McCarron’s iOS 5 Feature Wishlist


With today’s official announcement of iOS 5 being unveiled next week at WWDC I figured it was time to write up my wishlist for iOS 5 features that I had been noting for the last few months. Due to it’s size I decided to break down the list into two categories: what I want as an iOS user and what I want as an iOS developer. I don’t expect a lot of the ideas to actually make it into iOS 5, but this is more of what I would finally like to see.

iOS Developer In Me Wants:

  • Garbage Collection — With iOS 5 rumored not to be available on the 3GS and WebKit getting heap compaction support I don’t think it’s too far fetched to see iOS 5 finally gaining garage collection with iOS 5. Is it required? No but it’d be a nice thing to have from a developer standpoint.
  • OpenCL — Like Garbage Collection I expect OpenCL to eventually come to iOS. Since the SGX543 in the Apple A5 processor is rumored to support OpenCL, I think to unlock it’s potential with iOS 5 is pretty much a given at this point.
  • Cloud Sync of user data — There is almost nothing known about iCloud at this point, but from a developer standpoint I’d love to see the ability to sync user Application data like saved games, preferences, etc. much like Valve’s Steam Cloud feature. As a user I’d also love this as I frequently switch between multiple devices around my house, and in some cases I’d love data thats on one device to be on all of them.
  • Widgets — I think it’s time we see Apple’s implentation of Widgets on iOS which was rumored to have been even planned as far back as iPhone OS 1.0. Simple HTML only apps running on the latest WebKit enhancements would be very fast and slick on iOS. There have been lots of great examples have been popping up over the past few weeks, and I think this implementation by Color Monkey is one of the best I’ve seen with the ability to mix them in with the App icons and Groups.
  • Easier App Ratings — I think it’s clear that users need an easier way for users to discover how to rate an app. Right now many apps spam the users with requests to review their apps. I think an easy to use and find interface would make this so much easier for users to discover. Either a “Purchased” tab in the AppStore that shows their ratings on the apps or an “Info Button” or “Star” button when you are moving app icons around in addition to the delete button would be helpful for users. I did place this under developer because it’s an issue I see as a developer, not as much as a user. Without positive reviews our apps don’t do as well.
  • iTunes Apps showing as purchased in AppStore — Like the previous one, this is a major annoyance as an app developer we see with users confused about the process of installing an app they already purchased. They think it’s “US” trying to recharge them the price of the app. Apple addressed this on the iPad AppStore so maybe this change will come to the iPhone as well?
  • Dock and Charge “Screensaver” Apps — I would love to be able to select an auto-launching screensaver like app for when I dock or charge my iOS device. Maybe even give the user control to tell to define certain apps per specific docks or locations.
  • Background Downloading — I love how great the iOS multi-tasking works today, but I would love to see support for Apps to be able to do a bit more in the background than they do today, but still controlled tightly by the OS. Like download my latest podcasts, RSS feeds, sync to iCloud, etc without having to launch the app. So that way when I go to use it I don’t have to wait for data to download or sync up. I hit this annoyance often with my Podcast apps, I launch it before a walk and end up having to wait before the podcast I want to listen to is ready.
  • Write access to the iTunes Library — I think it’s time to allow apps to write as well as read from the iTunes Library. This way you can have access to all your podcasts no matter what application you want to try, you could in theory buy music from Apps like say an Amazon MP3 store app, or even create and save Ringtones directly on the device. Right now to add music you need to actually use a computer with iTunes to manage this, and I don’t see why the device and apps can’t do this.
  • Apple TV AppStore — I think we are getting this, but the question remains in my mind to what the controller would be. I’d love to see a bluetooth NES style joypad/remote for an A5 powered AppleTV. This would be an instant market for many iOS game developers if they could re-write their existing iOS games to play on the AppleTV with ease, and it would also begin to pit Apple against the home console market too with a $99 console.
  • Apple’s own TestFlight — TestFlight is nice, but it’s not as perfect as it could be without access to certain things only Apple has. I would love to see Apple revamp the entire testing system for iOS that basically builds out their own TestFlight system. With that it could also finally remove the 100 device limit and maybe make that a 100 user limit and have it tied to Apple IDs instead of UDIDs. The popularity of TestFlight should be showing to Apple that we want a streamlined testing system.
  • iPad’s 2X Mode use Retina graphics — I personally was surprised this wasn’t turned on for the iPad 2, and I would hope that iOS 5 brings this to the iPad 2. I don’t think the iPad 1 could handle the memory requirements of such a feature, but the iPad 2 could.
  • Improved Game Center sandbox support — This is another developer annoyance. The whole process is annoying right now that once a Sandboxed app starts up it screws up all non-sandboxed Apps causing a mess of steps required to get onto the non-Sandbox Game Center.

iOS User in me Wants:

  • Better Notifications System — This is the big and major annoyance with all users of iOS. There is not a day when I return to my phone where I have to close 4-6 alerts before I can actually use my iPhone. I am interested to see how Apple solves this, as currently the only mobile OS with decent notifications is HP’s WebOS. With a radical rethinking I think Apple could really make this perfectly usable again.
  • Notification silent periods — With a revamp of the Notifications systems I’d love a silent period to set so that I wont get Words with Friends or Carcassone sounds after midnight. Twitter has this feature and I use it to make sure DMs don’t text me at late hours.
  • Useful Lockscreen — Right now the Lockscreen is pretty bare, I think along with a revamp of the Notifications system I would love to see the ability to see stuff like my Mail, Calendar, Notifications, etc on my Lockscreen. Even if it’s just a counter or as complex as widget support I think this screen could use some new life. With Apple’s continued improvement of cameras in the iPhone it’s become clear that many users want a quick way to launch and use the Camera app. They could create a Lockscreen button if desired, it would make the camera infinitely more usable with this support.
  • Safari Upload Images/Data — One major cripple iOS has is no way to upload files to web services. Say I wanted to upload a new avatar on Facebook or upload a Word Doc to my employers webservice, you can’t do this at all on iOS. I would love to see Safari have access to the Photo Library and Documents Library when a file uploading form is hit.
  • Custom SMS Tones — In a later iOS 4 release Apple finally added more preset SMS tones for users, but I think it’s time to allow Ringtones for SMS tones as well. If you have ever been around a group of people with iPhones when someone gets an SMS you’ll see why this is needed when everyone reaches for their iPhone to check if it was them who got the text message.
  • Device updates without iTunes — Need I say more? Well maybe I should spell it out, with this feature users would be more likely to upgrade to the latest OS. I know many users who don’t even know an update is out because they rarely sync their devices to iTunes on their computer anymore.
  • Quick Search AppStore — One thing that always surprised me, is there is no link to quickly Search for an App in the AppStore via the Springboard search feature. This just makes sense for Apple to implement and may drive app purchases more often.
  • Facetime over 3G — FaceTime over WiFi only seemed more like an AT&T restriction, but I have a feeling we’ll see it open to carriers who want to allow it over 3G by sending down an updated Carrier File much like Tethering support. By allowing carriers to selectively support it may actually force AT&T’s hand in allowing it.
  • Multiple User Accounts for iPad — I don’t see this needed on the iPhone, but as many iPad users can agree that having multiple user accounts on the iPad would be awesome as the devices are often shared between many users in one household. It shouldn’t be too hard for Apple to do this, maybe it’ll be worked into a newer Lockscreen?

I don’t assume we’ll get even half of these, but I’d really like to see a few of them. I also know Apple has much better ideas than the developer community does, so I expect quite a few surprises next week at WWDC.

As far as the upcoming iCloud service from Apple that was also confirmed today. I’m thinking this will be a re-named and re-worked MobileMe system. It would be ideal for Apple to also offer this for free as well, at least for basic functionality. iCloud can really add value to the iOS and Mac platforms that doesn’t exist today. Especially if it’s as slick as many are expecting it to be it may be a huge feature win for the platforms.