Even though iOS 6 has only been out for 3 months, I have started building my wish list for iOS 7. After working on this list, I noticed that my recommendations were all small nitpicks. Apple has already added the key missing features: copy & paste, multitasking, notification center, etc.
The headline feature for iOS 6 was Maps. The end users do not care about all the time and effort Apple put in to develop the back end. They don’t care about the huge increase in data efficiency by using vectors instead of images. The users only care about the experience. All the users see is an updated app that has turn-by-turn directions. There is no doubt that turn-by-turn directions are handy, but an updated app hardly seems like a keynote feature for an operating system.
The problem for Apple is that the easy and obvious things have already been fixed. This makes it that much harder to introduce sweeping system wide changes. While I’m still trying to think what the headline feature will be for iOS 7, I’ve compiled a list of small changes that I would like to see.
First off, this grey/blue texture needs to go. I personally find it ugly. As a matter of fact, it’s nowhere to be found on the iPad. All of the new Apple default applications introduced in iOS 6 (Maps, iTunes, and App Store) use silver or black instead of the ugly grey/blue.
When you double click on the home button, you are presented with a row of icons on the bottom. The problem is that over 80% of the screen is wasted with this. A form of full screen multitasking would definitely be useful. Below are two possible solutions that are currently available for jailbroken iPhones:
The built in mail client for iOS has always been lackluster at best. I actually don’t use it. I use a hodgepodge solution combining the official Gmail app for notifications and Sparrow for sorting & replying. It’s messy, but it works. The main problem with the built in mail client is that it is not very adept at handling Gmail. First of all, emails you have sent do not appear in the threaded view - only emails you have received do.
Secondly, you cannot label an email and leave it in your inbox. You have to move it to that folder. Also when using the search bar in the default mail app, only the inbox is searched. With the Gmail app, all of your email is searched. At least Apple finally added pull to refresh.
Have you ever tried to click the tiny X in notification center to clear the message away? It’s impossibly hard. Small buttons work well when using a mouse, but when using a touch screen gestures should be implemented instead. A simple solution could be swipe from right to left to clear the notification. Swipe from left to right to open it. (When I was about to publish this post, I saw this manifestation of the swiping notifications by Alex Saretzky.)
My second request is the ability to sync notifications between devices. If I clear a Facebook notification on my iPhone, it should also clear on my iPad. The Messages app does this already. Why can’t the other apps?
Speaking of small X’s, the X’s to close a tab in Safari are similarly annoying. Instead of clicking the X to get rid of a tab, it would easy if you could just swipe the tab to the top of the screen to get rid of it.
People have complained about how Safari for iOS has separate boxes for URLs and search. Most modern browsers for laptops and desktops use a universal box. Chrome for iOS uses a universal box. My guess is that Apple has kept the boxes separate for a reason. When using the URL box you are given a specific keyboard that allows the use of a period, a backlash, and .com button in place of the space bar. No change needs to happen here.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people do not keep their smartphone apps up to date. I know this is a weird complaint, but for some reason it bothers me. Apple needs to implement a feature that will auto-update apps on iOS devices. There could be some sort of safety feature that will only download apps that are out of date by more than 10 days. Finally, there should be a setting to disable auto-app updates. Giving the users the ability to turn the feature on and off on a per app basis is too cumbersome.
Tech writers have been clamoring for a Siri API ever since it was introduced. In layman’s term, this means any developer would allow their app to integrate with Siri. For example, I could say “show me my most liked Instagram photo”. The problem is that doing a Siri API is very very hard. It may come eventually, but there are a lot of problems to overcome. If you are interested in some of the obstacles I suggest that you read Samuel Iglesias’ blog post.
What will the future for iOS hold? Will Apple introduce any dramatic changes to it’s cash cow or will it keep it play it safe by iterating on previous designs? These are questions that only the folks in Cupertino know the answers to. The rest of us will have to wait until WWDC 2013 in June to find out.