The iPhone improves every year in two ways: through a big hardware launch every September.
Everyone knows that new iPhones come every September. But three months earlier, Apple’s annualgives an early preview of changes that’s arguably just as important to iPhone owners: a peek at the next version of iOS.
On Monday, we’ll get our first look at iOS 11. And considering that it’s the iPhone’s tenth anniversary, it’s safe to say that expectations are high. What will Apple dream up to match the rumored overhauls in the iPhone 8 hardware? After polling my CNET colleagues, here are our best guesses…and what we want to see.
Siri, Siri, Siri
A more intelligent assistant could make us more likely to use Siri, which is something that doesn’t happen consistently. Siri has problems understanding, doing, and remembering certain things, and the assistant needs to be a lot less screen-dependent. That will help the iPhone, the iPad and even AirPods. And, if Apple launches ato Amazon Echo and Google Home, it’ll be necessary to upgrade Siri anyway. (Better Siri on Apple Watch would be appreciated, too).
Improve the front interface
The app-and-folder-and-four-icon-dock design of what we see on the iPhone has stayed the same for years, and really isn’t much different from the original iPhone in 2007. Apple could re-think how apps are presented and organized, which would help our hundreds of scattered apps on our phones right now. That also goes for the lock screen, which shows widgets but isn’t enough of a live dashboard to essential at-a-glance info.
Multi-user modes and logins
There needs to be a kid-friendly mode for iOS: for iPads it’s an overdue must, and iPhones it would be a huge help to let kids browse safely — and play Pokemon Go without having access to mom and dad’s emails and Facebook. Guest modes and family modes, school-use modes. Android has it, Chromebooks have it, Windows has it, Amazon has it. iOS sorta-kinda already has these things too, but they’re buried in accessibility options or for school administrators only. Come on already, Apple: Put these features front and center and make them easy to use.
Re-do the dock
Only four apps? And why aren’t there quick-access ways to find other bits of information or frequently-used files at a touch? The dock’s basic design seems due for a change.
More animated, live icons
“Clock” is still the only animated icon on iOS. WTF? At least put the live temperature on the weather app. Or figure out some other indication besides the red “unread messages” flag. Lots of missed opportunities here.
iOS 10’s notifications feel chunky and stick to the top of the phone longer than they feel welcome. Sometimes they’re even hard to swipe away. A better way of managing and presenting notifications is in order, considering how ever-present they’ve become in everyday phone use.
Be a little more proactive
Google Now and Assistant services push suggestions and can intuit reminders without necessarily adding them in. Putting too much of that in iOS could be a mistake, but iOS needs more system-wide awareness and suggestive smarts.
Add a dash of AR and AI
Maybe, rephrase that as “have the iPhone camera do more clever things.” Likeor Samsung’s promised Bixby features, Apple’s own machine learning could combine with the camera to recognize or process what the iPhone sees. That could involve AR, or be of assistive use for accessibility purposes. Or, maybe the camera could help “remember” what it sees as appointments, notes, or web links.
Build a better connection to Apple Watch
The Apple Watch’s one app to sync and manage notifications and watch faces means it’s not always easy to send music to the watch, or pick things you’d like to pop up on your wrist later. Maybe Apple could re-consider a more seamless relationship.
Make iPad feel like its own thing
Fit more apps on-screen, improve split-screen modes, and treat iPad more like the Macbook alternative versus Just a Large iPhone. For more on that,.
(John Falcone, Jessica Dolcourt, and Jason Parker contributed to this story.)