Since Steven Troughton-Smith’s WWDC wish list guest post last week, I’ve been thinking about my own hopes for iOS 10 later this summer. iOS 9.3 is almost here and includes loads of new system features and even enhancements to stock apps, but as ever there’s still low hanging fruit that Apple could grab to improve iPhones and iPads. Specifically, I’d like to see at least one new feature added to each built-in app.
In general, I’d love to see every built-in app support landscape mode on the Plus-sized iPhones, 3D Touch on the latest iPhones, Split View for multitasking on the latest iPads, and take advantage of Apple’s share sheet for extensions. But beyond features that all apps should have, I’d also like to see each stock app gain at least one new and unique feature. Here are a few of my ideas:
I think Messages could learn a lot from Facebook’s Messenger app — stickers are great, group read receipts are a no-brainer, and stuff Messages can do like sending photos and location is just easier on Messenger — but I’d really like Apple to pick up the Digital Touch features from Apple Watch and bring them to Messages.
I understand that they’re novelty features meant to be unique to Apple Watch, but these notifications are the easiest to miss when mixed in with a list of other alerts and you can’t see the alerts or content on iPhone. Messages would be a great place to view (if not send!) sketches and taps. The Taptic Engine included starting with iPhone 6s even makes deciphering heart beats sent possible; you’d just need an Apple Watch to send one back.
I really want three things from my calendar app: solid natural language input for adding appointments, a streamlined list view for browsing appointments, and occasionally a good year view for looking at dates far away, all things third-party apps currently do much better than Apple. Apple’s Calendar app gets the year-view right and has the benefit of displaying the current date on the app icon, but it misses the mark on great language parsing and an easy-to-use list view.
For those reasons (and more), I’m all in on Fantastical for iPhone and Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac, but aside from sherlocking the competition, I can’t see why Apple hasn’t devoted more attention to its Calendar app already.
As a dad, I spend a ton of time using my iPhone as an always-with-me camera, organizing photos in albums, and turning them into postcards, calendars, and screen savers. For me, iCloud Photo Library does exactly what it’s supposed to do: keeps my library in sync across all my devices including edits and albums, and frees up space on low-capacity drives.
But not even iCloud Photo Library gets family libraries right yet, and the Shared Photo Stream created by Family Sharing is so not the answer. Google Photos makes progress here with Shared Albums. Rather than creating a dedicated album intended to be shared, you just create an album as you would normally, then have the option to share that album with family and friends. It’s still a bit of work and doesn’t totally solve the family photos problem, but it’s a step in the right direction.
While you’re at it, Apple, could you throw iCloud storage upgrades in with Family Sharing? We don’t all need paid 200GB accounts with 75GB free. One more thing: Projects from Photos on OS X would be killer on the iPad Pro.
As mentioned above, I spend a lot of time in the Camera app capturing and sharing snapshots of my daughter quickly growing up. I’m mostly content with the Camera app, but I rarely (if ever) use filters or the square cropped camera. Filters can be removed during editing, but a square-shot image is forever.
I’d love to be able to optionally have other actions and cameras in place of filters and square. A 16:9 cropped camera might be useful, but I’d really like to see a camera that automatically puts photos and videos shot in a dedicated album. Assume we stick with the Shared Photo Streams model for families: this would be made more useful if the Camera app had a dedicated camera for this Photo Stream. Make the ‘families camera’ default during a vacation; save the square camera for … nope, I can’t think of a good reason. Upthere’s Camera app takes a similar approach.
That’s a nice-looking Weather app there. It even has a unique layout in landscape on Plus-sized iPhones. Fewer stock apps is generally better than more, but in this case I’ll make an exception for the Weather app. I’d love to have this exact app on iPad. Sometimes-9to5Mac-police-sketch-artist Michael Steeber even proposed a concept on Dribbble … over two years ago.
Did you know you could set a song as your alarm in the Clock app? It’s a nice feature if you want to wake up to something more pleasant than the sound of someone’s iPhone ringing, but if you wake up at 6 a.m. to your favorite song too many times, that might not be your favorite song anymore. What would be even better would be setting a playlist as your alarm so the song is somewhat random. Want to go full-blown clock radio? Let Apple Music subscribers set stations as alarms. “Siri, wake me up to Taylor Swift Radio at 6 am.”
I use Apple Maps frequently without much issue, but I still miss Street View when looking up a new location for the first time. Luckily, Google Maps is available on the iPhone as a backup, and maybe someday Apple will have their own version of Street View. In the meantime, I’ll request a few things a little easier than photographing the whole world: real lane guidance, smart toll advisories, and multi-stop routes.
Google Maps just aces lane guidance, which was previously only available on medium- to high-end dedicated GPS units. Apple Maps instead pulls out lines like “keep right ahead” in the middle of a 100 mile stretch with a slight fork in the road. Referencing the map on-screen is fine with CarPlay, but the more audio cues, the better.
Maps also includes toll advisories when getting directions and usually offers alternative routes when possible, but pulling data that could give you a general idea of just how much that toll might be would be useful.
Finally, allowing for an extra step or two (or more!) when mapping out your trip would be great. I want to drive from Mississippi to Florida but definitely stop at Shake Shack on the way. Or seeing the full, round trip with fuel cost estimates. There’s still plenty of room for improvement here.
Person-to-person payments over Apple Pay is rumored for 2016, and that’s exactly what I want to see added to the Wallet app. The feature is rumored to work over iMessage, which is encrypted, to securely send messages, but the Wallet app is naturally where I’d start this process (and add a button to Messages). I’ve frequently used Square’s Cash app to do what Wallet will hopefully be able to do later this year.
Another thought: I’d love to keep a front and back photo of my driver’s license and insurance card in the Wallet app hidden behind Touch ID. Starting with iOS 9.3, you can do that with Notes, and I already do this with 1Password, but Wallet seems like the natural place with this information. Apple may not want to mix the physical and digital world together so much with Wallet though, until our driver’s licenses and insurance cards are actually stored in Wallet like our credit cards and boarding passes (or somewhere in our Apple Car?).
iOS 9.3 includes a generous update to the already much-improved Notes app thanks to Touch ID and password-protected Notes. Going further, I’d love to be able to share specific notes with my wife. We already share a shopping list using Reminders; similarly, being able to share individual notes with family would be useful.
Since Notes gained a share extension, I’ve been using it in Safari to save URLs to house listings and things I want to buy for around the house. Being able to add my wife to the note as a contributor would be terrific.
iOS 9 and Proactive made the Phone app a bit smarter when it comes to handling unknown numbers. If a phone number calls you that isn’t saved in your contacts but is found in your local iCloud email, the Phone app will try to sometimes suggest an identity for the person calling. I’ve seen it in action maybe once, but I usually end up Googling an unknown number when I’m filtering calls and the caller doesn’t leave a voicemail.
How great were the days of Caller ID? Scraping the Internet for the identity of a specific phone number may not be easy, but an option to search the web for an unknown number would be better than the copy and paste (and remove location description) method that I’m using now.
With the demise of Mailbox we saw rise to plenty of competing email apps like Airmail and Spark gain snooze features. I’m sure plenty of people would be happy to see similar snooze features on emails in Mail too.
For me, I’d really love to see Mail-specific Do Not Disturb. You can currently filter alerts by VIP contacts or set system-wide Do Not Disturb, but I’d love to tell Mail that I’m in front of my Mac from 9 am to 5 pm on Monday through Friday and don’t want to see most email on the weekend.
Okay, the Music app still has plenty of room for improvement — especially anything Apple Music-related — but there’s one small feature related to 3D Touch that I’d love to see: Shazam integration. Siri already integrates Shazam for recognizing music (although it was better when it was automatic and didn’t require asking Siri to identify a song), and putting a nice Shazam button in the 3D Touch quick actions list would make the service even more accessible.
Of course the Shazam app itself has a nice 3D Touch shortcut for identifying content, but that’s too much of a feature and not enough of an app to belong on my Home screen or dock. There’s even room for one more thing on Music’s 3D Touch quick actions list. And Music on iPad could use a better video player that works with picture-in-picture.
Finally, I’ll send you off with one last request: FaceTime Video Messages. This feature is technically already available, but it’s presented in a way that doesn’t work quite like I would like. When you FaceTime call someone and they don’t pick up, you’re presented with an option to leave a message using the Messages app. This is fine as you can send an iMessage text, photo, or even video recording, but the alert and message content tie to iMessage, not FaceTime, which can remove the context and be confusing. The other person does see that they missed a FaceTime call, and that you sent an iMessage, but encouraging the caller to record a short video message and letting the recipient know that it was explicitly a FaceTime Video Message would feel like a more mature system and likely encourage use.
There are apps like iCloud Drive which I’d like to see become a whole lot more like Dropbox, and Game Center which I’d like to see become a setting and not just a standalone app. Then there’s always the dream of being able to remove some of the built-in apps … maybe one day.
The iPad Pro, in general, needs a lot of work on spacing with full-screen apps like Messages and Mail, which use way too much white space currently. And there’s the need for universal landscape support on the Plus-sized iPhones, Split View for every stock app on the latest iPads, and the other low-hanging fruit that I mentioned at the opening, but each of these relatively small updates would advance the platform greatly for me.
What features would you like to see added to Apple’s built-in apps in iOS 10? Let us know in the comments.