Why Apple’s obsolescence effect is overblown

ios5-screens

Not long after Steve Jobs’s keynote, a lament went out about apps and services iOS 5 and iCloud will render obsolete. However, after reviewing early reports of how iOS 5 works, I’d argue that many of the “threatened” apps will still hold a place in the hearts of users.

Instapaper. After watching Steve Jobs demo the new Reader function in Safari, Instapaper developer Marco Arment famously tweeted a one-word expletive in response. Like Instapaper, the Reader tool does make text-heavy pages much easier to read on the iPhone and iPad, but Instapaper does much more than just that. It saves files for reading later across pretty much any platform, and allows you to download them to local storage so that you can check them out even when you’re without a connection. Instapaper also works great with third-party services like Evernote, and it’s hard to imagine Apple’s offering will be as strong in that area.

SMS. Oh, how quick people were to proclaim SMS dead. We’d be free from the cost of alerting our significant others we were running late. While iMessenger’s iOS-to-iOS “free” sending is indeed a boon, I text with exactly one person who has an iOS device. To add insult to this injury, I text her so infrequently I’ll see no text savings. It may be anecdotal, but considering the trajectory of Android in the U.S., it’s also representative of the experience of many others. SMS won’t be felled by iMessage alone.

Camera +. For quick pics of my cat doing something stupid, iOS’s native Camera app being accessible from the lock screen will make it go-to app for quick sharing. However, Camera+ will still sit on my main screen for primary picture-taking. Camera+ is an app designed by a professional photographer, and brings tons of great enhancements not offered by the stock iOS 5 alternative.

OmniFocus. While this one hasn’t specifically been proclaimed dead, the Reminders app covers a lot of what basic users need it and other to-do apps for. I don’t deal with much project-level stuff, and I could probably just enter  my school, work and writing assignments into Reminders. (Plus, the new location feature is actually pretty darn cool). What I live and die by in OmniFocus, though, are due dates and forecasting that let me see at-a-glance the big picture of what I have to do and when. So long as to-do apps can provide compelling features that aren’t available in native offerings, users will remain interested.

Dropbox. Dropbox is actually likely to get more of my money now. Jobs was vague on how Documents in the Cloud will work when it comes to OS X and Windows. Dropbox still seems like it’s going to be my go-to place to shove a document I need to share or access from different PCs. Also, having gotten burned by iDisk syncing issues before, Apple is going to have to earn the privilege of keeping my mission-critical files on iCloud. It is, after all, the company that brought me MobileMe.

Zinio. At first, I thought Zinio was a goner — assuming I could transfer my subscriptions to Newsstand. A Twitter exchange with Macworld’s Jason Snell educated me that Newsstand isn’t a true service, but rather “a place where apps (like Zinio and Daily Reader) can live.” Here’s hoping Zinio has an update at iOS 5 launch to take advantage of background downloading.

Instacast. It’s a little unclear how podcasts will work with the Wi-Fi Sync / iCloud stuff. My gut tells me it’ll work the same way it currently does, meaning you’ll have to manually fetch new episodes. On a cellular network, this usually just isn’t going to happen, because episodes tend to be over 20 MB, especially when dealing with video. Instacast is my go-to podcast fetcher now. I love the badge that pops up telling me I have a new episode, and I can download new episodes even on a cellular network.

I’m very excited about iOS 5, especially since it looks like it’s bringing me lots of great new functionality, while still giving me a place for my favorite apps. How about you? What “dead” apps will still live on your iOS device, and which do you think will be genuinely replaced?

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