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Holding iOS Back

Bradley Chambers writes about the limitations of Safari for iOS:

When the iPhone was released in 2007 with a “desktop class” web browser, it was widely praised. You could view entire websites on a mobile device. Coming from the days of WAP optimized sites on my Motorola Q, this was incredible. If we fast forward to 2014, Mobile Safari has become the app that is holding the iPad back from becoming a fully featured laptop replacement for a lot of people. While Mobile Safari is fast and loads website reasonably well, it cannot upload and download files. It can upload pictures, but that is it. Mobile Safari needs a way to upload and download any type of file into iCloud Drive (a mirrored from the Mac downloads folder).

Safari is probably my favorite Apple app in iOS, but Bradley is right – it’s still lacking when compared to desktop browsers for simple tasks such as downloading and uploading files.

I was surprised to see features such as extensions in Mail and uploads in Safari being absent from iOS 8 when it launched – and it looks like iOS 8.1 won’t introduce them either. iOS users need these features, but I wonder if part of the reason Apple hasn’t added them yet may be security-related. In particular, I had a couple of readers suggest that lack of extension support in Mail could be an enterprise security requirement, and while that could make sense, it doesn’t sound like something that Apple can’t work around. Or maybe the problem is simpler: Apple didn’t have time to turn email messages and “Upload” buttons from webpages into attach points for document pickers and extensions, so the feature was nixed.

There’s also an argument to be made about storage. How quickly would those 5 GB of free iCloud storage fill up with a full download manager built into Safari for iOS and iCloud Drive? Macs come with plenty of local storage; iOS devices still start at 16 GB and 20 GB is a paid tier in iCloud Drive.

Hopefully Apple will keep extending iOS 8, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see these features delayed until next year.