on the web.
  • Videos you record appear in the Video roll folder.
  • You can edit recorded video. You can also delete recorded video, video copied from a computer, or video received as an attachment to an email message.
  • You can attach a video to an outgoing multimedia message.
  • If you tap the option to share an uploaded video, you have the option to send the link via email, text message, or Facebook.

Analysis:  This was covered in Part 1, but webOS video capabilities are now on par with the iPhone, and better than any other smartphone platform.

Web

  • If a web page contains a phone number and you tap and hold the number, a menu appears displaying options to Call, Text, or Add To Contacts (if the number is not already saved in a contact).
  • If a web page contains an email address and you tap and hold the address, a menu appears displaying options to Email or Add To Contacts (if the email address is not already saved in a contact).

Analysis: The same as elsewhere, a nice addition.

  • This release includes support for the Adobe Flash 10.1 Beta plugin. Note that the plugin is a standalone app that will be available in App Catalog.

Analysis: Adobe Flash support is now the most anticipated webOS feature. Current indications (as of 3/14) are that the plug-in could arrive within a week’s time.

Wi-Fi

  • A new Sleep Settings application menu item allows you to change a setting so that if Wi-Fi is on and the phone screen turns off, the Wi-Fi feature turns off. By default, if Wi-Fi is on and the screen turns off, the Wi-Fi feature stays on.

Analysis: For those who feel that running Wi-Fi in the background impacts battery life, this is an important change.

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