The Next Version of iOS

Six months after switching to the iPhone, in the guise of the iPhone 4, I’m still thoroughly enamored with the device after a long tour of Windows Mobile, Blackberry, and brief Android Romance. Apple seems to be one of the few companies that understand that people don’t want a business phone or a personal phone, they just want a phone that can do whatever they demand.

While the phone is quite good, there are some software improvements I would make if I had my druthers:

The “magical and revolutionary” stuff

Apple always needs some superlative-laden features (often already pioneered elsewhere) to kick things off, so here is what I would add:

  • Better Notifications: The notification system (the little blue window that harasses you when you receive an email, text message or appointment) on the iPhone stinks, to put it mildly. Notifications seem to “override” each other, fly out at an inopportune time and stubbornly remain until you react to them at which point they disappear forever. All very “un-Apple-like.” Apple could ape some combination of Blackberry and Android here, put an unforeseen twist on it, and claim they invented notifications, all in the name of fixing this.
  • A Less-Lame Game Center: The “game center” feature looks like it was designed by Microsoft. Most of the functionality seems to be there, but the interface and “experience” is weak at best. Make it easy to find a buddy and play the occasional game.
  • Google Maps times 5: Clearly Apple is not going to get the latest and greatest from Google on their maps front. Apple has made some pretty lame attempts at social networking, but location could really turn things up. As a baseline, give us navigation and Google Latitude-like functionality, but also crank things up with location-based chats (ape Blackberry Messenger plus Foursquare here).

The Slide 4 Stuff

So after detailing all the wonderful features above, these get second billing (which always seems to come around the 4th or 5th slide in a new release dog and pony show). Perhaps just as useful, but not as sexy:

  • Offline Mail: Ever go through a tunnel on the train or try dealing with email on an airplane when the phone is disconnected? At least when working with an Exchange server (the de factor corporate email standard) the iPhone will seemingly wait until you have perfectly ordered your inbox to tell you it could not connect, and will ungracefully resurrect all your filed messages upon reconnecting. This should be a simple fix, and would make all those corporate types Apple is trying to woo very, very happy.
  • Smart Suggestions: Recommend new apps based on what I’ve used in the past, or use most frequently.
  • Location/Context Sensitivity: After the whole location brouhaha, the phone obviously knows where I am most of the time. Why not build some intelligence into this? Have the phone crank up the volume when I’m at my favorite watering hole, or silence itself during a meeting. Give me a summary of things like the weather when I land at a different airport and turn on my phone.
  • Less Reliance on iTunes: Does every minor update really require a 45 minute iTunes dance (open iTunes, see it needs yet another update, download said update while trying to avoid getting other “crapware” the Apple downloader tries to install, backup iPhone, download massive iPhone update, install massive iPhone update)? My Android phone seems quite capable of downloading an installing updates in about a tenth of the time, and without “mating” with my desktop.

Apple’s iPhone iOS is becoming mature, and I certainly don’t miss the old “battery pull” exercise that seemed to plague my Blackberry on a daily basis. Like the old dog learning a few new tricks however, iOS could certainly be improved to remain a major player in the increasingly competitive smartphone market.

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