This morning, I tweeted a couple of things I’d like to see in iOS. Since then, the list of things I’d like to grew.
In the past, I’ve noted some features that I’d like to see in upcoming releases of iOS, so let’s carry on that tradition.
This isn’t predictions. It’s just me wishing for stuff.
Non-essential native apps, on the App Store: I think this one is on everyone’s wishlist, every year. I’d love for non-essential apps to be available on the App Store, but come preinstalled and removable. With iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, on the larger storage tiers, Apple preinstalled the iWork and iLife apps. These apps were removable, but came on the device. I’d love for other non-essential apps — calculator, stocks, weather, voice memos, etc. — to be the same. Apple seems to want the opposite, though: with iOS 8, Apple preinstalled iBooks and Podcasts and they’re not removable.
App Trials: The race-to-the-bottom in App Store pricing is exceedingly harmful both for app developers, and for Apple itself: if developers are unable to make enough money to support themselves making apps for iOS, they’ll move to a platform where they can. Before spending money — even just a $0.99 — users tend to want to try out apps. Developers have attempted to give users this by making the app free to download and use, but with an in-app purchase to unlock the full feature-set. I’d like to see Apple support this in a more integrated way from the App Store, and allowing developers to offer time-limited trials.
Paid App Updates: In a similar vein to the above, paid app updates would help developers support themselves on the App Store. Currently on the App Store, all updates to apps are free. In order to do a paid-update, the developer must create a whole new instance of the app on the store. This can lead to issues with discoverability, with some users not realising a new version is available. They also can’t give a discount on the app for existing users — they must either charge existing users full price for the new app, or reduce the price for all users for a period of time. If Apple allowed paid app updates, users would be notified of the update on the App Store, and the update price can be lower than the app’s sale price.
- Update Trees: Because some users may not be wish to pay to update the app, Apple would have to implement some kind of update tree, allowing multiple branches of the same app so that developers can still update users of older versions of the app. The way I imagine this working would be that, in the background, they’re still wholly separate apps, but developers can specify that one app can be upgraded to another, and a price for doing so. When the user chooses to update, the new app replaces the old one on their device.
App Store Search: Searching the App Store sucks. It’s often easier to type “App Store [app name]” into Google than to search directly in the App Store. One example: searching the store for Twitter “Twitter”, the third result is not a popular Twitter client. It’s “Happy Park™ – Best Theme Park Game”. Vine, an app made by Twitter is 27th in the list, loosing out to a slew of Emoji keyboards and spammy “Get more follower” apps. Two of the most popular third party clients — Twitteriffic and Tweetbot — didn’t even appear in the first 50 results. To be quite frank, the state of App Store search is unacceptable.
San Francisco as System Font: Apple’s typeface they developed for the Watch is beautiful, and was designed from the beginning to be a great, UI font. Now, as much as I love Helvetica Neue, it wasn’t designed to be used in UI. And in some places, it shows. Changing the system typeface to San Francisco would refresh the look of iOS without completely redesigning the UI, and bring consistency between iOS and the Watch.
Reliability: Above everything else, this I want Apple to improve the reliability of iOS. With iOS 7 and 8, Apple made huge changes, but also introduced a lot of bugs. It harmed the reputation of their devices “just working”. More than anything else on this list, I want iOS 9 to be a Snow-Leopard like update, focusing more on performance and reliability than front-facing features.
Reliability: Like iOS, OS X’s reliability has gone down in the past few releases. It too is in desperate need of a Snow-Leopard-y ‘focus on bugs’ update.
San Francisco as System Font: Again, Helvetica Neue wasn’t designed to be a UI Font. On OS X, because there are so many Macs still with non-retina displays, this is even more apparent than on iOS. Type Designer Tobias Frere-Jones has already given a great run-down of exactly why it’s not great — especially in the non-retina world of OS X:
Shapes like ‘C’ and ‘S’ curl back into themselves, leaving tight “apertures”—the channels of white between a letter’s interior and exterior. So each shape halts the eye again and again, rather than ushering it along the line. The lowercase ‘e,’ the most common letter in English and many other languages, takes an especially unobliging form. These and other letters can be a pixel away from being some other letter, and we’re left to deal with flickers of doubt as we read.
Some smart people have already shown us how good OS X looks with San Francisco (though it’s since been removed, due to a DCMA takedown request).
Photos-like iTunes rewrite: iPhoto was a behemoth. Over the years, features such as MobileMe, then iCloud compatibility was tacked onto it, resulting an an app that just didn’t work well anymore. This year, with OS X 10.10.3, Apple’s going to release their new Photos app to replace both iPhoto and Apple’s pro photography app, Aperture. It was built from the start to work with iCloud Photo Library, and it works great. iTunes is in the same boat as iPhoto was. And it’s been in that boat for a long time. It’s a huge, and sluggish. It’s had features like iTunes Match tacked on the end of it. I’d love to see Apple, not only rewrite the iTunes app, but even rethink whether the functionality of iTunes should be in a single app to begin with.
I think that what is currently iTunes should be at least 6 separate apps: Music, Videos, Podcasts, iTunes Store, App Store, and Sync.
- Music, Videos, and Podcasts: Like on iOS these should be separate apps. Like on iOS, Music Videos should obviously appear in both the Music and Videos app. The state of the apps should be synced over iCloud: if I’m listening to a song on my iPhone, when I open Music on the Mac (or iPad, for that matter), I should be able to hit play and it’d start the same song, right from where I left off on the phone. Same with movies, and podcasts.
- iTunes Store and App Store: Both serve the same function as on iOS. iTunes Store acts as the store for music, movies and TV Shows. The App Store app already on OS X should serve as the home of the iOS App Store, too.
- Sync: People generally don’t sync iOS devices with their Mac anymore. But for when they do, Apple should have a small app dedicated to doing just that.
iTunes on Windows: Windows is the reason I think Apple probably won’t split iTunes into discrete apps on OS X. Saying that, it’s perfectly plausible for Apple to keep iTunes for Windows as a single app.
iCloud Web Apps: Currently the iTunes Stores are just web pages, being served from inside the iTunes/App Store apps. I’d love for Apple to make the Stores available on icloud.com. With iTunes in the Cloud (and iTunes Match), Apple could even make a rudimentary version of iTunes on the web.
Safari supports Netflix natively, unlike other browsers which require Silverlight. I assume, then, that Safari supports DRM in some way, allowing Netflix to protect it’s content. Apple could also use the same method to allow DRM-protected movies and TV shows to be streamed from iCloud.com. That’d be neat.
Apple TV: I love my Apple TV. But what I I really want from it, is an App Store. With updated hardware (including their A8 SoC, and greater internal storage), iOS’s support for hardware controllers, and it’s new $69 price, I think Apple TV could potentially give consoles a run for their money.
Apple Pay: Apple Pay looks super neat. I’d love it to launch outside the US. Here in the UK, we already have a lot of the infrastructure for Apple Pay: most shops (that I frequent, at least) already support NFC payments. It’d be nice to actually be able to use it.
Again, this isn’t a list of predictions. It’s a wishlist. I don’t expect Apple to actually do most of the things on the list: some actually seem contrary to their plans. But one can dream…