Suggestions for iOS 6 - Part 1
It is my belief that right now, iOS is the best mobile operating system on the market. It has the speed, durability, functionality, and everything else that it needs to succeed. However, like all things, there are several things that Apple could do in the next release to make it better for everyone: developers and consumers alike. A lot of people have already made suggestions as to what to make better, and I do agree with some of them. Here's what I think should happen in some way, shape, or form. In this part, I'll detail my suggestions for some of the core features and interactions within iOS. The next post will detail suggestions for the built in apps and workflows.
The iOS lockscreen hasn't really changed all that much since iOS 1.0 on the original iPhone. The most recent additions to the lockscreen which made it slightly better were the addition of the notification rollup, and the camera button.
I have to say, notification center on the lockscreen has been great. It's awesome to be able to just look at my phone and see what has happened since the last time I looked. But, it's still lacking. For it to be truly useful, it needs to be able to show you a lot more than just what has happened since you last looked. It needs to also display what will happen in the future.
What I'm talking about specifically is the inclusion of future calendar events on the lockscreen. Not all of them, of course. All I want is the next one or two meetings that one has. Notification center already has this inside of the pull down menu. It shouldn't be difficult for it to be included inside of the lockscreen.
I can see some of the rationale behind not including it. On the off chance that your iPhone was stolen, you wouldn't want someone looking at your calendar events without your knowledge. I can understand that, but only inside of the corporate world. For the consumer, like me, I need that to be there to make it useful. I propose an easy solution: Add a switch to turn it on or off. It's really that easy. This would make the lockscreen much more useful for everyone. Some Android phones already do this. So let's get it into iOS, too.
The homescreen is one of the most iconic and recognizable designs inside of iOS. It has remained almost the same since iOS 1.0, with the exception of folders and the changing of the dock background. Other than that, it's identical. Functionally, it is exactly the same.
Some things about it need to change, however. First of all, those badges. The app notification badges are possibly the most ugly part of iOS. They just don't look pretty, and they definitely don't fit with Apple's design standards. Honestly, the only reason I ever action one of them is to get rid of the badge off of my homescreen. I suggest instead a different design, that isn't as stand-out and is more subtle.
Another thing that would be nice to see is the ability for developers to change the app's icons. Apple's own Calendar app already does this, changing each day to reflect the current date. Why can't other apps do this too? To get the same or similar functionality in Calvetica for instance, one has to enable an ugly notification badge to get the date on the homescreen. This should be a feature that is open to other developers, and not just Apple.
This feature segues into my final homescreen request: widgets. Perhaps "widgets" is the wrong term. If Apple isn't willing to completely redesign the home screen, then having "widgets" in the sense of dashboard widgets or Android homescreen widgets wouldn't be possible. I think that widgets could be in place of app icons, so an app like Sparrow could display something about your emails, rather than just a notification badge. This goes with my previous suggestion of wanting to have changeable icons. The end result would be something like the live tiles inside of Windows Phone, which I believe work very well.
Along with iOS 5 came the creation of Notification Center. Basically, this copied the look and part of the feel of Android's pull-down notification manager. While it is a step in the right direction, it is most definitely not perfect.
One easy way to make it much better: Add a "Clear All" button. Right now, there is no way to clear all notifications. You have to go through each individual app and tap the tiny easy to miss "x" button in the corner. Often times, those of us with larger fingers end up tapping the notification itself instead of the x. And, for those with a lot of apps that send notifications, clearing them all is, well, a pain. A clear all button like Android has would fix this problem instantly.
Another problem with it is the fact that 3rd party developers cannot make notification center widgets like the Weather and Stocks widget. I for one would love to have a widget like that for the New York Times or Flipboard, showing top news stories for the day. Or a scrolling widget showing tweets or something.
Along with that would be the ability for developers to display persistent notifications inside of NC. Apple's Calendar app already does this. Upcoming calendar events always show inside of NC and are persistent. They can't be cleared. Why can't other developers do that as well?
Aesthetically, there are a few things to be done as well. First of all, the linen has to go. I get it that Apple is going for the linen theme across all of their devices, however in NC, it distracts from the information. A clean background of one color or even just a gradient would be much better, and would bring the content to the front. Those "X" buttons also have to go. Notifications should be cleared by a swipe-delete gesture, like emails inside the Mail app, or the rest of iOS. Then individual notifications can also be cleared, instead of just all of the notifications from that app. These things, I believe, would make NC much more useful and more enjoyable to use.
All of these suggestions I believe would make iOS 6 a much more useful and enjoyable Mobile OS, and would by themselves make the next iPhone much much better. Hopefully, some of them make it into the next iteration of iOS. I suppose we find out at WWDC next week.
The next part of this series will detail how the built in apps and workflows can be made better in iOS 6.
All for now!
Arthur Rosa is an engineering manager based in Sunnyvale, California.