WWDC 2014 is inching ever closer. At that event, we’ll get our first glimpses of the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system: iOS 8. iOS 7 was a huge update in terms of design and functionality — Apple rebuilt the OS from the ground up — so we’re expecting iOS 8 to be an iterative release, improving and perfecting everything that iOS 7 brought with it.
As much as I have grown to love iOS 7, and as much as iOS 7.1 helped to smooth over some of the cracks in the initial release, myself and other iPhone fans feel that there is certainly much more that can be done with our smartphone OS of choice.
1. Improved Notification Center
Notification Center has been a useful addition to iOS since iOS 5. However, apart from a visual refresh, it has remained largely unchanged since 2011 in terms of functionality.
Widgets like Weather, Stocks, Twitter and Facebook that bloated Notification Center were removed in iOS 7 in favor of a Today view displaying the current date, weather, Calendar appointments and driving information for frequent locations. This stuff is great and, although nowhere near as functional as Google Now, it is a step in the right direction in terms of predictive, contextual awareness.
As for the notifications side of things, Notification Center is still essentially a list of various notifications for each app on your device that sometimes feels like a chore to manage. In iOS 8, I’d like to see and easier way to keep on top of notifications in Notification Center — let me clear all notifications in a couple of taps instead of tapping dozens of times, let notifications that are old or irrelevant disappear from notification based on time or priority, keep notifications in sync across my devices so I don’t have to delete items from my iPhone and then see them again on my iPad, and clear up the Notification Center page in the Settings app to make it easier to find an app and edit your notification preference.
While we’re at it, let’s stop developers from abusing the Notification Center with their incessant reminders to play their game (a way to stop this app spamming you from Notifcation Center itself would be nice).
We’ve also heard that the Missed and All notifications tabs will be merged together in iOS 8 which makes sense to me as the majority of time I look at the Missed tab, it is empty anyway.
2. Customizable Control Center
Control Center was also a useful addition to iOS. It’s stopped me having to visit the Calculator and Clock apps from my home screen, allowed me to delete the Torch app I had installed, and gives me access to a bunch of settings quickly that enable me avoid launching the Settings app every time I want to perform a simple system function.
What I’d like to see for Control Center is the ability to customize which controls are present and which aren’t. For example, I might like a Location Services toggle instead of Airplane Mode or quick access to the Settings app rather than the Camera app. A little more user customizability would make Control Center pretty much perfect for its purpose.
3. Better inter-app communication
Another rumored update coming in iOS 8 is better inter-app communication and this is sure to please a lot of iOS users.
I’d love to be able to edit a photo in one app and have the ability to push edited content to Instagram or Twitter without having to save the photo to the Camera Roll and upload to those services from there. Inter-app communication would have great potential for productivity apps too making it even easier to work on your iOS devices. Many apps are currently limited in that respect and third-party services or URL schemes aren’t the most elegant solutions for users.
4. iTunes Radio as a standalone app (and worldwide availability)
Myself and many other UK-based iOS users have been patiently waiting on the arrival of iTunes Radio — the fabled Pandora-killer from Apple. The service has had some success in the States and Australia and I’d love to try it out for myself and see if it can replace my use of Spotify.
As for it being a standalone app, I feel that could dramatically improve its usage and would help to make the Music app feel less bloated. We’ve seen Apple take similar steps with Video and Podcast functionality, spinning them off to their own dedicated apps so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Apple take that route.
5. Apple opening up: Touch ID and Siri APIs for developers
Finally, I’d like to see some APIs for developers to tap into the functionality of both Siri and Touch ID.
Although Siri has been a partner play for Apple since its inception, I feel it is time for third-party developers to be allowed to utilize Apple’s virtual assistant for various means. Take Windows Phone 8.1’s Cortana, for example, that enables users to ask to add an item to their Hulu queue. I’d love to be able to do that, or ask Siri to search my Pocket app for something I save previously, to ask Siri read my last WhatsApp message or tell Siri to save something to my Amazon Wish List. There are so many possibilities for developers to get some use out of Siri and I think it would add value to the assistant feature overall.
As for Touch ID, Apple has to be more careful in how it opens the fingerprint scanner to third-parties. However, it is surely feasible for apps to be able to use the scanner for authorization, have the secure enclave give the app a simple yes/no response to the finger being scanned, without compromising any data.
We know Apple is contemplating mobile payments for which Touch ID will be crucial, but it remains to be seen if other services will be allowed to use the magic little scanner. Surely Apple didn’t imaging technology this advance being used simply for unlocking the device and authorizing iTunes downloads.
Your hopes for iOS 8?
What would you like to see Apple introduce with iOS 8? Do you expect new features or just a general refinement of the mobile software? Let me know in the comments or get in touch on Twitter: @TiP_AdamO.