I realize that as I sit down to type this article, it’s a question I’ve asked of iOS before. And I’m certain it’s one which will be repeatedly asked until we see something new and innovative from Apple. That said, I think it’s good to take a good long look at our preferred operating system, and ponder whether or not Cupertino’s software designers have it within themselves to surprise us.
In 2007 Steve Jobs unveiled the smartphone that would change the world. It was the handset to kill all the current competition and spark a huge fight from other manufacturers to replicate a similar device. We’d never seen a popular phone with a 3.5″ multi-touch capable capacitive touch screen before. We’d certainly never laid eyes on one with only one button on the front, and no stylus. At the time, its design was perfect. It stood out.
It wasn’t just the hardware that impressed though. The software was insanely simple. Back in those days all we had was BlackBerry’s dated system and Windows Mobile. Both had unattractive pop-up menus, and Windows was just plain dull and fiddly once you got past the manufacturer’s own custom skin (HTC Sense, for instance). Having everything on the home screen, and being “thumb-able” meant that for the first time, we were no longer going to need pointed finger nails or styluses to send texts. We take “pinch-to-zoom” for granted these days, and “slide-to-unlock”, but these two software features helped to make the phone so intuitive, which in turn made it incredibly desirable.
Ever since then, the software has been updated to add some much needed features. Some should have been there from the start: MMS, Wallpapers, Video Camera, etc. With each new update we get around 200 new features; normally, 8 of those are Keynote worthy. One thing that’s never changed: the home screen icons.
Don’t get me wrong, I love how easy it is to get to everything. But, I’m a person that likes space, order and a lack of clutter. Back in the day before I switched to purely streaming (legally) and buying movies on iTunes, I used to keep all my DVDs in alphabetical order. My colored pens all go: pink, red, orange, yellow, greens, blues, black, brown. When I sit at the table my cutlery is a finger’s width from my place mat, and is perfectly parallel with it. You get the picture.
With iOS, I’m always caught in a struggle. My home screens (until recently) always had only two rows of apps, and I only like having a maximum of three screens. Sadly, over the past months I’ve acquired so many apps, that I’ve got three rows; one of them is entirely folders of apps organized by type. Three rows is too many, but, if I only had two then I’d have about 5 screens, which is also too many. So many of them only fit on their own, and can’t go in to a Folder, because there are no similar apps.
I’m not saying that I want Apple to change the icon design. I just want to be able to hide them away in an app drawer. Essentially, like everyone else does it: BlackBerry OS, webOS and Android each use a drawer system. I would love to have just a dock on my home screen with some essentials: phone, messages, Mail, Safari, and have the rest hidden away until I need them. Then I could have my dream: plain home screen with no clutter. If there’s one thing I like about Android more than iOS, it’s the ability to customize my desktop. I can have as much or as little as I want. In my case: very little. Whenever I’ve used Android I have only three screens, each with four key apps, and a clock widget in the central screen. That’s all.
Many comments I’ve read in the past call for a complete overhaul. I don’t want that. I want iOS’ look and feel to remain almost the same. It’s iconic, and it’s immediately recognizable. In itself, it’s a strong brand. I just want the option to access my programs differently.
I’m willing to admit: I can be a little obsessive about order and tidiness on my smartphone. Also, I work with iOS every single day. It’s my job. So, there’s an element of “same old same old”. It’s easy to get bored with something you spend your life writing about and testing. In the same way that I’m sure there are days that the guy who collects your garbage sometimes hates seeing a trash can or Superman gets fed up saving people. That said, Apple is known for innovation, and for taking risks. Even musicians get fed up playing the same riffs over and over again.
Simply put: Apple should take a risk. In recent history, more risks have paid off than not, but, I want the company to show the guts it did when it released the iMac to the world. A colorful all-in-one with a useless handle? The risk that it took when it released a tablet running a smartphone OS instead of a slimmed down Mac operating system.
With iOS there have been few risks taken in the past five years. Maybe it’s time to take one now. Give us something new. All I can say is that the next iPhone better be an incredible device, because right now, in this moment, iOS 6 is possibly the least adventurous software released for the smartphone yet.