iOS 14 has been great, but much more needs to be done. We still wish Apple would address some of our old complaints.
The release of iOS 14 last year was one of the best iPhone updates yet. Apple didn’t necessarily deliver everything that was on our wish list from last spring, but there was great progress on a surprising number of them, with a massive overhaul of the home screen, big strides in privacy, and an overdue streamlining of the Siri UI. And subsequent updates have kept the momentum going, with the upcoming release of iOS 14.5, which is expected to bring Apple Watch unlocking, app tracking transparency, and a host of other improvements and additions.
Looking ahead to iOS 15, we still wish Apple would address some of our perennial complaints (Siri), but the addition of big changes like the app library and home screen widgets have gone a long way toward making iOS a more modern and flexible mobile operating system. But we’d still like to see Apple take it a step further. Here are some of our most requested features and changes for this year’s major iPhone OS update.
Besides a few shortcuts you can’t customize, the iPhone’s lock screen doesn’t do much more than display the time and date and battery level (briefly). Its main purpose is to display notifications when they arrive, but the lock screen really isn’t the best place for that – they should flash when they’re new, but seeing old notifications on the lock screen doesn’t have much use that wouldn’t be just as well served by swiping down to display the notification shade.
It would be much better if we could drop widgets on the lock screen. If there are security concerns with displaying data on an unlocked phone (though Face ID should be able to take care of that, as it does with notifications), another alternative might be for Siri to be proactive and display information it thinks will be useful based on our usage habits.
If you have a calendar event coming up, it might show it, but not if it’s more than an hour away. If you always call your mother at 3pm on Saturdays, a “Call Mother” button might be displayed around that time. The current weather and the short-term forecast could be permanently visible. Tapping on one of these things would unlock your iPhone (with Face ID) and take you directly to the corresponding app.
The current lock screen, with its time and list of notifications, doesn’t quite do what a modern lock screen should strive to do – which is to help you get directly to the thing you wanted to pick up your iPhone for, and help you keep the device locked for longer.
The Apple Watch has an always-on display. OLED Android phones have had an always-on display for years. There’s no reason why the OLED iPhone models can’t have such a display as well. An always-on sleep screen for the iPhone should be similar to the lock screen, with a few tweaks. It should show the time, date and battery level on a black background, but no notifications. Maybe new notifications could pop up briefly and disappear again, but we need fewer reasons to pick up our smartphone, not more.
I’d love to see Apple take the idea of complications from the Apple Watch and put them on the lock screen and the always-on sleep screen. Maybe four of them, flanked by the Watch, with standardized formats. Developers could create complications for their apps, and users could choose which four they want to see. This would be a great way to get simple information without picking up the phone and opening apps. Much of what we need could be accessed without even unlocking the phone. It would also make the iPhone more useful when idle, while providing an important function to promote digital health and well-being.
The App Library was one of the biggest and best new features of iOS 14, a place to keep all your apps and remove rarely used apps from your homescreen – Apple’s answer to the App Drawer that Android users have always had.
While the concept is great, the implementation leaves a little to be desired. The automatic app grouping is confusing – it’s unclear which apps are in which group when you can’t see the icon, and it’s hard to understand why tapping the larger icons in each group opens the app, but tapping the small group of four icons in the lower right corner opens the group for exploration. The automatic arrangement of groups is also frustrating – core UI features shouldn’t be rearranged every time you visit them, or you’ll never get a feel for where to find what.
Apple could change each app library group to show four large icons and open the group when you tap anywhere on it (instead of launching the app directly). The group layout should be static and editable (via the usual tap-and-hold wiggle mode). And there should be an option in the settings to show the app library in list view by default, instead of having to drag down on the app library screen or tap the search bar at the top.
The Weather app is stuck in the past and has changed very little since the redesign in iOS 7. It’s time to completely overhaul the look and move away from the Weather Channel as a data source. Why else did Apple buy Dark Sky?
Weather is one of those things where everyone has different priorities, so the new weather app should focus on customizability and adaptability, in addition to bringing the interface up to a modern standard. We’d like to see live radar, more information, an actual seven-day forecast, and weather service alerts, not to mention a design that doesn’t look like it was designed three years ago.
Speaking of apps in need of an overhaul, the Home app feels like Apple doesn’t care about HomeKit at all. A simple grid of squares with minimal information, with no direct feedback on what happens when you tap or long press on one? Lights that are set individually instead of in groups?
Home needs larger widgets for various HomeKit-enabled devices that show more information about their current state and have smarter built-in controls. HomePod needs its own tab that shows recent queries and the results of Siri questions that need visual support. The entire app needs a fundamental change in design philosophy that gives the impression that smart home technology is actually important to Apple. The current Home app has a very minimal product feel, and that’s not a good look.
The Stocks app may have been useful in the days when you had to call your broker to make trades, but these days trading with your smartphone is all the rage. Manually adding stock symbols just to get data you can’t really do anything with feels like a waste.