To Apple: How To Improve iOS

iOS, the operating system that runs on the iPhone and iPad, provides a pretty good experience for getting the most out of mobile device. iOS is at version 5 now, and while innovation continues unabated, there are some day-to-day annoyances that still haven’t been addressed. In this post I’ll share some simple (and a few not so simple) improvements that I’d like to see implemented to address some remaining usability issues.

1. Need a “Move Apps” restriction

I have young kids that play with our iPhones and iPad. My wife and I enable restrictions to prevent purchases and deletion of apps. The problem is that the kids like to hold their finger down on the screen and create havoc by moving apps in and out of folders and from screen to screen. It would be easy to add a restriction to prevent this.

2. Need a “Find App” feature

Many people have lots of apps on their iOS device. Sometimes it’s hard to find where the app is located, and the search feature provides a nice alternative for launching an app by typing its name. It would be really helpful though if the search results included the page and folder that the app can be found in. This is a simple enhancement to assist special memory recollection of the majority of users who prefer to browse for an app rather than search.

3. Need “Auto-Update App” feature

The badge number on the App Store icon is handy for alerting me when apps are out-of-date. But it seems that virtually every day I’m mechanically repeating the process of launching the app store, going to updates, clicking update all, and entering my credentials every day. There’s no reason why this can’t be automated. I’d like to see an option to enable or disable app updating in the settings, with the ability to selectively exclude apps from auto-updating just in case the need ever arises.

4. Need “Swipe Between Apps” feature

The four-finger side swipe on the iPad is a useful feature for quickly switching between open apps (as an aside, I learned about this feature when seeing my 18-month old son doing this—kids love to swipe on the iPad). On the iPhone the process is more cumbersome. You have to double-tap the home button and then choose the app to switch to. I would really like to see a streamlined version of app switching on the iPhone. If the smaller screen size prohibits a four-finger swipe, then perhaps three fingers can be used instead.

5. Need to design a “Smart Link” protocol

One of the most annoying aspects of using an iOS device is that links within emails open a web page for a site that I have an app installed for. Invariably, I hit the home button, go find the app, launch it and then manually find the related item. This is a time killer, but in many cases I still prefer it over browsing the vendor’s website in Safari. I would like to see an open standard that defines an agreed upon method for adding an attribute to a link that describes the app that should be launched and the location within the app that should be shown. App vendors would simply add this additional piece of data to links embedded with email notifications while also implementing recognition of this entry point in their apps. This should be provided in the iOS API for app vendors to implement with minimal fuss. It needs to be an open standard so that the “smart link” information can be used on any device that supports apps. Unlike the previously described improvements, this one takes more work to implement, but it would be very useful.

6. Redesign the iTunes desktop application

iTunes, at least on Windows, is one of the worst pieces of popular software I have ever come. Apple keeps adding more and more features to an already confusing application, that for many of use simply makes it even more unusable. In addition, the background threading of this app is appalling. Most of the time I use iTunes is when it is auto launched in response to plugging in my iPhone. And most of the time, I sit there trying to click on an unresponsive app for long periods of time while it is busy synching. And I’m just touching the surface on a myriad of frustrations I have when using iTunes. It needs to be redesigned and rebuilt from scratch.

In closing… I like iOS a lot. I think also Android and Windows Phone are pretty great as well. The mobile experience has really come a long way in the past few years, and like many, I rely on my phone for information throughout the day. In this post, I’ve described six things that would make the experience so much better. Share this post if you agree. Hopefully, Apple is listening.

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