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What iOS 7 really needs
I've been a part of the Apple iOS developer program for several years now, and have enjoyed the hum of excitement that means mobile device batteries everywhere are being drained rapidly when a new iteration of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS, is close to its general availability date. We all want to know what's going on.
Much has been said already about the coming of iOS 7, some of it laughable since the software is still in testing mode. It's not intended to be ready for public consumption and shouldn't yet be used to foretell the fortunes of Apple and its shareholders.
At the same time, many of the features of iOS 7 have been announced and dissected pretty heavily. This has led to many great articles on what is good and what's missing the mark.
So, let me join the chorus of hindsight chortles and offer a few suggestions myself. First, let me head off the negative comments by saying that I don't want to switch to another platform because my house is kind of an Apple shop--we are Mac users and have been heavy iOS users for quite a while. Having everything sync up just works for us. Although I covet the new Microsoft tablet (the truth will set you free-I covet).
- Email Format - When you're typing a text, the photo button is right beside the text window. It's very prominent and allows for adding a photo or video from the phones photos or to immediately access the camera. Let's say that I am replying to an email and want to add a photo. I have to hold the screen until I get the options to Select, Select All, Paste (and possibly Define, Quote Level, Font Format, and finally), Insert Photo or Video. And it's not even in an easy list--I have to scroll left or right to get the option I want. That's crap and it's super irritating. Some would say that the design allows for getting to the most important things based on the kind of message you're creating. They're wrong. It creates an inconsistency that requires learning two different ways to do the same basic task (creating a message). At least change the email options to allow me to pick through them more quickly. Scrolling left and right is much worse than scrolling up and down when you're just trying to get something done. I know -it's not just Apple: in Windows, I still don't understand why the F5 key refreshes Internet Explorer's current view, but Outlook uses F9 to send and receive mail. Also, let me text/email as many photos at once as I want and stop it with the "video is too large to send," stuff. I switched to Sprint for unlimited data.
- Bluetooth - Some of us have more than one bluetooth device. I have some headphones I like to wear when I run. My wife's Hyundai allows for using the phone and the radio via bluetooth. Digging down through the settings to pick the device each time should not be required on something that bills itself as the most advanced mobile operating system in the world. The new Control Center actually makes it a little more complex because I can turn bluetooth on and off there, and once I've connected to a device via bluetooth, it's shown there. But you still have to go down through the menu to see all the devices you have and pick one first. Not all this is Apple's fault, as some devices try to initiate the connection and others don't. But if I go to something that calls itself Control Center and there are options for bluetooth there, I don't think I should still have to go through the anti-dearth of settings to choose a device. Petty? Maybe, but why not do this right?
- Okay, since we've talked about Control Center - what the crap? I don't need to get to the stop watch/alarm/timer/world clock this quickly. Air drop is a nice addition here, with the ability to become discoverable (see bluetooth woes above), and I guess the calculator is good to have if I'm at the grocery store. The camera icon is instantly redundant, since it's already available from the lock screen -- clicking the lock button, home button, and sliding up is as fast as accessing the new control center and picking the icon. Choosing control center also has a Play icon for music, but there is really no control to it at all--open your music app and pick what you want to hear or just be surprised if you didn't already have the app open. Other inclusions (brightness, do not disturb (much better, by the way)), are very handy, but why not give the user some actual control over what is here and what I can actually do (see notes on bluetooth, above)?
- Instant Data - the notification screen was good. The idea of at-a-glance information is something most people who use their phones at work really do need. In the new version of this feature, more information has been added, but it's nothing that is really very valuable because of the presentation. The calendar for the day is there, and that's a Great thing to have. Reminders show much more information than before. And there we stop. Everything else has been broken down into other pieces that I have to go through multiple tabs to get to. And it's not very interactive. The great thing about the Windows phone interface is that it allows the user to make the entire home screen into a notifications screen and the information is being rotated and updated all the time. I just have to look at that phone and immediately know if the email I've been waiting for has arrived, when my next meeting is, what business topics are being thrown around in LinkedIn groups, changes in the weather shown as a graphic instead of a (albeit friendly) text blurb. And if you give me a calendar here, let me view multiple days instead of have some functionality here while the meat of what I need requires me to go to another app (see above bluetooth notes). Give me live tiles because widgets are ugly.
- Animation - after you tilt the phone back and forth to see the parallax effect a few times, you start to think about the takeaway from the added depth in the interface and the way app icons pour back to the home screen when you return there. It's a waste of time and energy that I would rather being using elsewhere considering that battery life is still really awful on iPhone. Maybe that will change with the new release next week, but I'm not planning on being awed. I remember taunting my colleagues with Blackberry phones back in 2007 with quotes like, "When your phone can tune a guitar, you'll have my respect." Of course, the answer should have been, "when you don't have to carry an extra battery and keep your phone in a case that also has an extra battery in it, you'll have mine." The animation is pretty, but it doesn't really seem to do much. The animation on Windows phone is similar, but doesn't strike me as opposing the need for the phone so I admit that I may be making more than my typical ado about it.