Apple's iPhone is wildly popular, and the iPad completely dominates the tablet market, but there's still plenty of room for improvement to the iOS, the operating system that powers both these devices.
I understand that one of reasons smartphones are popular is that they are simple. And they have great performance on minimal hardware because they aren't over-burdened with unnecessary features. Nevertheless, there's room for improvement in Apple's iOS.
I've put together ten suggestions that I sincerely hope Steve Cook and Apple will pay attention to.
1. Embrace Widgets
The iPhone's app launcher is painfully simplistic. Sure, there are advantages to simplicity, but this is so dumbed down that it limits the overall usefulness of the device. It's time for Apple to start using widgets.
If you're unfamiliar with these, imagine that the app launcher has more than just icons on it. It also has small windows that show you new emails, upcoming calendar events, even the weather.
App has already integrated widgets into Mac OS X with the dashboard. It's high time it did the same with iOS.
2. Make the Unlock Screen More Useful
When I look look at the Unlock Screen on an iPhone, it's clear that this is a huge waste of space. It could do so much more.
It should give a status update for me. Without even unlocking my smartphone, I should be able to see how many unread emails I have, what calendar events are coming up, and if I have any missed phone calls, and more.
I realize that this is same info I want to get from widgets, it's because it's critical. The iPhone should collect it all together so we can see it at a glance, not hide it in different apps. It would be great if Apple picked just one of these, but it really should do at least one.
3. Improve the Web Browser
When it launched back in 2007, one of the greatest strengths of the iPhone was that it offered a vastly better web browser than anything available on a handset before. It was fast and it supported many (but not all) standards. It was a quantum shift.
Years later, what customers need from the browser on their smartphone has also shifted. Just being very, very good is no longer enough. We want it to be as powerful as the browser on our desktop or laptop. And we complain bitterly when it isn't.
Microsoft realizes this. This company has promised that Windows Phone 7.5 is going to include a full, no compromises version of Internet Explorer 9. If Microsoft can do it, Apple can too.
For growing numbers of Americans, their smartphone is their primary way of accessing the Internet. If Apple wants to keep up, its engineers can no longer say "That's close enough." As it is, the Safari is years behind what's available in Mac OS X or Windows. As a result, far too many websites come out garbled on the iPhone and iPad.
4. Improve the Calendar
Despite what some of you might think, smartphones didn't develop from PDAs. These are a completely different categories that put their emphasis on totally different areas. As a result, the very robust Calendar that was one of the hallmarks of PDAs is given only lipservice on the iPhone. True, you can create simple calendar events, but the array of options that PDA users enjoyed are missing.
Back in the days of the Palm Pilot, you could organize your entire life with your handheld device. Now it's much more difficult. Have a class that meets on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday? You can't set up a re-occurring event for this on your iPhone. How about a meeting that's the second Tuesday of every month? Nope.
I'd also really like to be able to change the sound the alarm makes. The single current option isn't anywhere near demanding enough.
5. Improve the Email App
Email is one of the main functions everyone uses their smartphone for, which is why it's sad that the iOS app is missing some critical features.
First and foremost, it's ridiculous that I can only have one signature. I manage both my work and my personal email on this device, and so I have to manually delete my work signature from every personal message I send. No other mobile OS has this limitation.
Also, as someone who sleeps with my phones on my bedside table, I would really like to be able to automatically shut off email at night, but this isn't possible with the iPhone. Instead, the device happily bings to let me all know that I've received spam at 3:30 in the morning, and at 3:45, and at 4:00...
The ability to have more than one email attachment is way overdue. We're doing serious work with our smartphones and tablets these days, and sometimes we need to send multiple files. I keep having to apologize to people that I'm sending them three emails because I need to send them a few images.
This one is more a hardware issue, but Apple needs to add a status LED to its smartphone. With every other operating system I can glance at a device from across the room and know something important has happened -- I've received a message, missed a call, had an alarm go off. That's not true of the iPhone. You have to turn it on and unlock the screen in order to get any of this.
The second half of this editorial includes suggestions related to the keyboard, the app switcher, and more.
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