What’s in store for iOS 5?

I won’t be bashful here, I have a pretty good track record with my Apple related predictions.  My iPad predictions had accuracy way above 50%, and I’ve done some pretty accurate predictions for iOS 3 and 4.  Continuing on my past successes, I’d like to lay out my predictions for iOS 5.

Fix the f&$&$king notifications system!

iOS’s notification system is a bit… lacking.  Only one notification is shown to the user at a time, it’s always modal, and if there are multiple, they stack on top of each other.  In an age where users routinely have 4-5 apps that are giving them notifications, that system has easily proven itself not to be scalable.

It’s time for Apple to take a page out of Android’s book and revamp the notifications system to be a bit more robust and able to handle the myriad notifications we’re getting every day.  Speaking of which…

Background downloading of updated content

Mail gets to do it. Messages.app gets to do it.  But non-Apple apps are left out in the cold, and whenever you open an app, you’re greeted with stale information and you must wait several seconds before your app is even usable because until that time it’s not even giving you current information.

Again, Android has handled this gracefully since day one.  Apps are allowed (within reason) to download data at predetermined intervals in the background.  It doesn’t seem to interfere much with performance, but it makes all the difference in the world to be walking and be able to whip your phone out of your pocket and just open the Twitter app and see up to date information, or open Evernote and see that note you were just working on at your computer five minutes ago, without the wait time.

Obviously, limitations will need to be put into place to keep people from consuming too much 3G data, but even if this feature was locked down to only work on WiFi, that’d still be nice.

Services

One of the most annoying aspects of using iOS is the fact that the apps feel largely like they are in silos, completely separated from one another.  This is because they are in silos, completely separated from one another.  The only way that apps can really send data to each other is if the developer of the app with the source data adds the ability to send data to the target app.  This isn’t a sustainable practice.

Enter services.

Available since the first version of OS X, services are a way that an application can tell the system that it’s able to have particular types of data sent to it.  For instance, it’s possible to select text in OS X and have that text spoken.  Or you can select an e-mail address and have a message addressed to that recipient open.  Those are pretty simplistic examples, and services admittedly haven’t caught on a ton in OS X (though Snow Leopard really cleaned them up and made them nicer to use), but on a mobile device the possibilities can really scream.

Imagine tapping an address and being able to have Navigon navigate you to that address in a single click?  Or selecting a passage of text in Safari and having it added to your Evernote notebook?  Or perhaps being able to select some text in another language and have it translated to your native language with Google’s Translate app?  The possibilities here are endless. We just need an API that lets developers register their apps as being able to deal with particular kinds of data.  And if iOS isn’t familiar with a certain type of data, let the developer write a data detector for that kind of data.

This does have the potential of getting out of hand.  After all, you don’t want to have to sift through a gigantic list of apps you don’t care about because they are all registered as being able to let you do stuff with free text.  But I think that can easily be managed in a manner similar to push notifications and location services.

New Home Screen, Please!

Google’s been making a lot gentle jabs at Apple lately in introducing new Android features.  The latest one, and perhaps one of my favorites, is the notion that Google believes a home screen should be more than just a bunch of app (and folder) icons.  It’s a tough thing to change because that array of icons representing apps is so goddamn simple to comprehend and it is (pardon the pun) an iconic design choice and synonymous with iPhone.  However, it seems more and more that people want there to be widgets on the home screen.  It was one of my favorite things about my Nexus One.  I admittedly didn’t have a ton of widgets crowding my home screen, but there were a few that I’d use regularly and loved to have around.  I think it’d be very important for Apple to develop a revamped home screen in such a way that it doesn’t complicate the user experience (and that surely is why Apple hasn’t done it already).

Misc

There are a bunch of other little things that should probably be added.  For instance, when Apple introduced multitasking, they made it trivial for your app to maintain its state when still in memory, but when iOS decided that memory would be better used elsewhere and it quit your app, it was your app’s responsibility to restore state.  That’s a lot of work.  Apple should just develop a single method that apps can call to have the system capture the app’s state and save it to secondary memory.

People have been asking for a long time for custom text ringtones and the ability to set a custom text ringtone for contacts.  That wish should be granted.  I clearly can’t trust Apple to come out with any new good text tones. Have you heard the new ones that they have in iOS 4.2? Some of them are approaching 10 freaking seconds long!  If the sound for a new text is more than 2 seconds long (and I’m honestly being generous there) you’re doing it wrong.

Apple should add a rich text editing capabilities to the standard Cocoa text editing controls.

It’s probably also time for there to be a common place on iPhone for documents to be stored, and a wireless way to send documents to iPhone.  It’s just a little bit passé to have to plug into iTunes just to make a file available to an app to open.  File management on iOS overall is incredibly sub-par. The hold up is probably just figuring out how to best implement it but not bring over the complexity that file management has in the desktop world.  In my experience the vast majority of inexperienced computer users have no concept of where their file is stored in a filesystem, and when presented with an open dialog in a directory the file they want isn’t in, they look like a deer in the headlight.

 

So, those are my predictions for iOS 5. We’ll see how they fare in about a month or so when they get announced.

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