My Wish List for Apple iPhone OS 4.023 Jan 2010
So the much anticipated Apple announcement is almost upon us. Many of the rumours doing the rounds not only include the much anticipated Apple Tablet, but also a new version of the iPhone OS. This would make sense if the new OS is to also run on a tablet as it would presumably need to allow for a different screen size. If there is a new OS there will no doubt be other enhancements and revisions, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share fifteen enhancements I’d like to see made to the a new iPhone OS.
These enhancements are just my wish list and do not constitute any belief that they will actually be in a new OS revision, but I’d really love to see at least a few of them creep in.
1. Activate iPhone without iTunes
Well where better to start than at the beginning? When you first receive an iPhone or an iPod touch you need to activate it using iTunes. Whilst most people only have to do this once, I find it quite tiresome as I have a user base that includes iPhone users. When an iPhone is fully reset to factory settings it needs to be reactivated. Now this isn’t a problem if they’re in the office as we can attach it to one of a couple of PCs we have iTunes installed on … however if they’re out of the office then this causes issues.
It would be better for the iPhone to have a limited feature set that just allows you to get online via cellular or WiFi to authorise or activate the device if it is indeed necessary at all. The iPhone is a fantastic stand alone device and it would be better if it were standalone right from the start.
2. iTunes Sync over Wifi
Speaking of standalone usage, many people regularly sync their iPhone with iTunes on their Mac or PC. For most users I encounter this is to put personal music and video collections on the device. Given that iTunes already exposes access to the library to compatible devices using DAAP (Digital Audio Access Protocol) it would be nice to allow iTunes to synchronise over WiFi by adding a new protocol or extending DAAP. This would do away with having to have a cable with you (save for charging).
This same extension could also allow backups to be carried out though the speed would be much lower than for USB 2 connections and I would not expect firmware updates to be carried out by anything other than a direct cable connection.
3. Album / Folder Creation
Whilst surfing the web on Safari on my iPod Touch I frequently come across images that I save to my photos folder. These get saved to the default “Saved Pictures” album, and I can then move them into other albums. If I want to create a new album I have to wait until I connect my iPod up to iTunes. It would be much better if I could simply create a new album on the go.
It would be nice to extend this idea of albums to videos to and allow me to put videos into specific folders. Currently I put videos into my photos albums so that I can have separate folders for different videos.
4. Mass Storage
Whilst there are several free apps that allow you to set-up your device as a WiFi accessible storage device I find that in reality the reliability can be quite flaky and if you have a wired up PC (e.g. at work), then it is inadvisable to connect to a WiFi network at the same time … I’ve seen several random network file & print related issues on Windows PCs that have been resolved by simply flicking the WiFi switch to off. It would be nice (even though I like the wire-free nature of iPods & iPhones) to allow the device to be connected as a mass storage device by USB.
5. Shared Storage
One of the main issues with the iPhone OS is also one of its strengths. Every app (third party app at least) is kept pretty much isolated which helps with security and stability of the operating system. It would be nice however if there was a shared storage area. For example mail attachments could then be saved off and loaded into other applications such as a word processor or image editor.
Many apps are developing interfaces to cloud based storage solutions such as DropBox and GoogleDocs (which is a fantastic lateral thinking solution), but when you have limited connectivity (e.g. whilst travelling) local shared storage is a real boon.
6. Search Integration
Currently you can define which of the core applications are included in the device search. I’d love to see the API extended so that the search can also interface with other third party applications. Being able to find tasks in my ToodleDo app or notes in any locally stored Evernote notes would make the search all that more useful and powerful.
7. Podcast Subscription
I don’t actually listen to much in the way of music on my iPod Touch (I have a classic with all my music on). I do however listen to lots of podcasts on my iPod Touch, The convenience of being able to download them on the go (via WiFi) is ideal for me. Within iTunes I subscribe to a number of podcasts but because I rarely connect my touch up to iTunes I don’t get the subscription advantage. I’d love to see subscriptions added to iTunes on the iPod Touch/iPhone. Some sort of notification that podcasts were available would be nice but at the very least a list of which podcasts are available for download from my subscription list when I open iTunes would be great. This sort of system is already in pace for app updates in the app store so extending it to podcasts in iTunes would be a logical step.
8. Delete Key
The iPhone has a backspace key but no delete key and is something that I’ve blogged about before. Even though the interface for inputting is very good it is always going to be difficult and being able to delete as well as backspace is something I’d dearly like.
9. App Screens Enhancement
My iPod Touch is full of apps … or at least the screens with the app icons on them are. Surely eleven screens of apps are enough for anyone? Well no, it’s not. I’m someone who likes to be prepared and a lot of people expect me to be so. Having a wide range of tools and information at my fingertips makes a huge difference to how effective I can be. I also like to be able to test out lots of new apps as they come along and I’ve kind of run out of room so more screens would help me do this too. I have the storage space so let me use it.
Because my app acreens are in such a state of flux I often use the search feature to find my less frequently used apps. If there were to be more screens of apps it would be useful to perhaps overhaul the apps access screens. Pages of screens may be scrolled through left and right which to my mind leaves up and down scrolling available for exploitation. I think grouping and categorisation of apps would be useful so perhaps scroll up and down to provide access to shortcuts to particular app pages. Ideally allow these page shortcuts to be names to whatever you want them to be.
10. Microsoft Exchange Support
The support Apple added for Microsoft Exchange is highly advantageous - particularly for enabling corporate iPhone use. However it would be great to see some additional enhancements. Access to multiple Exchange accounts would allow for a greater level of mail aggregation onto a device and whilst there may be issues around the Microsoft sync interface I can’t imagine that these aren’t somehow obstacles that could be overcome.
What I would dearly like to be able to do is synchronise my work contacts and my Gmail contacts on my iPod Touch.
This wouldn’t be any sort of wish list if I didn’t mention multi-tasking. Whilst the iPhone lead the way, competitor devices are running operating systems that support running multiple applications at once. Apple’s initial reluctance to do this seems to have stemmed from multi-tasking incurring a reduction in battery life. Well in order to keep up with the newcomers, the iPhone really needs to add the option of multi-tasking. Whilst the battery life will no doubt be impacted I would really like to copy something out of one app into another and then be able to return to the first app at the point from which I left. Some of the core apps (e.g. Safari, Mail) allow the state to be retained, but most apps do not and this is a royal pain in the derrier for my day to day use.
12. Bluetooth Enhancement
The existing Bluetooth functionality as most iPhone users probably know is best described as ‘limited’. For years we’ve been able to carry out simple information sharing operations using Bluetooth. Whilst I understand the reluctance to enable music sharing via Bluetooth I do think there are areas of Bluetooth functionality should be enabled.
Sharing contacts via Bluetooth from a corporate perspective is something that should be in the iPhone’s core functionality. Whilst there are third party apps that can support this there is a reliance on having the same software on both devices and this does not account for transferring the contact to someone who does not have an Apple device. Similarly transferring a picture you just took with your iPhone is something that really should be core functionality.
13. Wireless Chip Utilisation
When the third generation iPod Touch was launched, iFixit disassembled the device and discovered that it contained the Broadcom BCM4239 chipset. This chipset is apparently capable of more wireless connectivity than Apple have currently enabled.
First of all the chipset is capable of supporting 802.11n WiFi so it would be great to see the speed increased and this would better support many of the wishes mentioned earlier.
Secondly the chipset is capable of receiving FM transmissions. I’m an avid radio listener and use an Apple FM radio remote on my old iPod. This remote is incompatible with my iPod Touch so having this radio reception functionality enabled through a radio app would be a welcome addition.
Thirdly as well as receiving FM transmissions the chipset also allows for transmitting on FM. I use an iTrip with my iPod Touch and being able to control this directly from an app on the iPod Touch without having to plug in an extra device (when I remember it) would again be a great addition.
14. Screen Recording
As anyone who has ever watched tutorials on the Internet for the iPhone may have noticed these usually involve either an emulator on someone’s Mac or PC, or a video recording over someone’s shoulder. I’d love to see the process simplified and allow iPhone users to be able to record the activity on screen to a video. The ability to take screen shots is there and as someone who supports iPhone users I can see two areas where this would be very useful.
The first is to allow me to quickly create an ad hoc how to video on the iPhone as I still haven’t found an emulator (for free) that quite matches everything to the iPhone, and for simplicity and accuracy would be the iPhone is the ideal platform to work with. Secondly it would make a great way for non-office based users to provide details of the issues they may experience where a screen shot really doesn’t provide the full picture.
Screen recording in this way would probably require a background task, but since I’m already wishing for multi-tasking this doesn’t seem so selfish.
15. Voice to Text (Dictation)
So far everything seems to be possible to some extent so I figure that I should end with a “moon on a stick” request. Nuance recently launched an app in the US (but not yet in the UK dammit) that allows you to translate audio into text. The service takes the audio, uploads it to the Nuance servers and then sends back the text. I’d love for this to be core functionality available as an alternative to the keyboard in any app. I decided years ago that SMS was great as a quick messaging system. Unfortunately I am a terrible typist on any keyboard and I’ve never been fast. I’m still waiting for a system I can just speak a sentence or two to and it sends it as an SMS. Much quicker for dyspraxic typists like me.
Sounds awesome doesn’t it? Yes, but Nuance are most of the way there so I’m using my final wish to ask that it does this on a disconnected device. I’m used to being in areas of limited or no data connectivity and I wish that the translation could be done on the device itself. Now the processing power probably isn’t up to it and there are no doubt lots of other technical issues, but if the device was trained specifically for a language using your voice then isn’t it just possible that the latest (or next) generation device might just be capable of something like this? Well maybe not, but we can wish….
So that’s my list. The question is what would you like to see in a new iPhone OS release? Leave me a comment below and let me know not only which of these enhancements you would most like to see but also what other wishes for the OS you might have.