I’ve written before about how old iOS is looking, the same basis grid of icons has existed since the original iPhone, the biggest ‘shake up’ came in iOS4 in June 2010 with the introduction of ‘folders’. Big deal.
But now that Sir Jony Ive, Apples lead hardware designer has been handed the reigns for the software side of things too, maybe things will change. And not to put too much pressure on him, but we’re expecting big things.
So what are the main issues with iOS6 and all its predecessors? Here are my top 5 things that need changing/introducing.
1. Get rid of the locked grid of icons. Right off the bat – they need to go. As discussed by Paul Thurrott several times, the homescreen interface can be treated just like an App. Redesigning it doesn’t need to be a huge code re-write. Just update the interface, launching Apps and dropping into Settings etc. can remain the same. Except for point 2 below.
This resizable icons concept video would be a good start, but really that should be a minimum. I’d like to see something more radical in design terms that really made the iPhone stand out in the way people love the colourful, information rich Windows Phone environment.
There might be hardware requirements for this fancy new interface, but the 3GS uses iOS6 so it wouldn’t be a stretch to halt support there and the iPhone4 onwards should be powerful enough to handle the job.
And while we’re discussing the ‘look’ ditch the skeuomorphic design please. I don’t want leather-bound calendar effects, or a reel to reel tape player for my Podcasts.
2. The ability for the entire OS to work in landscape. Few things frustrate me more than the partial,landscape in iOS. I like the landscape view, and have my phone in that orientation a lot of the time. The keyboard is wider and nicer to use in landscape. In the car, Navigation software works better in landscape mode. I just prefer it.
But iOS at present has horribly mixed landscape support. The homescreen doesn’t work at all. It’s locked in portrait. It’s fine on the iPad but not on the iPhone. I know the aspect ratio is different, but I don’t care, it should still work in landscape.
Mail works fine. Calendar works fine. Settings screens? No. Weather App? No. Notes? Yes that’s allowed. Safari is fine, Music App – sort of, but with Cover Flow only. Reminders (you know the major selling point used with Siri in the adverts)? Big fat no.
3. Icon Information Status. Currently Apps are static icons, that don’t update or change in any way to reflect the information they contain. Except the Calendar icon. That’s given a small pass and allowed to show the correct date. But regardless of whether your in the North Pole or Nepal, the Weather icon will show a sunny 23 degrees.
Depending on how the homescreen is updated (and its listed as priority 1 for a reason) this needs to change.
There could be widgets or ’tiles’ (would they?!) or dancing bubbles, but Apps need a better way to show the information they contain.
I particularly like this dynamic icons concept video, where icons with notifications can be tapped and the homescreen expands (similar to how folders do) to show those notifications, without triggering the launch of the actual App.
4. The Task Switcher. Double tapping the home button brings up the task switcher – introduced in iOS4. It hasn’t really changed since then, and it works at only the most basic level.
There is a great concept details and video that was released on The Verge forums that pretty much demonstrates perfectly how this could be improved. It’s so good that it was actually made into a jailbreak tweak.
I won’t go through the whole concept, go and read it for the full details, but essentially the task switcher is updated with live views of the Apps in their current state, and given more height to allow the mini icons to be shown in more detail.
The Settings section (2 swipes to the right, after the music playback controls) is updated from a simple volume slider to include some key settings toggles such as WiFi on/off, Bluetooth on/off and so on. I’ve been calling for easier access to the Bluetooth toggle for ages now, it was improved in iOS6, but still remains within Settings –> Bluetooth –> On/Off.
The task switcher concept puts it in a double click –> swipe location which is still a couple of steps, but all radio toggles could be there, as opposed to their 3 separate Settings locations currently.
5. Set Default Apps. There are various internal calls within iOS – web links, calling numbers, showing address location on a map. But you have no control over them, they are tied in with Apples core applications.
But there have been a steady stream of third party apps that either do a better job than Apples own ones, or just provide new or better functionality.
The Chrome web browser is a great alternative to the built in Safari, but activate any web address in an email or contact and it will open in Safari. You have no choice but to copy and paste it awkwardly into Chrome.
Want to make calls by default with Skype? You can’t. Opening addresses uses the new Apple Maps App by default, and I don’t think I need to go into too many examples of why people might want that to default back to the recently released Google Maps app. This is perhaps the least likely item in the list – all the rest should at least see some sort of improvement if not in the way presented.
But Apple has little incentive to change the default associations for actions, which would doubtless lead to a shift away from using internal Apps toward third party ones.
So, there you have it. Anything I’ve missed? Anyone have anything they feel is more important? Let us know in the comments below.