The next major revision of the mobile operating system for the iPhone and iPad will probably be showcased at Apple’s world wide developer conference in June, and likely iOS 7 will be announced to the world with some new features.
It’s still unclear what changes Apple will make and if any of those planned changes will be revolutionary or incremental upgrades to the current user experience, but there are a number of key features that I’d like to see Apple implement, many of which are already present from Apple’s rivals.
1. Multi-Window View
Single-tasking or unitasking is so 2007 when the original iPhone debuted. Sure, the iPhone 5 with iOS 6 can run apps in the background and push notifications may help to alleviate app-claustrophobia, but with a now larger screen and a high resolution Retina Display, Apple really should follow Samsung’s lead with Multi-Window view.
Multi-Window view is Samsung’s attempt at running two apps simultaneously, a concept that was first introduced by Kyocera with the Android-powered Echo on Sprint’s network. Essentially, Multi-Window view allows two apps to be run side-by-side in landscape mode or placed on top and bottom in portrait mode. The apps can be resizable and you can go back into the 2007 era unitasking view if you decide you want to single-task yourself to success at any point.
2. Multi-Pane Views in Landscape Mode
Surely, the new iPhone 5’s elongated display isn’t made just to add an additional row of icons to the home screen. What would really be beneficial would be to have apps enter tablet-mode in landscape orientation for information-heavy apps. Similar to what Apple has done with the email app on the iPad, turn your iPhone on its side and you have a left column listing all your emails in your inbox and your right column showing a resizable preview of any emails. This requires less jumping back and forth when you’re trying to skim your inbox. Other apps that can benefit include the contacts app, the messaging app, the music app if you don’t want to see the cover flow view every time you tip your iPhone into landscape.
And third-party apps should be able to take advantage of this UI paradigm. Instant messenger apps, news and news reader apps, and others can definitely benefit from this. Users should be given a choice though for which mode they want in landscape orientation–the default view that’s similar to portrait mode and what’s currently available today, or the enhanced tablet-optimized but for a phone mode that can display additional information.
Samsung’s been doing this for a while now on some of its larger phones, and it was a feature I really appreciated on the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch on Sprint.
3. iTunes Video Download Over 3G/4G
iTunes is great and the robust digital catalogue is perhaps the top reason why I haven’t fully switched yet to either Android or Windows Phone 7 completely–we’ll have to see how I feel about BlackBerry 10 when that debuts later this month. The problem with iTunes on the iPhone is that despite the copious movies and TV show titles available to purchase and watch on the go, Apple restricts the downloads to WiFi. With near ubiquitous access to 3G or 4G, I should be able to decide if I want to burn through my monthly data bucket or conserve and use WiFi.
It’s probably still an archaic rule from the unlimited data era that Apple had inked with carriers, but Google doesn’t restrict movies and TV show downloads from its Play Store to WiFi. Users can stream or download on either WiFi or 3G/4G. The downside with the Play Store: a far more limited assortment of titles to choose from.
4. App-Specific Password Protection
Between Apple, Google, and Microsoft, there are now a number of ways to protect your entire smartphone from unintended use through a number of password options, including a simple 4-digit PIN, a complex alpha-numeric password, pattern drawings, and face to unlock using biometric security. For me, though, I don’t need full security of my phone like Fort Knox–I don’t carry sensitive corporate information and I don’t work for the government or have access to medical records like doctors.
Instead, the ideal for me would be the option to have my phone completely unlocked, except a few apps that I can specifically apply a password to. Yes, there’s a jailbreak app for that, and Apple really should make this an iOS 7 feature. I’d love to password protect my email, messaging, and my Google Drive app where I do have access to some sensitive documents on the cloud. Other users, for instance, may want to protect their photo app(s), social network apps, or other apps to prevent unauthorized entry from someone using or borrowing their phones.
5. Intelligent Search and Information Retrieval
Siri was great when she debuted, but the woman is still as fickle as ever. Search using Siri is a decent experience and the digital assistant is great at scheduling reminders and appointments, but she needs to have more initiative. And this is where Google Now excels thanks to Google having access to most of your online life through Gmail, Google search, and other apps.
However, Apple can make Siri smarter. Search on Safari or mobile Safari and Siri should be able to remember those search histories to recommend relevant information on the go, such as nearby restaurants when you’re in a new city or local concerts if you’re trying to find a fun date night activity for a Friday evening. Siri should be able to scan your emails in your inbox and notice if you have a shipment notification to help you track packages, or see that you have a flight and integrate your boarding pass into Passbook.
Whatever or however that’s implemented isn’t really the concern–I just want Siri to be more predictive and to be more intelligent. Google Now is a great start, and Apple should take note and improve on Siri. Right now, she’s just a spunky assistant with some attitude, but Google Now has some street smarts to it.
Those were my top five features that Apple should implement in iOS 7, but there is a laundry list of improvements Apple could make. Some of which could be allowing third-party keyboards to run, like the popular Swype keyboard, making widgets a reality on the home screen, implementing a better camera interface with more manual controls, and more. Tell us what features you think iOS 7 should have in the comments!
The Walled Garden Approach is Beautiful, But There’s Always More
In torts law, there is the attractive nuisance doctrine where landowners are legally liable for certain hazards–like a swimming pool–if it attracts children to these dangers and for which these children may not understand the risks–such as drowning in this example. I would contend that Apple’s closed approach is an attractive nuisance where iOS users who are starved for more features are turning to jailbreak solutions.
Jailbreak itself isn’t a bad thing, but for the average consumer who may not know what they’re doing, it does open up certain risks, such as installing malicious code without knowing it. And while jailbreak itself doesn’t mean that a user is likely to pirate app, it does open up the iPhone to be able to run pirated apps, which would diminish the value of the iOS ecosystem.
With Apple forging its own path without really listening to the input of its customers, Apple is creating this attractive nuisance that really does detract from what could be a great iPhone experience as users try to seek their own remedies through jailbreaking, piracy, or other actions. I’ve already given my list of five things Apple ought to change for iOS 7, what would you like to see improved, implemented, or fixed?