In less than a month Apple will show off iOS 8, a new version of the iPhone and iPad software that will reportedly look like iOS 7 with a focus on new features. Apple’s iPhone software is among the best, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.
Here are five small, but important new iOS 8 features that I hope Apple is able to deliver in the update that should arrive later this year. These features can fix some of my biggest iPhone complaints, by making small changes to what Apple allows iPhone users to do.
In June Apple typically shows off a new version of iOS with a large collection of new features. Apple does this at the company’s World Wide Developer’s Conference, or WWDC, when thousands of developers converge to hear what Apple plans for the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers. Apple also streams this event to developers who could not attend. By showing off iOS 8 at this event, developers are able to update apps and test them on iOS 8 for the next two or three months before an official release date to the general public later this year.
Recent reports suggest Apple is pulling some internal iOS 8 developers and leaders off of iOS 8 to help bring Mac OS X 10.10 to the finish line ahead of a WWDC unveiling. This could push some iOS 8 features back to an iOS 8.1 release that typically arrives months later.
There is a lot of chatter about health and fitness features in iOS 8, which could play a role in an iWatch or iPhone 6, as well as use other services to track information in a HealthBook App. 9to5Mac reports on this health focus and is the source of other leaks which suggest Apple could include more cloud based features for apps. Apple may also be ready to deliver an improved Siri that also includes the ability to identify songs using Shazam technology.
Small iOS 8 Features That Solve Big Complaints
While these potential iOS 8 features sound like great additions to the growth of Apple’s iPhone and iPad there are plenty of areas that Apple should improve and perfect before putting all the attention on shiny new apps and features. Here are five iOS 8 features I want to see this fall, which would solve some of my biggest iPhone complaints and problems.
iPhone notifications are currently a mess. Not only are there two notification panels, but clearing old notifications is an annoying two-tap process that leads to a long list of ignored notifications on the All panel. When I see a list of notifications on my lock screen I need to remember what they are and pick the most important one to look at first because they may not always be listed in the “missed” section when I am done dealing with the first item.
Google nailed mobile notifications with the Android operating system. There is one panel of notifications that stay until dismissed and offer an expanded view so I can actually see the notification information. If I open one of these notifications the rest are still in the notification drawer when I am ready to deal with them. When I am ready to dismiss them I can just swipe them off the screen.
Apple doesn’t need to copy Android, but the current use of two panels and two-taps to dismiss notifications need to go. One rumor from 9to5Mac suggests Apple is planning to kill off the second notification panel, but makes no mention of the complete overhaul that iPhone notifications need.
More Touch ID Use
The iPhone 5s features a fingerprint sensor called Touch ID, and multiple reports suggest Apple is working on Touch ID for a new iPad Air and iPad mini Retina later this year. It also looks like we will see Touch ID on the iPhone 6 this fall.
As Apple adds Touch ID support to more devices it only makes sense that the company expands what users can do with Touch ID. Right now users can unlock the iPhone and make purchases in the App Store, but only after first using a pass code at some point.
It’s time to remove the pass code needed feature for Touch ID, especially for purchases. Either Touch ID is secure enough to use for purchases or it’s not.
It would also be great to use the Touch ID sensor with other apps that require a password to login to. A password manager for instance would be great to login to with a fingerprint instead of a 56 character password.
Third Party Keyboards
Apple does not let users install a third-party keyboard, insisting that Apple’s iOS keyboard is the only one that users need. Apple changed the keyboard slightly in iOS 7 and continues to tweak the keyboard so that users at least have a chance at figuring out when the shift key is on.
If a user wants to try a new keyboard on the iPhone they currently need to use an app dedicated to typing with that keyboard and then copy and paste it to another app. This is fine for long documents or emails, but not useful for messages or inside other apps.
Competition in Android keyboards resulted in major improvements to the stock Android and Samsung keyboards in the last two years and could do the same thing if Apple opens up the gates for iOS 8 keyboards. This is a continual iOS wish, and sadly one that is not likely coming in iOS 8.
Better Third Party App Support
The iPhone is as popular as it is thanks to great third-party app support. Even though Apple will spend a lot of time talking about how much they love developers and how much they paid out to developers at the WWDC 2014 event in June these apps are still treated like second class apps. Here are two ways Apple can change this in iOS 8.
It would be great if Apple would let users set the default app that they want to use when opening a link, an address or adding an item to the calendar. If this is a system preference then it could even tie into Siri requests to play music and look up addresses.
Another great feature would be the ability to customize sharing services and apps in the share menu. Apple only allows a select few apps or services on the share menu at this time. I would gladly get rid of Flickr or Vimeo for a Dropbox option and know others that would love to add Evernote or a similar app to this area.
Easy Pass Code Recovery
Every week a reader or friend asks how to reset an iPhone, iPad or iPod pass code because their kid or parent forgot the code they entered. It is possible to backup and restore the iPhone or iPad to remove the pass code, but this is a pain and for a device that is activation locked to an Apple ID and secure password it is unnecessary.
In OS X 10.7 and newer it is possible to reset the administrator password using an Apple ID and a password. If Apple added a similar option to iOS 8 it would alleviate a lot of headaches for parents and for absentminded users who could easily reset a pass code on their locked device. If this solution is secure enough for a MacBook Air that is nearly as portable as an iPad Air and secure enough for purchases, it should be good enough for an iPhone.