The iOS has come a long way since its introduction in 2007. iOS 1.0 shipped on the original iPhone and while revolutionary in its design and performance it was often criticized for the things it lacked: third party apps, multitasking, copy and paste, MMS, system-wide search, folders on the home screen, a unified inbox in mail, and printing. Despite its limitations the iOS platform was a success and continues to offer a stable experience with solid performance and battery life. Each year Apple released a new version of the iOS that addressed its critiques. Version 2 introduced third party applications and the App store, version 3 added copy and paste, MMS, and system-wide searching, version 4 threw in multitasking, folders, the unified inbox, and printing. By version 5, the iOS had most of the features that the platform had been missing. It was at the point where Apple could start refining it by adding things like the Notification Center, geofencing capabilities, Twitter integration, iCloud, iMessage, and Siri (on the iPhone 4S).
The developer beta of iOS 5 was released last June with a final release following in October. It’s getting close to that time of year again and with Mac OS Lion’s successor already announced and available to developers, I’m pretty confident that part of June’s World Wide Developer Conference will be devoted to a developer beta of iOS 6. I think that the iOS is better than ever and superior to competing platforms in many ways. Apple has a chance to once again refine their platform and possibly introduce some new innovations. I can’t think of any major innovations that they could introduce from the software side, but I can think of some refinements that would make the platform even better than it is today.
I often use my iPhone and iPad to read RSS news feeds. It would be really nice if my news reader could poll for new articles every 15 minutes or so and display them in my lock screen as a notification. At the moment that isn’t possible because Apple limits background tasks for third party applications and downloads are not included. I think it’s about time they are added. Apple setup some great APIs for background tasking of streaming audio, VOIP, and location data. It would be really nice if they added some APIs that allowed applications to perform intermittent data downloading.
The API would be simple. Apps could register for background downloads with a desired frequency, every 15 minutes for example. Every 15 minutes, the iOS would look at the request and allow the app a limited amount of time, say 60 seconds, to perform the download. It would have the option to postpone or cancel the operation altogether if there was a weak network connection, a low battery charge, or too many download requests. Even if the app couldn’t truly download every 15 minutes, it would be better than it not downloading until I open it.
I really love the App Store. It’s an easy way to find, install, and update applications. As much as I love to see that little red circle appear on its icon to tell me that updates are available, I wish that the iOS would just download them for me and let me know that I can install them. Or even give me the option to have them automatically installed. The same rules for background downloading would apply here as well – if the phone has a good data connection and a full battery, download away. That would be one less piece of maintenance that I’d have to do on my phone every week.
Advanced Sound Control
I’ve run into the following situation several times: I’m expecting someone to call me early in the morning on my cell phone so I leave it on my nightstand when I go to bed. I turn off silent mode so I’ll hear it ring. Every few minutes it makes a loud ding or whoosh – I got a new email, a new eBay item was listed, somebody tagged me on Facebook. The sounds are interrupting my sleep, so I put my phone to silent mode, but wait, now my phone won’t ring if someone calls! I wish there was a way to turn off everything but the ringer. There isn’t. If I want all of the other sounds to stop, I have turn off their notifications and then go to my sound settings and turn off mail and SMS. What a pain. Too bad the iOS didn’t have a more detailed way to turn off all sounds but the ringer. It’d be nice if I could create custom sound profiles too.
iOS 5 introduced the Reminders app which has a neat little feature that can remind you when you enter or leave a specific geographic area. The iOS creates a radius around a specific location and tracks you using the GPS. When you enter or leave the radius, it fires off the reminder. This technology is called Geofencing. It has been available on Android phones for some time and it can do some really cool stuff. Outside of the Reminders app, the iOS doesn’t use it. But it could…
Imagine if you iPhone knew that when you left your house it should turn off your WiFi and silence your phone. When you got to work it could turn off notifications and lower your screen brightness. When you left work, it could turn notifications back on, send a text to your wife letting her know you left work, and unsilence your phone. Cool right? I don’t know how many times I’ve forgotten to unsilence my phone when I got home for the weekend and then missed calls from friends. With expanded Geofencing, it wouldn’t happen again.
Expanded Siri Integration
Siri is cool, but I wish it did more. First, I wish I could use it to control system settings. “Turn down brightness”. “Silence phone”. “Turn on Wifi”. “Volume up”. “Lock”. “Open [App Name]”. If I could control the phone with it, I’d use it a lot more. Second, I would really like it if it had third party app integration. Imagine saying “Search for puppies on eBay” or “Check in to FourSquare”. It would be a big feat for Apple because they’d probably have to modify their background processing APIs or allow developers to put stuff on their servers, but it would be super cool. Third, I’d like Siri’s text recognition to recognize natural pauses and insert commas, periods, and even exclamation points and questions automatically. It’s really awkward to say “I’ll be over soon period Do you want me to pick anything up on the way question mark”. Android 4.0 added natural pause recognition. I want Siri to have it too.
I love changing the background for my lock and home screens. I download a lot of beautiful pictures from InterfaceLift.com and would love it if I could automatically rotate through them like I can on my Mac. Options to change the background(s) every hour, every few hours, and every day would be great. A small addition, but a nice one.
If there’s one thing that Android has that I want it’s the Swype keyboard. The iOS keyboard is much easier to use for me than any Android I’ve ever used except for Swype. If you aren’t familiar, Swype allows you to slide your finger from key to key and instead of displaying individual letters it tries to guess the word you are typing. It was created by the person who created T9 for “dumb” phones. It is surprisingly accurate and surprisingly fast, much more so than the default iOS keyboard. I’d love to see this as an input option.
iTunes has an equalizer that allows you to adjust 10 different bands to customize the sound of your music. It includes presets and allows you to save custom equalizer settings. One of the things that I’ve always missed ever since I got my first iPod was that there is no way to adjust the equalizer other than choosing from the default presets. I would love it if iOS 6 added a 10 band equalizer to the iPod. If that’s too much, how about just syncing my custom presets from iTunes. Please Apple, throw me a bone here.
iOS 5 introduced Twitter integration. You can tweet photos and urls from any app really easily. That’s great. But I don’t use Twitter. I use Facebook, y’know the most popular social network in the world. Where is the Facebook button? I want to post my videos, photos, links, and statuses to Facebook from any place, any application. I’ve heard that there is some bad blood between Apple and Facebook, but let’s set aside our differences and give this sort of integration to our users. Tim, you can do this…
More Notification Center Widgets
I really like the Notification Center introduced with iOS 5. I also like that I can get to the weather widget from any app with a quick swipe. I’d really like it if I could get to other widgets with one swipe. For instance, my brightness control, wireless on/off, and airport mode. How about third party apps? Ok, all I can think of right now is device settings, but that makes it even easier to implement.
I’m excited for iOS 6 to be announced and I’m really hoping that at least a few of my wishes make it into the release. I’m confident that some of these things such as Geofencing and Siri integration will be key features but I’m not so sure about the others. But really, what else are they going to do? Aside from performance improvements and some major innovations, I don’t know what they can add to make it any better.