iOS Wishlist 2011 (UPDATED)

This is a look at various features I’m hoping are at the top of Apple’s list of to-do’s for iOS 4 in 2011. Apple seems to be adhering to something of a more aggressive update cycle for iOS since the 4.0 reboot. This post originated back on December 27, 2010.

iOS on iPhone 4

1. Notifications Overhaul.

Anyone who’s used iOS for an extended period of time (day in and day out) knows that Apple did a very underwhelming job of implementing an alert system. The current notification system may have been sufficient for iPhone OS 1 and the original iPhone, but there’s definitely work to be done with alerts and iOS. There are so many fine-tuned fundamental features that Apple has built into iOS, yet the notification infrastructure in iOS is just archaic. With a quick look across the field at Google’s Android and Palm’s webOS, it’s obvious that these two companies put more than what seems to be five minutes worth of thought into how it should be brought to the user’s attention that he or she has received some content worthy of an alert.

Under normal circumstances, if I’m already using my iOS device, when I receive a text message my screen is inundated with a blatant message telling me who the message is from and what they’ve sent me. In contrast, Palm found it more useful to quietly alert the user of a new text message across the top/bottom of the screen . Another situation in which it would be nice to see improvement is when your iOS device has been let alone for some time, and it has accrued a handful of alerts.

2. Differential Vibration Feedback for different Apps.

This is something I haven’t heard anyone reference before. But I’m sure there are those out there who would like to be able to tell When I’m at work or in a class where I’m likely unable whip out my iPhone at a moment’s notice, I’d love to know whether I’m getting a text, email, or an alert from a third-party app. If I receive an alert from my iPhone from the aforementioned examples: Mail will give me the normal mail sound with a simple vibration. The Messaging app will alert me with my chosen sound and the same simple vibration. And finally, third-party apps — from Facebook to CNN’s news app — will also give me a simple vibration if notifications are enabled and potential alert. This is nice, but not nearly as functional as it could be.

When my iPhone’s in silent mode and tucked away quietly in my pocket, it’d be nice to be able to differentiate amongst whether I’m getting a new text, email, or if some other app is alerting me of some miscellaneous notification. Perhaps stock app alerts from Mail or Messaging could yield a simple vibration, while third-party apps could give a split vibration (think: a simplified morse-code).

the multitasking menu

3. Multitasking menu streamlining.

The hybrid multitasking feature that Apple has pit into iOS 4 was definitely a welcomed addition. But does it need to be so finger intensive to close background-running apps? Instead of holding an icon to enter the giggly ‘Quit mode’, simply dragging apps up and away from the menu would be a much more effective way of quitting apps. Think: dragging icons off of an OSX dock to delete them. I know that I personally find it to be a chore to have to kill apps running in the background on my iPhone. Having to jump through the hoops of double-clicking the Home button, and having to hold down on any one of the four app icons displayed just to enter that edit/quitting mode is surprisingly tedious.

iPhone 4 Home Screen

4. Widgets/Mini-apps

This ties into notification system that Apple needs to improve upon. I touched upon this in the conclusion of my iPhone 4 review about the fact that one of the stock iOS app’s icon is live-updating while no other app does such a thing. If you take a look at the main apps Apple provides with iOS, Calendar is the only app whose icon updates live and provides the user with useful information.

The Calendar app always displays the day of the week and the date on the icon. However, if you take a look the other potentially informational apps: Weather, iPod, perhaps Clock, Compass, and Mail; none of them provide any live updating information via their respective icons on the home screen. Weather could obviously display more useful information like current temperature and conditions, and Apple could definitely go further than just displaying an unread badge on the Mail icon. Information could easily scroll across the icon; who the email is from, maybe the subject of the new email. The same could go for the Messaging app and new texts. Although this kind of setup might take a bit of tweaking on Apple’s part — it’s definitely worth it. The Clock icon could display the correct analog time, while the Compass icon could actually reflect your current direction.

Turning the apps’ icons into live updating portals if you will, is just a less intensive manner in which Apple could implement some widget-like functionality into iOS. However, Android and webOS utilize widgets on the home screens of their devices fairly well. Another honorable mention would probably be the old new kid on the block, Microsoft and their Windows Phone 7 OS. The new Windows Phone′s home screen provides an array of icons that correspond to various apps and are usually live updating for things like mail, weather, and even a Microsoft exclusive feature like Xbox Live.

With all of that said, I don’t think there’s any reason Apple can’t begin building in simple widget-like apps that can run on one or more dedicated home screens in iOS. Perhaps the Spotlight screen — left of the first app-populated home screen in iOS. There’s also a lot of potential real estate on the lock-screen. Plenty of incoming contentent could be parked right there for the user without even having to unlock the iPhone. Making more of the app icons live-updating with potentially scrolling the information across the icon is just a start.

5. Folder App capacity increase.

folders in iOS

This one’s pretty straightforward. Apple introduced us to folders according to iOS with version 4.0. Folder work just as yuou would expect, and just about any name you can think of can be assigned to them. The one downside to folders on the iPhone is that unlike natural home screens in iOS that support up to 16 apps (or folders) to be displayed on any one screen at a given time; folders only allow for a maximum of 12 apps. And

…More to come

So I’ll probably come up with more and more updates and features I’d love to see in iOS 4 come 2011. These are just a set of features I think are very reasonable for hoping Apple will begin integrating into iOS to keep the OS up to date. As I noted in this post there are some things (namely notifications) in which Apple is really lagging behind the competition. Here’s to hoping that within the next six months Apple is implementing more and more features as quickly as possible.

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