Apple promised to release a new build of iOS each year, so with iOS 7 set to arrive in 2013 -- an early build has already been discovered in the wild by developers -- Apple needs to polish the apps it already has while introducing more features if it wants to make its proprietary ecosystem feel more cohesive and user-friendly.
iOS keeps improving each year, and even though Apple has nearly perfected its clean and intuitive interface, the company can still focus on providing more ways to make iOS feel more personalized and tailored to each particular user. After all, if a user feels truly immersed in their mobile device, it becomes much tougher to leave, or switch.
Each of these 11 features listed below, while none of them are official by any means, would certainly make the iOS experience more user-friendly. By removing annoying obstacles and adding logical and desired features, iOS 7 can bring Apple one step closer to the perfect mobile operating system.
1. Undo Button in Keyboard
Several word processing applications in iOS include “Undo” and “Redo” buttons, but those useful functions are often missing when you need it the most. If every physical keyboard can perform the famous “ctrl-Z,” every iOS keyboard should include a similar feature. There have been far too many times when I’m writing an email or a big block of text when I accidentally delete it. Having an “Undo” button would save users from many-a-headache.
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2. Alternate Default Maps App
This needs to happen, especially after the whole fiasco over Apple Maps in iOS 6. Once Google Maps got the boot from iOS on Sept. 19, users were sent into a frenzy because Apple’s replacement app wasn’t working properly. Maps were distorted, and information was missing or simply incorrect. As the company did its best to rectify the situation, Apple advertised alternative mapping applications that could otherwise help users locate their destinations and navigate them there.
Apple created workarounds in Siri to hook into other mapping apps -- including Google’s -- but what Apple needs to do is allow any addresses, destinations, locations or directions to be opened in any viable mapping application outside of its own.
3. Single Search in Safari
Taking a page from Google Chrome, Apple last year decided to unify its desktop browser’s URL and search bars into one “omnibar” in OS X Mountain Lion. For Apple’s mobile OS in 2013, Safari should replicate the Mac experience by unifying both search and Web functions into one easy-to-use bar. Too many text bars in a tiny smartphone screen isn’t very finger-friendly, y’know.
4. Ability To Remove More First-Party Apps
Purchase any iOS device, whether it’s an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, and you will quickly find that you can customize your app experience to your liking. You cannot, however, remove any of Apple’s baked in first-party apps, including Clock, Calendar, Weather, Calculator, Voice Memos, Notes, Reminders, Stocks, Passbook, Videos, Newsstand, or either the iTunes or App Stores.
Now, Apple will never let this happen, but if iOS 7 wanted to truly place trust in the user, it would allow these applications to be delete-able, and thus also downloadable from the App Store. Even if a user deletes a first-party app like Clock by mistake, iCloud could potentially reload your backed-up information once you redownload the app from the Store.
5. Snooze Control in Clock
Your iPhone or iPad can also be your alarm in the morning, and yet, while the Clock app carries a Snooze function, the Snooze on the Clock is permanently set to nine minutes, exactly. For many users, this window is just enough time to fall back asleep; wouldn’t it be nice if you could control how long your Snooze is set for? Personally, I would prefer my Snooze button to go off every three or five minutes -- just enough time to relax, but not enough time to fall asleep again. The least Apple could do is give users some control in this regard.
6. Animated Lock/Home Screens
The iOS lock screen needs a facelift. When you turn on your iOS display, you see a simple photo with the date, time and “Slide to Unlock.” Apple doesn’t need to get too fancy here, but it would be nice if you could view an animated background, similar to Google’s animated wallpapers in Android, directly on your lock or home screens.
7. More Options In The Multitasking Tray
Apple’s multitasking tray, which surfaces by double-tapping the home button, is one of the slickest and most useful features in iOS. And yet, it could be so much more. Apart from being able to view and close all of your open apps, the dock also includes controls for music and volume. As jailbreaking app Auxo showed us, the multitasking tray can be so much more than it is.
In Auxo, where app icons are replaced by living previews in the dock, users can add eight settings from your System Preferences for easy access, including screen brightness, Wi-Fi, 3G/4G, Bluetooth, Mute, Airplane Mode, Personal Hotspot, and more. In other words, the multitasking tray effectively becomes a hot key for your most-used preferences, as well as all of your apps. In my opinion, Apple needs to make these features a reality.
8. Move Apps Into iCloud
iCloud is growing every day as users continue to upload their songs, notes and documents, but Apple’s growing cloud ecosystem needs to be able to work with more third-party applications.
iOS 7 would be incredible if it could allow users to move any desired app, including its embedded and recorded information, directly into the iCloud folder for safekeeping. Many applications, particularly those used for productivity and work purposes, need an extra layer of back-up protection against deletion, accidental or not. iCloud is incredibly useful for the apps it supports – it really does “just work” as promised – but it’s currently too restrictive for other apps in the iOS marketplace.
9. Smarter Siri
Since Siri debuted on the iPhone 4S in October 2011, Apple’s virtual personal assistant has been eclipsed by its competitors, particularly Google. When Google added the voice function to its Search app in iOS this year, Google’s downloadable third-party app was effectively faster, smarter, more accurate and more helpful than Apple’s baked-in software.
Siri needs to improve, and fast. Apple could catch up to Google by mimicking features like displaying the spoken text as it’s said/heard, or reading aloud answers from Wikipedia or the Web directly in the results. However, what Siri really needs is a brain, especially for its user.
Siri needs to be able to better integrate with the Web, giving you fast results directly from the pages you’re looking for, but what it really needs to do is be smarter about who its owner is.
If Siri could discern its owner’s voice, Siri could have unlimited potential in many industries, but medicine might enjoy the biggest boost. If the user didn’t feel well, Siri could essentially follow a conversation tree – the same rundown every doctor does before a check-up – asking about current conditions while cross-referencing the new information with past conditions or maladies.
If Siri could uniquely qualify and clarify its questions, doctors and nurses could save literally thousands of hours of asking patients the same laundry list of prying medical history questions. Siri could collect data while doctors tend to more important matters, and in some cases, Siri could even remove the doctor from the equation entirely. Most sick people don’t need a doctor, just medical advice. If Siri can take answers from WebMD or the Internet in iOS 7, Siri can become a true personal assistant, rather than just a helper every now and then.
10. Alternate Default Web Browser
Again, Apple will never do this, but iOS 7 would be incredible if users could choose a different default Web browser rather than Safari. Now, Safari’s not a bad browser in the least, but opening up this option would make other browsers that currently exist within the App Store (Chrome, anyone?) much more viable and attractive. Unfortunately, making other mobile Web browsers stand out in iOS isn’t Apple’s prerogative in the slightest.
11. App Previews in App Store
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could “try it before you buy it” with apps? The iOS App Store only offers photo previews of downloadable applications; there’s no way to actually test out the applications penalty-free before buying it.
In the App Store, developers currently can release “Lite” versions of their applications so users can try them for free before purchasing the real thing. But what Apple should do is mimic the iTunes Store and allow for free app previews directly through the store.
In this way, users don’t have to download anything – a small snippet of content simply streams from the Internet to give a taste of what the app looks like, feels like, or does. Developers don’t need to create multiple “Lite” or “Full” apps any longer; Apple can let users preview content with time limits (best for games) or content limits (best for productivity apps), all of which are chosen by the developer.