5 things I want to see in iOS 4… that I'm probably not going to get

Well, we’re only a couple of days away from pre-orders of iPhone 4, and just over a week away from the release of iOS 4 . Why yes, I am actually excited about it. I mean, you’ll be able to record and edit 720p video. On a fuckin’ phone. Only a few years ago you needed a computer the size of a room in order to be able to do that, now you can do it in a device the size of a hamster that’s had a bookcase fall on it. Still, it’s gotten me thinking a bit about what else we should see in iOS 4, but which, since no-one using the developer previews have mentioned them, we probably won’t see in iOS 4.0.

1. Safari Reader for Mobile Safari

Just after Apple announced the iPhone and its new OS (redubbed ‘iOS’ rather than ‘iPhone OS’) they quietly released Safari 5. Two main features of this new Safari have captured all of the attention: extensions, and Safari Reader. Developers have already gone crazy for Extensions (hell, so have I; I’ve gone from not caring we didn’t have them to installing 12 in two days). And online publishers have gone crazy about Safari Reader, albeit in a different way; reader allows you, at the push of a button, to turn a multi-page, advert-laden article into a single page with no adverts. Brilliant. All well and good for a desktop, but as far as I’m concerned where something like that is far, far more useful is on the iPhone’s Mobile Safari. On a device with such little screen ‘real estate’ (as ‘they’ like to call it) and that is often used out on cellular data networks that are often sluggish at best, the ability to not have to load every page – and the ads that come with it – and view it on a page formatted for a 3.5″ screen would be a massive plus. Obviously it wouldn’t save bandwidth on single-page articles, but it would still make reading a hell of a lot easier.

2. Wish List support for the iTunes, App and iBook Stores

The Wish Lists in the desktop version of iTunes is great. Especially for someone like me who likes to wander off into the iTunes Store and find really random music and save it to buy later, or save an App as a fallback incase the (cheaper) one I’m trying turns out to be useless. All well and good, but Apple obviously wants us to download more and more stuff on our devices, where we can’t access our wish lists. We also might be browsing the App Store on the train and find an App that is greater than the current 20MB download limit. Right now the only option is to email yourself about it, or take a screenshot, and then look it up when you get home. Wouldn’t it be much easier to just add it to your Wish List like you would on your desktop, and where all of your other desires you weren’t quite impulsive enough to buy are lying in wait for you to give in to that temptation? The same with iBooks; there is no Wish List facility at all there (primarily as you can’t browse the store on your desktop). But it is in iBooks where it is most needed… unlike iTunes where the songs are all 79p or thereabouts, or the App Store where the paid apps start at 59p, the paid books are £3.99 at their cheapest, and go right up to £9.99 – much less likely for an impulse purchase. And don’t forget, people don’t digest books anywhere near as quickly as they do songs or apps. Whereas people might buy a bunch of songs at once, or several apps at once, people aren’t likely to buy as many books in a go (I will however concede that the ‘sample’ method for books is virtually an effective wish list, and is certainly more than we have in iTunes or Apps).

3. A photo slideshow for when the iPhone is charging

We have one on the iPad. Just cos the iPhone screen is almost three times smaller doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get it. It’ll look gorgeous on that impressive Retina Display.

4. Live app icons

This is one we’ll not likely see for a while, even in Apple’s first party apps (with the exception of the calendar app). But there are plenty of apps that would benefit from being able to display their basic information on their app icon, such as the Clock app, especially if you can set it to display another timezone, or its countdown timer. Or the weather app, actually showing you the weather for a pre-determined place and time offset (ie six hours’ on the future). As is often the case, the possibilities are virtually endless of what developers might make of such a feature (although allowing it whilst keeping third party apps sandboxed will be a bit of a challenge for Apple, I’d guess).

5. More wireless integration with MobileMe

This is a wide-reaching notion, but the single idea I had in mind was seeing iOS 4 with a similar file system to the iPad, but with the additional option of browsing and downloading files straight from your iDisk for editing/viewing. That said, even syncing notes wirelessly between devices via MobileMe would be nice, especially for those with multiple iPhones or an iPhone and iPad. One of the complaints I’ve seen about the iPad is simply the fact that it is still tied down to a computer by the need to sync with an old-fashioned USB cable. As much as is possible should be made available for wireless syncing between devices, not just mail, calendar and contacts.

I know these are not exactly killer features for most. But that just shows the strength of the update that Apple is about to ship. iOS 4 combined with the hardware of iPhone 4 has gone a long way to address most people’s issues with the operating system and the hardware and will leave competing devices trailing far behind. I can’t wait to get me hands on it.


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