Apple really overhauled iOS when it released version 7 last year with better multitasking, improved background processing, scheduled connectivity, optimized memory use, and a cleaner, lighter looking interface. What can we expect from iOS 8?
There are two areas where the competition has a leg up on Apple, two features that make a lot of sense and would be great to have on our iPhones and iPads.
1. Multiple User Support
It’s great that you can let even a 3- or 4-year-old play games on your iPad or iPhone, but with that comes the risk of them moving around apps, creating new folders by dragging one app icon or another, or even deleting them. Macs have had multiple user support since Mac OS 9, and with OS X 10.3 Panther we got the ability to have more than one user logged in at the same time with Fast User Switching.
Seven generations in, iOS has no multiple user support. It’s something we really should have. Hand your iPhone to someone to make a call, and they have full access to everything on your phone. There should by default be a “phone only” setting that you can easily enable and only disable by using a passcode for times like that.
Likewise, there should be user settings that you have more control over, such as child-friendly settings to block certain types of websites and restrict which apps can be used, prevent installing new apps, put restrictions on in-app purchases, and so on.
Something like Fast User Switching in OS X would be ideal, but even if it only allows one logged in user at a time, this is something we really need – and more on the family iPad than even on the iPhone.
2. Shared Screen Multitasking
You’ve undoubtedly seen the ads showing how productive users can be with two apps open concurrently on their Android tablets. This is also one advantage Microsoft pushes for its Surface tablets. It can be very nice to have two apps open side-by-side – or even two browser windows – but that’s not something iOS does at present.
There are hacks to bring this to jailbroken iPads and iPhones, but the big problem is that at present all iOS apps are written to use the entire display, so developers would have to modify their apps to run at half-screen – and possibly other settings as well.
Besides the obvious benefits of having two or more apps visible at the same time, I see another possibility. What if apps could also run in tile mode, perhaps four at the bottom of the iPhone screen (or side when it’s rotated). Maybe the weather tile would display the temperature and wind conditions, as well as alerts. Click on the tile and the app takes over the screen, reducing the currently running app to a tile.
Maybe one could display a digital or analog clock that’s much easier to read at a glance than the one at the top of the display. Perhaps one could tie into GPS and the accelerometer to display your present speed and heading – and open to your favorite mapping or navigation app when you click on it. Another might be for iTunes, letting you see a miniature album cover in tile mode and expanding to show the full app when you click it.
I use Waze almost every weekday in my commute, because there are often accidents and traffic problems on one of the two best routes home. Waze is social GPS, and there are dozens (perhaps hundreds) of users in this area. We can report traffic problems, accidents, vehicles on the side of the road, gas prices, and more, which makes it possible for Waze to calculate the best route home based on that data. Probably once a week it chooses something other than the route that is usually fastest thanks to reports from other Wazers.
When I’m driving, it would be nice to have a button to switch to Messages, because Waverly almost always sends a text after I’ve begun my commute home, and iOS doesn’t make it easy to switch from Waze to Messages and then back to Waze again while you’re driving. Perhaps another tile could be dedicated to calling a favorite radio station to report on traffic problems – or 911 in an emergency.
I’m sure this would be handled differently on the iPad, but the idea of having four apps a click away without leaving the current app has merit.
Apple Will Think Different
Whatever Apple does to address these two issues, whether in iOS 8 or some future version, rest assured that they will think outside the box and create a better way of doing things than you’ll see on Android or Windows 8. I look forward to those surprises. It’s part of what makes it a joy to be an Apple user.
What do you want to see in iOS 8?
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