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!

Mark VaskeiOS, Siri, Apple, iPhone, iPad