The iPhone is America’s favorite smartphone device, and in the 10 years it has been out, Apple has been wildly successful with it as a profitable business and device/application ecosystem. But as with any mature platform, there is malaise or rot that can be introduced over time with the advent of new features and more complex code.
Here are the things we’d like to see in future versions of iOS and the iPhone hardware to make the iPhone great again…
User experience annoyances
One of the things about the iOS user experience (UX) that has annoyed us since the very beginning — and only became worse when app groups were introduced — is the complexities of organizing launch icons, finding apps, and removing them from the home screen.
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For those of us with many apps spread over multiple home screen pages, if you don’t remember what the app is called (you can use the pull down to search function if you remember what it is called, but you can only launch an app, not adjust settings or delete it), you’ll find yourself scrolling through pages of stuff and poking around in all your home screen groups.
This is particularly frustrating if you want to uninstall an app that you remember the name of, can’t find it in the UX, and want to uninstall it.
The other option is to go to Settings menu > General > iPhone Storage to get a list of apps, which you can then click into if you want to actually uninstall it. You can also use iTunes, but we all hate that thing for this purpose.
But do you know what would be better? An alphabetical, scrollable list view of apps that you can toggle on and off from the main screen. And you should be able to uninstall an app or go into Settings for permissions and notifications directly from that screen, and organize them into the groups you want them to reside in.
The Microsoft Launcher actually implements this extremely well, and I highly recommend it if you have an Android device.
For those of us who have iPhone devices that support it (iPhone 6S, 7, 8, X) does anyone actually use 3D Touch on a regular basis? I sure as heck don’t. That’s because it isn’t obvious which apps actually support it beyond “Share,” and most people probably don’t actually know how to correctly use it.
We need some kind of indicator that an icon/app has 3D Touch menus or options enabled, or at the very least, an index in the Settings menu of installed apps that have 3D touch support.
And perhaps add a Settings area, where in addition to force sensitivity, we can enable tooltips or even configure which 3D Touch menu options pop up when an app icon that supports it is invoked.
Did you even know that you can clear all notifications in the main notification screen by 3D Touch pressing on the (x) button instead of dismissing them on a cumbersome day-by-day basis? Neither did I until recently.
Let’s not forget all the settings and controls. I know I am not the only one who feels the Control Center and the Settings menu have become an absolute convoluted mess. There has to be a way the company can simplify the UX.
Control Center is now a jumbled arrangement of widgets and settings often requires three or more clicks to get to whatever is needed. That is just bad UX design.
Bulk photo deletions are a pain
How many of you have gone out of your mind trying to free up storage from an iPhone that is completely full of photos?
One solution is to buy an iCloud storage account that is big enough to handle your backups. You can also use services like Google Photos and Microsoft OneDrive, which can be used to free up space and backup photos to your cloud accounts as you take them.
But if you don’t have these services and don’t use them religiously, you may find yourself with 128GB or 256GB of photos and videos on your device you need to dump at the most inconvenient time.
And if you’ve actually tried to use the Photos app built into iOS to batch delete thousands (tens of thousands, even) of exposures at once, you’ll notice iOS tends to crash, hard. Then, try to empty the Deleted Files area with the Storage settings. Good luck with that, too.
There’s an entire cottage industry of apps you can download that assist with this, but most of them aren’t that stable either.
You can also use iTunes by connecting your phone to your PC or a Mac, which is also no fun.
Apple needs to make this process easier. Way easier.
CarPlay is just not good
If you are lucky enough to have a vehicle with CarPlay, you’ll quickly notice just how limited the functionality is in Apple’s attempt at automotive systems integration.
Not only are you currently forced into Apple Maps, because the company hasn’t opened up CarPlay to companies like Google or Waze or Garmin — and its list of permitted application content providers is limited at best — but you also cannot hook into the car’s radio control system for things like SiriusXM, which you have to leave the CarPlay UX in order to control.
That kind of defeats the purpose of CarPlay, for having one pane of glass to control the car’s systems and app services.
Third-party browsers and services integration desperately needed
Having a limited CarPlay is stinky. Do you know what is even worse? Being stuck with Apple’s implementation of WebKit (Safari) as a browser engine.
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Yes, there are versions of Microsoft Edge and Chrome for iOS, but they are really just Safari and WebKit as skins and don’t actually render anything differently or make use of those engines security enhancements on other platforms such as they do Windows and Android.
And while we are at it, if we are going to allow alternative browser engines to be used, we should permit the use of intelligent assistants at the API level, not just as apps.
Allow us to switch the default assistant to Cortana, Google Assistant, or Alexa if we want — or have it so Siri uses them as selectable back-end services along with the corresponding search engine, if the vendor has written a provider for it.
In addition to easier bulk deletion, I think it is annoying to have to pay Apple extra money for iCloud backups when many of us pay for extra storage or get it with our Google, Amazon, and Microsoft accounts.
Cloud backups of apps and photos should be vendor-neutral, and Apple should be working with all those vendors to provide the API support for encrypted backups so that anyone can recover their device from any cloud storage of their choice.
Yes, each of these have third-party apps for photo backups, but API level integration with iOS would be so much better.
If I have 1TB of OneDrive, Google Drive, or Amazon Drive, it would be great to be able to use any of these instead of paying Apple a premium to do storage recovery.
How about us Windows users?
Apple Mac OS X users are lucky enough to have tight integration with iOS when it comes to notifications support. If you dismiss notifications on the Mac, it also does it on the iOS device, and vice-versa.
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All this is done with Continuity, which also improves the hand-off experience between devices for apps, documents, and websites.
Windows users are not so lucky, although Microsoft is trying to alleviate this problem with theAction Center in Windows 10.
By downloading Cortana and Edge for your iOS (and Android) devices, in Windows 10 you can have some — but not all — of the experience that Mac users get with Continuity. It isn’t perfect, however. You can get notifications from your devices and hand off the websites you view on Edge for iOS to the PC, but the support is not bidirectional.
If you dismiss notifications on Windows, they aren’t dismissed on the iOS device, and if you dismiss them in iOS, they aren’t dismissed in Windows. So, if you have been working on your PC all day and haven’t looked at your iPhone in a few hours, you’ll be greeted with a whole mess of notifications you need to dismiss. Suck.
How can this be fixed? Apple needs to provide bi-directional notifications API integration on iOS for companies like Microsoft, so they can provide better support to end-users. Or, even better, Apple needs to cooperate with Microsoft to produce a full-blown version of Continuity for Windows 10.
iTunes is garbage
iTunes was bad even when the iPad was released in 2010. In the last eight years, it has become progressively worse.
Why must we continue to be saddled with this utterly awful, legacy piece of software trash? Bloated and buggy, this remains the only way to access and archive your music library, if you’ve bought into Apple’s music and device ecosystem.
It’s also the only way to back up your iOS devices apps and settings or restore them as well without paying Apple extra money for iCloud space. So, unless you are committed to hard resets, we’re all stuck with this thing.
It needs a total rewrite on Mac OS and Windows, or a distributed cloud services replacement that runs in a web browser.
We want our Game Center back
Remember Game Center — the built-in application that iOS had for six years until Apple unceremoniously killed it in 2016?
Game Center was a great place for tracking which games you shared in common with your friends and allowed you to see a leaderboard of how you were doing versus of how your friends were doing, in addition to the ability to challenge them to game matches on apps you had in common.
After Apple removed it from iOS, it became a lot harder to tell which games your friends were using and to figure out how to invite them to a game challenge.
Game Center was actually one of the things iOS did a lot better than Google. It needs to bring it back, revamped for iOS 11.X
Tone down the hellstew
I cannot say this enough times: Apple now needs to concentrate on stability above all other things with iOS.
Everyone hoped during the beta cycle 11.3 would be the “good” version of iOS 11. But I went through six public betas, and the release version still as crash-prone and stuttery as ever. At this point, it is beta testing 11.4, and it is a crashy mess.
The iPhone X is the pinnacle of smartphone hardware tech. But it’s bogged down by a horrendously unreliable mobile OS. If Apple has ever had a Vista moment when it comes to its software development cycle, you could make a very good case that it is happening to it right now.
To me, less is more in a smartphone or tablet. I want it to do its basic tasks well. I want to be able to rely on it as my primary communications and compute device. I want it to be fast. I want my apps not to crash when I need them the most.
Innovation and pushing the envelope is great. But at some point, we all just want our basic stuff to work without blowing up in our faces.
If the company needs a development priority, I would say freezing features and making iOS 11.4 as solid as possible needs to be absolutely at the top of the list.
Give us the solid “it just works” mobile operating system back, Apple. Please.
I can think of at least 10 more things Apple needs to fix on its flagship device. Browse the rest of the list and let me know what I’ve missed…
Previous and related coverage
Apple has turned iOS from a sleek, streamlined, easy-to-use operating system into a ghastly horror show.
The launch of the next iPhone is months away, but the leaks have already begun. Updated 5 April, 2018.
Apple had quite a week with the announcement of a new entry-level iPad that has Pencil support and the release of iOS 11.3. Combined with continued iPhone X usage, iOS is becoming my platform of choice.
Updates are also available for the Apple Watch, HomePod, and Apple TV.
Spending a four-figure sum on a smartphone that doesn’t last three years is losing its appeal.