Anticipation is running rampant for this Monday's WWDC in San Francisco, where Apple is expected to announce the next generation of its key software platforms.
The buzz is only amplified with the fact that Steve Jobs himself is expected to roll out the new products
New software is expected for the Mac, even a cloud-based service dubbed iCloud will be unveiled. But perhaps the update that most people are excited about is the iOS 5, the next iteration of Apple's software that powers over 70 million iPhone worldwide.
Speculation is rampant on what engineers have worked into the first major upgrade since the iPhone 4 hit shelves with iOS 4 in June 2010. While its hard to tell unless you're employed at One Infinite Loop, there are some features that we can all hope for.
Here are the top things IBT really want to see:
The way the iPhone notifies users of users of incoming text-messages is a relic of the first iPhone that debuted in 2007. Users gave Apple a pass 4 years ago seeing they were new to the game, and the rest of the phone was so cool. But now this needs to change
A pop-up interrupts whatever you're doing, demanding a response before you can continue. If you get one text per day, that can be fine. But you get text-messages often this quickly looses its appeal.
Moreover, this lays the foundation for notifications system wide. If you have an app that is receiving push notifications -- say a News app that tells you the breaking news -- then whenever news breaks (which is often if you're IBT) then this is a lot of interruptions.
It would be better if this could be handled in the background -- perhaps an icon with a message count across the top border of the phone next to the batter icon, much like other smart-phones. Androids work this way, with the added bonus of allowing you to slide down a special window to give you a peek of what came in, without leaving your app.
Bonus: Done right, an LED notification system is indispensible. Some smartphones let the LED flash depending on whether you get a text, and email, or missed call, giving you information without having to press a home-button.
Apple's philosophy is to have things be as easy as possible, but there is a difference between easy and simple. The email system in the iPhone is possibly the worst of any smartphone, in fact because it is too simple -- or dumbed down.
There is no way to delete a lot of mail except one-by-one. Suppose even, you want to send an email marked as 'priority' -- this isn't currently possible. Need to download a lot of email? The iOS in its current form chokes.
With the slide in market share and even talks of immanent death, there are not many things to learn from RIM, but it's Blackberry still is the gold-standard. For business users this is simply irreplaceable. Users get almost as much functionality as a fully-fledged desktop application.
Live Lock Screen
When the iPhone is locked now, users don't see anything except the clock. The rest of the screen is essentially unused. If you want to check basic smartphone information -- say how many new emails you've received -- then you need to unlock the screen and fire up the mail app.
What's next on the calendar? Same steps.
The lock screen could benefit with dynamic information relevant to the current time. How many new emails are received? What are the meetings planned for the rest of the day. Better yet, give developers access to this screen as well, and users the ability to control what goes on there -- like notifications of new IBT articles via RSS.
The keyboard isn't bad for what it is. It gets the job done but it certainly isn't perfect. If you've ever tried to send a serious email or a long text you'll see a lot of mistakes coming out .
This is a place where Apple can actually learn from the ill-fated Blackberry Storm series of phones from RIM.
In vertical mode, RIM deployed an ingenious 'reduced-set' keyboard that was only 5 keys across and 4 keys tall. This mixed with smart software, made typing a breeze, even with one hand. This is a throw-back from RIM's Peal smart phones that featured the same keyboard but in physical form. It made for a brilliant virtual one too.
This would be a radical departure so its unsure if Apple would adopt it, but Apple should at least give developers the choice of making new keyboard innovations. Apple's closed system does not allow for changes in system-level functions like a keyboard.
This is not a big issue for many, but for those few who care about how their music sounds, this is essential.
The current iPhone software only allows users to chose sound settings from a basic set of pre-arranged settings. Given the wide variety of listening tastes and headphones on the market, the best listening experience is going to come closer if users can adjust their equalizers according to their unique requirements.
The audio-hardware inside the iPhone is surprisingly decent for a smart phone. It's a shame you can't get the most of out it with the canned settings.
Until that fateful day, discriminating listeners can resort to apps like EQu which allow infinite customization of the sound stage.
All things said, with the changes above the iOS and the iPhone will move one step closer to that illusive mark of perfection.
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