Mark Vaske
By Mark Vaske

Blog

I Have a Lot to Write About

This one will be short and sweet, but I have already started digging into iOS 10, and just wow... Many of the features introduced today at WWDC are phenomenal. I won't list many because if I did it would make this short post a long one. iOS 10 contains a large portion of the features from my wish lists, but in true Apple style, blows my half baked implementations out of the water. The 3 things I have been incredibly impressed by so far are...

  1. How much more alive Messages feel with only Apple's first party additions. I knew there were other ways to be expressive as shown by other messaging apps, but today Apple raised the bar incredibly high to our long term conversational platforms. Soon we will laugh together, cry together, and build in an emotional history that will only give us a better understanding of ourselves and those we talk to within messages. These updates alone will sell iPhones.
  2. Photos Memories features are powerful. Apple's investment of Emotient and Perceptio are going to pay off big time in versions of iOS to come, but in their short stay at Apple, with some clever parlor tricks, Apple has created Memories, a feature that will make my mom's eyes tear up every time she watches one of the magical automatically generated slideshows.
  3. Finally, this last one is the least notable for most, but it gave me cognitive dissonance about what I was doing. The implementation of the Home panel in control center is brilliantly crafted, and felt immediately intuitive. I saw the third tab when peeking around this afternoon, and knew immediately what it would be for. I flipped to it to turn on a light, and on when that single light in my house. And the label told me the light was on 53%, and I decided I was going press into my screen without even thinking about it. Up came the brightness slider, with a color picker of soft pastel colors that could provide accent lighting and an edit button if I wanted to be more radical. This is one of those features that only Apple can include and make you think that it was obvious. iOS 10 is crawling with them.

I have been so amused and impressed by some features that I keep fiddling with them and have yet to explore everything. Right now it feels like I will be exploring for new features until the next WWDC. I haven't even touched the redesigned Music experience. Nor have I even begun to comprehend many of the deep learning aspects Apple introduced today (11 billion calculations per photograph). And it seems to me Apple coyly added smarts to Siri and then had the ambivalence to even suggest that it was much more than progress. I am sure there is much more to come on that front. But yeah, I have a lot to write about... 

My iOS 10 Wish List - Part 3

This will be my third and final entry in my iOS 10 wish list. These are just some of the things I hope to see, as there are hundreds of features that I think could round out iOS in its current form. I will save my argument for why iOS still has a lot of growth left to do for a later post, as we are not quite beyond the level of thinking about it as a traditional device operating system. These posts are in no particular order but feel free to read part 1 and part 2.

FaceTime

We will start out small and work into some ideas.

Multi Call Support

This feature has been requested as long as FaceTime has existed, but it would be a boon for FaceTime to add support for multiple people on the same call from different locations (3+). Obviously there is a limit as to what works for interaction, but I think 3-4 way calling is possible and would open up FaceTime as an even better utility.

Support for Other Platforms

As Apple pivots into a services company, it needs to have its services become available on other platforms. Perhaps this decreases the lock in with of iOS customers, but if 3rd party FaceTime and iMessage applications and services outshine what else is available on Android and Windows, it could have the same effect as iTunes had for the iPod. It is a great way to get customers used to services, and gives them at least an argument for moving over to iOS. That being said, both of these services have a lot of solid competitors so Apple needs to provide best in class experiences, which many are skeptical of Apple being capable of with services.

Safari

I generally think Safari is a solid experience on iOS. It long held the advantage of being the only first class browser on iOS due to restrictions by Apple, however, I still think even after those restrictions have been lifted it outcompetes all 3rd party browsers overall. However there are a few tweaks that could make it even better.

Safari Extensions

Yes, Safari already has some extensions by way of the Action Extension menu, however they have limited capability, and accessing these extensions is a mediocre experience. Allowing extensions to interact with websites more directly could make Safari significantly more powerful, and greatly alter the Safari experience to an even greater degree than with last years introduction of Content Blockers. Enabling password managers, page parsing, and automation extensions are just a few ways Safari could become more powerful, and this is an area where my imagination is much more limited than the creative things developers will come up with. These extensions should have their own action button. It is time to remove action extensions from the share sheet.

A Better Downloader

Did you know you could download files in Safari? Probably not beyond the ability to save images and text and maybe opening some documents in their native applications. But with iOS 9 Safari gained a fairly hidden capability to download files if you have an app that can store the file type. The iCloud Drive app (also hidden) could change to a Files.app or a separate app could be used for local file storage. MacStories' iOS 10 concept video shows a great file management app that enables you to not only choose a document provider and pin highly used folders, but would also provide a place to store these downloaded files which wither from existence if you don't save them off of the page.

Another way to make News more robust would be to make it the default reader on iOS. It could even get its own extension, "Send to News", rather than reading list to parse the content of a url in a well laid out reading view.

System, Springboard, Control Center, Today View, and Notifications Center

Apple often test interfaces with other products and iterates on how they might apply cross platform to their other devices. I am sure they have learned a lot since the introduction of the Apple Watch and watchOS. I wouldn't be surprised to see some of those interface ideas make it into future versions of iOS while they get refined on the watch as well.

Additionally, general system tweaks would make the overall usage of iOS faster and easier to understand. It is rumored that there will be a polishing of the iOS 7 design language with iOS 10, so hopefully Apple can refine some of the user interactions they introduced with iOS 7.

Learning from the Apple Watch

Night Mode

One great feature of the Apple Watch is it is by default a black screen that only lights up where pixels need to display information on its OLED display. Rumored for not this but the next iPhone, OLED displays could provide significant battery savings as one of the main uses of iPhone and iPad power is lighting up its large retina displays. Designing a Night Mode with dark backgrounds for apps would prepare Apple for these kinds of devices. Additionally, paired with the fantastic Night Shift feature Apple introduced with iOS 9.3 (hopefully coming to macOS soon!), Night Mode may help us all get better nights rest, and at the very least will be easier on our eyes.

Customizable Lock Screen - Complications

A metaphor Apple could implement from the Apple Watch would be customizing the lock screen with complications. These complications would enable user's to easily access small snippets of information without unlocking their phones or opening apps and wasting battery life. This could work great on an OLED iPhone to save battery life when wanting to access simple information. It would reduce the need for Today View access. They could even offer custom lock screens akin to watch faces.

Today View

Today View could become a full over view of the day rather than the next few hours or Apple could add Time Shift to Complications and remove the feature all together. This would simplify Notification Center back down to one tab. But WAIT! What about Widgets?

Control Center - Customization, Widgets, and Glances

Many have long wanted to customize Control Center with their own apps to either replace the defaults that launch or manage the functions in Control Center. This would be one way to quickly get to essential actions from your 5 favorite applications, but what about that 6th?

Perhaps its not a coincidence that Glances and Control Center both pop up from the bottom of the screen with a swipe up, and that the first Glance on a watch provides very similar functionality to the current functionality of Control Center. Customization of control center would provide a simple way to access a few of your actions, but I am sure the power users would quickly resort to using apps like Launcher, IFTTT, and Workflow to be able to provide additional functionality. Even with the additions of power user actions, the functionality of Control center can still be dwarfed by Glances on the Apple Watch. So why not add Glances to the iPhone in which apps could provide their essential actions with a few quick swipes. The additional side benefit of this is that Control Center would no longer need to take up a majority of the screen on 4 inch phones when active. Perhaps this would get cluttered and be hard to navigate (though I believe in Apple's ability to refine interfaces) and maybe there are security concerns with activating application actions from the lock screen, but it is one alternative to the limited interaction that could be gained from control center and would eliminate the need for widgets in Today view.

Other System Improvements

Default Apps

On many an iOS wish list are the ability to hide unwanted Apple apps and to reassign the default applications that users interact with when interacting with certain data types. If a Siri API is on the way, it is almost essential in my mind that we are able to assign data types to be handled by certain applications whether first or third party. Another problem with default applications is that bugs can linger in them between Apple's monolithic release cycle. Perhaps its time to make apps un-installable and place them in the App Store where they can receive more active development. Certain apps would be necessary to keep installed, but almost everything but the App Store app itself could be moved to an active development cycle and be updated via the App Store rather than system updates. This would also potentially allow for smaller OS updates as new versions of default apps would no longer need to be included. It would also make more frequent OS updates possible as there would be less need to coalesce all active development deadlines to the slow release cycle. The Mac already does just this.

Tags

I have mentioned it throughout my wish list but the addition of tags to all file types would be a welcome improvement and make everything easier to search with the addition of tag tokens. Tags could be viewed in the Files app collecting each bit of info in an organized view similar to Notes.app's Attachment View.

Better Native Gif Support

Currently the only places you can view gifs are in Messages, Safari, and apps that support them. Somehow, support has not been built into Photos, and saving gifs is often a questionable prospect. The world uses gifs, Apple, so please work on better support!

Dictionary Definitions

The ability to carry around a pocket super computer is fantastic. It makes us all smarter and more capable. Being able to simply tap any word we come across and define it is a remarkable feat. But what if we want to remember that definition for later, or include it in our notes? Too bad, you can't copy out of the definition screen. To do so you literally have to search the web and copy and paste the same definition from there, in a process that would take most people 20-30 seconds. Please let me copy, its small and silly but I do it frequently enough that i would gain hours back on my life.

Keyboards

In part one I already mentioned this in my Messages section but I will copy and paste what I said there, here to help solve the 3rd party keyboard problem. Additionally read these articles (here and here)to see prototypes of this kind of system in action. From my previous article...

Stickers and Attachments

The current state of 3rd party keyboards is divided into two very different functions. The first is what was intended by Apple when enabling keyboard extensions, and that is an alternate way to enter text into the message (or data field). The second use of keyboard apps is to add attachments into your messages, but the process of toggling through keyboards is convoluted and always leads me to uninstalling all 3rd party keyboards. I have seen a lot of suggestions for how to fix 3rd party keyboards, but I think the model is simpler than a lot of these proposed solutions. Allow for text input keyboards to replace the default keyboard, and add in an attachment extension for stickers, gifs, and other attachment keyboard types. This could include or replace the camera (though I would leave it separate) and the audio attachment buttons already in place. Security prompts for these two different systems could reflect the need of the extension and would make me feel better about granting Refresh rather than Full Access to a random gif keyboard maker. Then we can all send our friends and families Kimoji stickers and not have to worry about ever finding our default keyboard again.

App Store

Last week's news of App Store changes is a positive sign that the App Store ecosystem is undergoing changes behind the scenes. With faster review times, new pricing models, promoted searches, more rotation on the featured page, and potentially hiding installed apps like the recent implementation on the Apple TV I think the App Store is heading in a great direction. I have two things that I would add to the App Store wish list at this point, the first being better search (faster, more accurate, less gaming of search terms) and some sort of external curation features. Perhaps this could be similar to featured playlist in music by 3rd party web sites. Imagine a Daring Fireball, MacStories, or Hypercritical list of must have apps. Perhaps sites could get affiliate credit for downloads of their recommendations. Perhaps user's with the most helpful App Reviews could gain acclaim and be allowed to make a favorites list. Finally, I will repeat my suggestion to separate games from the App Store. I think all of these things would make it easier for developers to gain more traction, and provide an alternative to the top charts list which are akin to self fulfilling prophecies if an app makes it there in the first place.

Home

I only recently started using the Home features on iOS but so far, it has added some parts convenience (being able to request actions from Siri is awesome) but also leaves me longing for functionality. Here are a few notes.

Home App

It is rumored to be on its way, but if Siri (I say if Siri a lot, more to come) is going to get more powerful and be a true virtual assistant she is going to have to know what things are and where they are located, as well as know how they can all interact to form a suitable environment. The Home App on the App Store is sure to be Sherlocked with this one (though there is always the power user market), but Apple needs to give users better native control without a $15 price tag.

Apple TV as a Home Device

The second thing I wanted to try with my new HomeKit using lifestyle was to turn on my Apple TV (which using HDMI-CEC standards turns on my receiver and television) with my voice from my iPhone. I expect this to come with the revamped Remote.app and hope it helps me configure my Apple TV for Home use. Telling Siri, "Play The Royal Tenenbaums" (insert movie or TV show here) could adjust the volume of my receiver via CEC to a set level, dim my lights to the movie setting, turn off the music playing on my mac, drop my HomeKit enabled curtains (I don't have automatic curtains (...yet)) and play my favorite movie. Apple needs all of their devices to become HomeKit enabled as well, but especially the Apple TV.

Let me Throw a Dance Party (or just tell Siri "Good Night")

Saying things like "Good night Siri" could perform a multitude of actions like turn off all lights, cut power to all non essential outlets in your house to save electricity, adjust the temperature, and start your sleep tracking app. Devices and applications need to be interwoven and understand what simple phrases might mean if digital assistants are going to be powerful. If Siri 2 is coming this year, expect to see the beginning of this capability.

Music

Apple Music's introduction was bizarre but exciting for me and many others. Finally we had full access to the iTunes library (almost) and a way to collect our favorite music and discover new music without breaking our banks on massive music libraries. But the service's launch was messy, destroying some music libraries, the interfaces were hard to use, and Apple clearly hadn't considered each and every feature it needed to to make the experience simple and delightful. The backend seems to have stabilized and the catalog seems to be settling down as well (music was missing, or re-cataloging caused music added to libraries to need to be added a second time). A revamped interface is rumored and I hope it cuts out many of the layers that make up the Apple Music interface. Currently when searching and browsing through the Apple Music library, the stack gets deeper and deeper until you have to hit the back button to navigate through the entire history. My hope is that Apple figures out a way to take the infinite layers of Apple Music now and simplify it down to just a few. I still love the idea of my music intermingled with a cloud library. Those that do not agree don't understand the modern music landscape where songs are release by artists on a variety of platforms and not always available to stream. Apple Music unifies that experience and will be essential to keep a music library together in the future. I am excited to see the redesign.

Another feature that would make Apple Music more of a service would be embeds. Links make it possible to listen on all devices, but bands and music sites would be more likely to use the service if they could more easily share tracks or albums on their sites (or in their News.app articles).

Siri 2.0

Siri is rumored to be the big news at WWDC and I hope to see many of the rumored and talked about features. I won't list out everything I think Siri could do in version 2.0, because I can't even begin to fathom the interactivity that apps, devices, and services all working together, automatically, could do. I expect to see a 3rd party API at this point and I am not sure if I think it will live on the device or if developers will have to send an additional package to Apple when they want to include Siri integrations. Perhaps Siri will become a secondary platform that lives on all Apple devices and will have its own siriOS. This would potentially allow services to integrate with Siri without an on device application. For instance, I don't want to have to download an app for flowers to send my mother flowers on Mother's Day. Apple has already built a secure transaction layer into their devices with Apple Pay enabling Siri access to your money without risky 3rd party app interactions. I think there is a lot of potential for Siri and 3rd party interactions.

The thing that may make Siri 2.0 outside of 3rd party apps, devices, and services, will be the ability to understand context. Right now Dr. Drang is correct, Siri isn't great at understanding context, but the acquisition of VocalIQ with its machine learning of user requests should make Siri 2.0 much more powerful. Just spend an hour or two reading Brian Roemmele's Medium posts and you will begin to get a sense of what Apple may be cooking for Siri 2.0 and beyond.

The only other thing I want to see that is outside the scope of what Siri 2.0 will be able to do is that I want her to be more interactive and Proactive. Perhaps this is with Proactive and automated notifications, but features that will assist me with information beyond just voice. When people say voice will be the only thing we use in the future, I don't doubt that it will be a powerful interface, however, our phones' screens and sensors provide a lot of value as well, and not all information is best conveyed via voice. Interactive Proactive features will be just as valuable as our smart assistant even if she/he is the one generating these graphics and interactions.

The End

I didn't cover a lot of areas that are part of iOS. Partially out of inexperience with using some apps and features, and partially due to the fact that I think some features are more mature and have less room for growth. If you can't tell I am excited for tomorrow's keynote, but I am every year. Feel free to follow along with me, and let me know if you want to discuss any other ideas I may have left out. Thanks for reading!

Amelia Meath is Awesome

Soon after I left high school a friend recommended this "folk band" to me called Mountain Man. After listening to the first lyrics of "Buffalo" I was a bit skeptical, but I am not one to not give music a try because it out there. It didn't take long to become transfixed by the intermingling Appalachian voices. Made in the Harbor quickly grew to be a favorite album, one I get stuck listening to on repeat regularly. The best way to experience them I am sure was live in nature as can be seen by all of their YouTube videos out and about. Here is my favorite version of Dog Song, but it is worth further exploration.

Mountain Man, though technically still active, hasn't produced new music since 2010, as the members seem to experiment with lots of projects. Meath and Molly Sarle went on to take part in an experimental band BOBBY. I don't have any BOBBY examples of awesome yet, because I literally learned of them while getting links for this article but there seems to be some interesting music there that I can always add in an update.

Next up, Amelia Meath partnered up with producer Nick Sanborn to form Sylvan Esso which mixes Meath's vocal range with some heavy beats from Sanborn. This formula seems to also be working well for Marian Hill. I won't protest, because it turns out songs like Hey Mami.

And finally, we come to this live performance of Northeast Texas Women with Phil Cook in which Meath compels a crowd to gather and dance with her badassery. Just watch them collect. Follow this lady.

My iOS 10 Wish List - Part 2

Maps

Maps.app has been rapidly improving since its controversial launch. That said, there are still lots of areas for improvement. Map and location data will be an important aspect for a digital assistant that helps to run our lives. I hope to see some of the following come to iOS 10.

Trail Support - For Bikes and Hikes

One area that many tech companies struggle with in their Maps apps is coverage of both cycling and hiking trails. I am sure the data is much more difficult, time consuming, and costly to obtain, but through user sourcing and satellite imagery verification, trails could be mapped. This would enable an entirely new set of directions for Maps.app.

Topographic Maps

Apple has already collected topographic information for Maps to use in their 3D rendering that they overlay satellite imagery on top of (this is not the same as Flyover). Adding topography further increases the amount of information that users can gain from looking at Maps and would enable 3rd party outdoor recreation apps to provide users with topographic data without integrating Google Maps (which has basic topography) or paying for access to expensive topographical map databases.

Offline Maps

Can you tell I sometimes hike to remote locations yet? Adding offline maps and APIs for 3rd parties to offer downloadable maps would allow users to explore and be directed through regions that may not have the best (or no) internet connection. Saving could be as simple as zooming the screen to the appropriate coverage area and tapping an action extension to save full detail of whats on your screen. Additionally, when traveling, offline maps are a great way to save on data and pairs perfectly with my next request.

Itineraries

Have you ever wanted to plan a trip and save points of interest to visit that you don't want to miss? Itineraries would make your iPhone much more capable at being your travel guide. Being able to save the itinerary on the device with all points of interest, directions, and a copy of the offline map would help you save data when traveling internationally or in areas with poor or no internet connection. And with the Proactive features introduced with iOS 9, itinerary items could be delivered to you based on your location or schedule to keep you on track. Seeing an overview of your entire trip can make planning much easier, and it is a great way to recall the amazing vacation you took 5 years ago. Other features like geotagged photos you've taken in the past, propagating on your overview, could help you find that secret spot you wanted to revisit.

Better User Correction Tools

Help me help you Apple. Maps started out with some holes in its data, but over the years it has gotten much better, in no small part because of user submitted corrections. But the tools could still be better. A feature that enabled users to submit road and trail information when a road or trail is either incorrect or missing could enable better coverage of new or unmapped paths. Information could be verified with geotagged photos or videos. There are millions of iPhones and iPads in use, and I am sure there are plenty of willing explorers that would love to help Apple improve its data.

Continuous Updates to Satellite Imagery

In the past 5 years both of my sisters have moved into developing neighborhoods. Maps' satellite imagery has frequently lagged behind on these developments by more than a year or two. Perhaps this is a political issue, but human's change their landscape and it is important to be able to convey that information. It also helps user's submit proper corrections, which helps to improve the directions maps can deliver. Apple probably has the cash on hand that launching a satellite isn't out of the realm of possibility, and good map data will be very important for that not so secret car.

Mail

Snoozes

Literally everyone else is doing some sort of snoozes, because sometimes we just don't have time to deal with the increasing amount of email we get, and sometimes, things are not pertinent until later. Mailbox (RIP) nailed snoozes on its introduction and Mail.app should revive its style and ease of use. I personally use Outlook for work email because it has snoozes in addition to being a decent cross platform app that I can put users on, both iOS and Android for their work email.

Rules & Automation

One feature that the iOS version of Mail lacks is the ability to apply rules to senders and subjects. Yes, rules can be applied elsewhere, but as we live on our mobile devices more and more, we should have the capability to apply rules and other automation (such as unsubscribing) to our email.

Extensions

Mail.app has limited access to extensions, most of which are through third party keyboards or when dealing with attachments. I want to be able to use extensions even on emails that do not include attachments such as exporting messages to other apps and services without literally forwarding email to said services.

Tags

As part of indexing everything to make Siri and search more powerful, I would love to see tags come to mail. This way I could have tags on Notes, Photos, Mail Messages, Documents, etc. and be able to quickly view everything about a subject by just searching for that tag. Better yet, with automation, tags could be applied automatically like Proactive suggested calendar events so that you would always have all of the possible information about that subject at your fingertips.

Games and Game Center

Yes, I actually want Apple to do something with Game Center other than shut it down.

Make Game Center the Home of Games - Remove Games from the App Store

I love apps for what they enable me to do. And I am a huge gamer, both hardcore (my play time in Destiny would make most parents weep) and casual games. That being said, I think each needs its own respective home. Breaking games out of the App Store and putting them in Game Center could have numerous positive effects, and each store could get its own set of rules about purchases, returns, and ratings. I think as Apple thinks about how to make development of non-game applications sustainable, one thing that would greatly increase visibility for apps would be to let them stand apart from their game counterparts. Currently on the featured page there are 93 games (one single app store category) and 77 apps (24 app store categories). I am positive this is part of the discoverability problem for apps and game makers who struggle to stay visible. Games obviously are a big part of the platform and at 93-77 probably warrant their own store front.

Game Center

Game Center itself has never been loved by Apple. Perhaps it is a lost cause to try to make it anything functional, but it can't hurt to give it at least one more shot. Better match making, game discovery, messaging and chat, and dare I say streaming could all make it a much better platform for gaming.

Centralized Game Credits

Before my day kids used to earn an allowance and then spend it all at arcades. Now, that allowance for some is given as iTunes credit which is then spent entirely on in app purchases. Something that could save the sanctity of games from freemium currency based games would be to reinvent the arcade token system. The game review team could dictate acceptable play earned per token so game developers did not abuse in app purchases as many do today. Terms could even give developers a better revenue split akin to subscriptions. I think Apple should try anything they can to kill in app purchase of currency. Alternatively, instead of credits, Apple could flat out ban the use of currency which is often set up in a way to make purchases with in game currency require additional purchase of currency, because the user's left over balance is inadequate for multiple purchases (selling 10 packs of currency, and requiring 6 currency per purchase).

Release Chess.app for iOS

Many of the problems Apple has with games spawn from Apple having no skin in the game. They need to have a game that uses Game Center so they can learn its faults and triumphs. This could lead to better match-making, better tools, better top charts (cheating is rampant), and a general better overall experience. If they are interested in other original content beyond radio, television series and movies, perhaps they could work with quality indie game developers to publish games like Threes, Monument Valley, Alto's Adventure, Ridiculous Fishing, Flappy Bird, Crossy Road, etc. Perhaps then they would realize that despite their best efforts there is a flourishing game platform on iOS.

iCloud and iCloud Drive

Since it's inception, iCloud has had a black eye. Unreliability, dysfunctionality, and inaccessibility plagued certain iCloud services. But year after year Apple has taken meager steps towards making all of iCloud a competent product. It's time to start competing in cloud services in all arenas and to do so with user data privacy and security in mind.

Copy the Best Parts of Google Drive and Dropbox - Shared Folders, Collaboration, Version History, App Integrations

Collaboration is nonexistent on iCloud. Yes there is the ability to share documents, but opening a link on an iOS device comically tells you that collaboration is only available on Mac and PC browsers and does not open in one of the installed iWork apps. Shared links are ugly and long. There is no folder sharing for collaborating. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. iCloud drive should resemble a modern day cloud storage application with features to share documents easily and securely, full collaboration on devices Apple claims you can get work done on, easily accessible version histories, and much more. COPY GOOGLE AND DROPBOX!

Tags

Once again make everything tag-able. Siri will thank us later.

iBooks

Audio iBooks and "Read to Me"

Apple recently moved Audiobooks out of iTunes and into iBooks. One of the appeals of digital books is their ability to do more than regular books. It would be great to be able to have the stories come to life with Audiobooks with all the visual aids available by creators in iBooks. And if there is no audiobook version available give us better controls for the Speak Screen settings in iBooks (or in general) and let us request of Siri to "Read to Me".

PDF Annotation

Once again, Apple half supports an important feature in an iOS version of its apps. Both .epub and .ibooks books can be marked up with highlights and notes, but PDFs are left purely to be viewed. I at the very least want text selectable PDFs to gain the notation features of its siblings in iBooks, but perhaps we could gain full mark up for everything in iBooks (with Apple Pencil support as the cherry on top) for all three file types. This would bring iBooks on iOS up to snuff with the abilities of Preview on the Mac since Apple seems reluctant to release preview for iOS.

That's all for Part 2

I have a lot more ideas and a lot yet to cover (though I may not get finished by my WWDC Eve deadline). I will have a lot to say in the coming days. Again feel free to comment if you liked any of my ideas or have any of your own!

My iOS 10 Wish List - Part 1

I have read a lot of iOS 10 and WWDC wish lists post but none of them have impressed me. Perhaps this is because bloggers are trying to nail the tentpole features of the soon to be announced operating systems, but instead of focusing on just those features, I am going to list everything, BIG or small that I can think of in no particular order. I am sure this list contains some of those proverbial "Nos", but this is my list of where I would like to see iOS go next and in the future as it continues to evolve in its role as a super computer in your pocket. Here we go...

Camera and Photos

As a photographer somewhere in between a hobbyist and professional, I have always found the iPhone as a camera an intriguing device. Year after year Apple does incredible things with their camera hardware and software. We are reaching the threshold of things a single small lens camera can do, but there is still room too improve and multi-lens cameras are on the horizon. It's not hard to imagine the iPhones pairing of hardware and software working together only continuing to gain ground on SLR and Mirrorless cameras and photo management software. 

Raw Photos

Raw Photos and APIs to support editing Raw Photos is another way Apple can further improve the images you can capture with an iPhone. iOS has a plethora of amazing photography apps that are often unique to iOS. Adding Raw Photo capture and editing APIs would greatly increase the quality of those photos and edits on iOS. Apple has already figured out a great system to keep these edits non destructive with extensions and iCloud Photo Library, and the obfuscation of files enables quick conversions of Raw photos into JPEG when sharing to social media apps and the web.

Camera+ is already allowing saving images as TIFFs, but you have to dig to find the setting. I prefer Apple's Camera.app interface and the Camera+ workflow is probably a bit daunting to most users.

Image Recognition - Faces, Places, & Things

Apple's stance on privacy may have swung too far to do completely open machine learning on photos, but I think they need to use up some of that user data privacy trust they have been building to work on image recognition. Google Photos has shown what this kind of machine learning can achieve with its fantastic search, but the problem with Google Photos is the Google brand. If Apple were to do image recognition, users would expect the information gained to directly benefit them and the photos to be secure, rather than the potential for photos to be used to improve ad sales. I would absolutely opt in to this.

Follow Up - Tags, Keyword, and Metadata Editing

With the recently launched and excellent Metapho 2.0 came the ability to do most of the tasks listed, however, as a natural extension of making your photos searchable, the data behind them should be editable as well. With my iCloud Library of over 20k photos, Siri is going to need some information about what photo you are requesting, so we will need a way to edit it.

Complete Map View in Photos

One of my favorite features of Photos is to look at the map of where I have been in a given time period. Photos already lets you see the map view, but the caveat is that you can only zoom out as far as years or for specific locations in search. Let us explore our experiences all together in the same view.

Additional Shooting Modes and More Controls

Apple seems to introduce a unique shooting mode each year, and they have perfected simplifying complex shooting modes into the swipe of a finger and a tap of the shutter button. These modes have enabled people with little technical understanding to capture panoramas, slo-mo, time-lapses, HDR, and Live Photos. However, I would like to see more modes added either to the swipe menu (or another mode picker) or enable unique capture modes with manual controls. Slow shutter is one such mode that is simple but would enable a greater breadth of photo capture (fireworks and light trails, long landscape exposures, star trails, etc.) that aren't currently possible with Camera.app. Apple even opened up manual controls for camera apps with iOS 8, but didn't add much manual functionality to their own. These controls could be hidden like the option to turn on the rule of thirds grid and video quality in Settings. When enabled, a bi-directional swipe system on the screen could keep the interface simple as many other camera and editing apps have already done. The interface could also be cleaned up by merging shooting modes into something similar to the filters button. Finally, adding in smart shutter capabilities could help improve everyone's captures by enabling shutters such as big button (tap anywhere on screen to capture image - great for "+" phones), leveling (capture only when camera is level), or anti-motion (capture only when the phone is still enough for lighting conditions and settings). These features will only make the millions and millions  (or billions and billions) of photos taken on iPhones even more amazing.

More Editing Tools in Photos

Another thing Apple introduced with Photos in iOS 8 was a remarkably simplified way to edit Light and Color in photos, while still letting more experienced editors fine tune their shots. The problem is, not all corrections are as simple as light and color. I would love to see a "Detail" slider that corrects for sharpening and noise, as well as making photos softer or more dramatic. Improve the color slider dropdown options to enable advanced color corrections. Steal Adobe's new content aware cropping. Bring over the retouching brush as well as maybe a few other brushes like burn and dodge. Pair this with Raw photo capture, the built in non destructive editing, and the best photo app ecosystem in existence, and iOS becomes the go to place to capture and edit photos.

Notes

With the revamp to Notes.app and the iCloud backend last year I was almost an instant convert. I am not lying when I say it helped me be more productive than ever through by far the hardest year of college. Greedily, I want it to continue to improve rather than go years without further improvements.

Image and Document Markup

One baffling omission from Notes.app last year was the ability to mark up images and documents within your notes, while adding fantastic yet simple drawing tools. If I only got to choose one feature to add to Notes this year this would be it (though I have plenty more). I would love to see the drawing tools be able to markup images and documents rather than simply the blank canvas we currently have.

More Drawing Tools and Drawing Tool Extensions

On the heels of asking for the drawing tools to be able to markup documents, I would love to see more drawing tools. Paper really nails a lot of these tools in a fairly simple interface. In addition they could add markup tools which they already have in Mail.app to round out their annotation tools. On top of adding native tools, they could also create an extension point that lets developers add drawing, annotation, OCR, and PDF markup tools within notes itself to further extend the types of notes one can capture.

Note Types and Formatting Options

Not all notes are created equal, and we need to remember and recall all sorts of information. Yes there are "Apps for that", but having a single environment to put all the information you want to remember in makes searching easier. Note types could include things like a simple sticky note (colors could correspond with tags), data tables, marked up documents, sketches, and lists. The iOS version also needs font formatting  to change size and color like its Mac counterpart.

Tags and Better Note/Folder Management

Adding a little metadata via tags would also be a great addition. Tags could match the OS X (macOS) version, sync via iCloud, and be pervasive throughout both operating systems adding an easy way to find all documents and information relating to that tag. 

One of the features that sold me on Notes versus Evernote was the ability to infinitely nest folders. However, you can only go multiple folders deep on the macOS version of Notes. I would like to see this feature be implemented to not only Notes, but Photo folders, iCloud app folders, etc.

Shared Notes/Folders

Another glaring omission was the ability to share Notes and Folders with others. This may be an upcoming feature but it seems odd in light of the ability to share calendars, reminder lists, and shared iCloud albums (which I would prefer be part of iCloud Photo Library in the Photos' Albums tab). Sending carefully formatted Notes to friends and family shouldn't result in that formatting being lost, and being able to share within Notes.app solves the problem of lost formatting.

Encrypt Everything!

The addition of password protected, encrypted notes in iOS 9.3 was a great surprise and welcome feature for all of us privacy minded nerds who watch family members store sensitive data and passwords in Notes.app. However, only Notes containing text, photos, and sketches are able to be locked. So storing sensitive documents in Notes doesn't currently work, and leads to your outboard brain being fragmented across apps.

Messages

Additional Card Data Types

Currently Messages displays cards for some but not all data types. If it can be shared via messages and isn't plain text, the attachment should be able to display in a nicely laid out card. This could include things like notes as mentioned above, webpages, weather information, and potentially 3rd party defined data via an API for defining data types. With the importance of understanding what types of data apps can provide and handle being necessary for Siri, Apple could extend these definitions into visual representations of their data and kill two birds with one stone. Imagine sending a Dark Sky forecast to a friend that is also viewable when you ask for the weather in the Siri interface. Not only could rich visualization convey better information, but it could additionally lead to support of developers via app purchases.

Stickers and Attachments

The current state of 3rd party keyboards is divided into two very different functions. The first is what was intended by Apple when enabling keyboard extensions, and that is an alternate way to enter text into the message (or data field). The second use of keyboard apps is to add attachments into your messages, but the process of toggling through keyboards is convoluted and always leads me to uninstalling all 3rd party keyboards. I have seen a lot of suggestions for how to fix 3rd party keyboards, but I think the model is simpler than a lot of these proposed solutions. Allow for text input keyboards to replace the default keyboard, and add in an attachment extension for stickers, gifs, and other attachment keyboard types. This could include or replace the camera (though I would leave it separate) and the audio attachment buttons already in place. Security prompts for these two different systems could reflect the need of the extension and would make me feel better about granting Refresh rather than Full Access to a random gif keyboard maker. Then we can all send our friends and families Kimoji stickers and not have to worry about ever finding our default keyboard again.

Digital Touch

While we are adding attachments, I think instead of shooting the dead horse of Digital Touch on Apple Watch, Apple should include the drawing feature as an additional native extension along with photo, video, and voice. There are 3rd party apps that imitate this feature, but if implemented natively we could then receive the digital drawings on our Apple Watches without them looking like bad stick drawings.

Apple Pay Money Transfers

One of the Tent Pole rumored features of iOS 10 that I am completely on board with is Apple Pay enabled money transfers via iMessages. I am a big believer in food and drink karma, but it never hurts to be able to easily send cash to friends and family. Full steam ahead on this one.

News

Magazines

I am a diehard RSS reader but I like the idea of a news or article reader that enables me to discover more about the topics I am interested in even if they aren’t linked within an article I have read. However, News is currently limited to a single thread. Not only does this make curating my own discovery on a topic difficult, but it adds noise to that process. One way to solve this would be to allow users to make folders or “Magazines” of sources and topics. For instance if I want to read up on photography or backpacking, I could place certain sources and topics within that folder, which I could choose to read from with a dropdown at the top of the For You screen. This way I can discover great backpacking tips without seeing a headline about Donald Trump, which makes me instantly want to leave the app. Apple could anonymize data about the stories I like that are grouped together and use it to make suggestions to other users with similar interests. 

Improved Topic Recognition and Discovery

In addition to magazines, topic recognition and discovery could use some work. Since everything in News is being fed into the app purposely, Apple should absolutely be using machine learning and human oversight to classify the basic topic of an article. I have seen some terrible unrelated keywords attached to articles and that does not give me much confidence that it will provide me with quality recommendations.

Topic Muting

Once we have solid classification of what an article is about, it would be a boon to be able to mute a topic out of your News feed. The Internet can become flooded with a single topic such as an election, celebrity death, missing airplane, or sporting event and seeing endless articles about the same topic that you are uninterested in can be frustrating. Simple topic mutes would solve for this, and a modal pop up from tapping on the topic box could "snooze" the topic for varied intervals of time or indefinitely

Reading List and Read It Later

Apple News already comes with a bookmark feature which is probably a part of the recommendation engine, but there is potential for it to learn from other sources as well that perhaps aren’t in Apple news. Apple could integrate Reading List into its recommendation engine, and potentially create a share extension that enabled you to feed items and topics to it to further learn about your interests.

Read To Me

Like M.G. Siegler, I listen to a majority of what I “read” on the internet. Apple’s addition of the Speak Screen gesture has only amplified how much I listen, as it makes enabling text to speech a breeze. However, News is not optimized for the feature and the page frequently jumps side to side if you are trying to follow along. I would love to tell Siri to "read this article to me", completely hands free, or for there to be an action extension to Read to Me. It would be another huge accessibility win for Apple.

More to Come

I use iOS a lot and I think there are tons of small and subtle features that could be implemented to make it an even more robust pocket operating system. With the dawn of Extensions on iOS 8, the possibilities of what iOS can do seem endless. I have argued that the sensors and additional hardware parts in an iPhone (or iPad and eventually the Apple Watch) makes the potential for what can be done on an iOS device an order of magnitude higher than that which can be done on a traditional computer. I hope you have enjoyed reading, please feel free to comment if I have sparked any ideas about the future of iOS in your mind. Stay tuned for part 2...

Orange

Something that this blog, if and when I take to writing on it regularly, will likely focus on is topics about sleep, or the lack thereof. This is now my second post about the matter, the first of which I plan to eventually edit into its own page for the good of the people. I think about sleep because getting it has always been something I have struggled with. There are many factors that go into my lack of sleep and this post will kick off some personal research I plan to do in the coming weeks or months.

Early this week Apple previewed iOS 9.3, which contained some exciting features (to me at least) including one out of left field called Night Shift. Night Shift, as described by Apple,

...uses your iOS device’s clock and geolocation to determine when it’s sunset in your location. Then it automatically shifts the colors in your display to the warmer end of the spectrum, making it easier on your eyes. In the morning, it returns the display to its regular settings.

Put another way, it makes your screen orange at night so your brain thinks the wavelengths being delivered to it are from the setting, rather than mid day, sun. It's a "lifehack" that resolves a dispute between modern life and our evolution.

I immediately downloaded the certificate (another exciting feature of iOS 9.3), installed the beta, and enabled the feature in the Display and Brightness settings on both iPad and iPhone. Additionally, I downloaded F.lux to my Macs, which not only does the same thing but had been hacked onto the iPhone just a few months ago before Apple put the kibosh on it and promptly sherlocked the developers. I have tried F.lux before, but given that during darkness hours I primarily used my iOS devices, I never really saw the benefit to my screens being slightly more orange. Now I am all in and experimenting with the feature to see if it improves the quality of sleep I get, which has recently been sliding in the wrong direction according to Pillow.

Coincidentally, I learned this week that a friend of mine has been having an even worse time getting a good nights sleep and has consulted a doctor on what she can do to get to bed. I have offered to help solve her potential technology problems and maybe give her a pointer or two on her pillow technique. I'm going to suggest we do this experiment together, and if she'd like she can offer any insights she gains for follow up.

I will write a follow up post in a month or two with all sorts of great accompanying charts. In addition to orange screens I also rediscovered an app that I had tested a few months back called Sunn. Sunn is clever in that it also uses your location and time to slowly adjust your Phillips Hue or comparable smart (someday we'll drop the smart modifier) light bulbs. This experiment leaves me desiring the orange feature elsewhere just to be completely thorough. My TV will still be providing a large dose of blue light, and unfortunately Destiny doesn't have a Night Shift mode of its own.