iPhone and iPad

5 iOS Shortcomings Apple Needs to Address

Tim Brookes 27-04-2015

We spend so much time with our devices that it’s possible to start feeling like unpaid software testers. iOS powers Apple’s iPhone and iPad, and I feel like I’ve been “testing” it for about five years now.


Don’t get me wrong — I love my Apple devices as much as the next beard-growing hipster on a fixie, but some of these issues have been around for a long time now.

Today I’ll be sharing my personal iOS bugbears, I’d love to hear yours too so stick around and leave a comment at the end.

Stop Asking Me to Join Wi-Fi Networks

Did you know that your iPhone will automatically join open wireless networks unless you tell it not to? This can leave you wide open to man-in-the-middle attacks What Is a Man-in-the-Middle Attack? Security Jargon Explained If you've heard of "man-in-the-middle" attacks but aren't quite sure what that means, this is the article for you. Read More and packet sniffing, meaning an attacker could manipulate the web pages you see and potentially spy on the information you’re sending and receiving.

Fortunately by heading to Settings > Wi-Fi, you can check the box that says Ask To Join Networks, which prevents your phone from putting you at risk. You can go ahead and do it now if you haven’t already (your phone will still automatically join any networks you authorize).

5 iOS Shortcomings Apple Needs to Address wirelessnetwork


The only problem with this rather excellent safeguard? My phone continually asks me if I want to join wireless networks. Like, all the time. It’s infuriating. The only times I want to search for wireless networks are when I actively need them, not when I’m walking around the city with a considerably faster 4G connection.

Apple uses wireless networks to better improve location accuracy, and that’s fine — but it’s about time our iPhones stopped bugging us to join them.

Let Me Change My Default Apps

You can extend this to any app you’re not overly fond of — Safari, Mail, and even Calendar — but for me, the one app that could really do with being replaced is Camera. Apple certainly sweetened the non-negotiable pill by adding separate exposure and focus controls with iOS 8, but that still doesn’t compare to the likes of Camera+ Camera+ for iPhone Adds Powerful Controls Without Over-Complicating Things Freshly updated for iOS 7, Camera+ features a range of powerful features that will please even seasoned photographers used to shooting with digital SLRs. Read More  with all of its additional bells and whistles.

5 iOS Shortcomings Apple Needs to Address cameraplusa


The biggest problem with Apple not allowing users to pick their default camera app is that you can’t quickly launch your app of choice from the lockscreen. Photography is fleeting in nature, so fast-access to your camera gives you a better chance at getting the shot you want.

Despite Apple wanting us all to use their own browser and email client, that doesn’t change the fact a huge number of users use alternative apps for these tasks. I’m a huge fan of smartphone photography, and judging by their recent “Shot on iPhone 6” advertising campaign, Apple is too — so let us change our default cameras already!

Realize Spotlight’s Usefulness

Spotlight is a killer OS X feature and has been the envy of Windows users for years. iOS also has a built in Spotlight search, accessible by swiping down on the home screen. You should already be using this to launch your apps, it’s considerably faster than trawling through folders and studying icons.

However, Spotlight’s implementation with iOS feels like a missed opportunity. Despite massive improvements in iOS 8 What's New In iOS 8? After last year's big iOS 7 redesign, you'd expect a muted iOS 8 announcement at this year's Worldwide Developer Conference – but you'd be wrong. Read More , the search feature still isn’t anywhere near as intelligent as its Mac cousin. On my desktop, I can convert currencies and units of measurement, look up movie times, and even search for Evernote notes and other third-party content.


5 iOS Shortcomings Apple Needs to Address spotlightosx

By opening up iOS Spotlight to app developers and adding useful tidbits like unit conversions on the fly, I would no longer need to launch a separate app and then search — I could just search. The advantages would extend to users of alternative email or calendar apps, word processors like the recently released Ulysses for iPad Ulysses, Pages & Write: 3 Very Different Writing Tools for iPad We're no strangers to the Mac versions of Pages and Ulysses or the earlier version of Write for iOS, but which is of these apps is best for writing on your iPad? Read More , and beyond.

Similarly, searching Messages for keywords is a jumbled mess, with no option of progressing to the next or previous search result. Try searching for a commonly used word, and you’ll see what I mean.

Fix AirDrop

AirDrop is Apple’s proprietary wireless file transfer protocol that uses both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to transfer files between iOS 8 devices and Mac computers running Yosemite. Since its introduction in iOS 8, the technology has been flaky.


5 iOS Shortcomings Apple Needs to Address airdropfail

AirDrop is so bad that I’ve written a troubleshooting article full of things to try AirDrop Not Working? Fix It Fast With These Tips Is AirDrop not working on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac? Here are several troubleshooting tips to fix AirDrop on your devices. Read More if you are having trouble with the feature. The worst thing about AirDrop’s shortcomings is the fact that it’s so inconsistent — just because you can send a file to your Mac from your iPhone this time doesn’t mean the two devices will be able to see each other next time.

5 iOS Shortcomings Apple Needs to Address airdropfail2

Similarly, despite keeping a fairly thorough contacts list, the “Contacts Only” AirDrop function has literally never worked for me, even when that contact was myself (yes, Apple places a personal contact card in your phone book).

Bluetooth file transfer used to work fairly competently on the dumbphones of yore — AirDrop not so much.

More Devices = More iCloud Storage

iPhone owners — did you know Samsung Galaxy owners get 50GB of free Dropbox storage? The offer also applies to certain HTC devices, and is valid for two years. While it’s only a temporary solution, it puts Apple’s pitiful 5GB of free iCloud storage to shame.

If you have spent a lot of money on a MacBook Pro, iPad, and iPhone, it’s laughable that Apple expects you to micromanage available cloud storage in order to make everything fit. 5GB of storage is less than useless for backing up devices — but your phone will bug you incessantly about not having enough iCloud storage until you cough up for more space.

5 iOS Shortcomings Apple Needs to Address icloud storage

I’ve got a better idea: for every new iOS device purchased, Apple adds 5GB of storage to your iCloud pool. I’d still find it difficult to keep everything backed up with only 15GB of space, but at this stage, it seems like the least Cupertino could do considering how cheap and readily available cloud storage has become.

This is more relevant than ever since the arrival of the iCloud Photo Library, with iCloud becoming more deeply entrenched within our devices and the Apple ecosystem as a whole.

Over to you — what would you change about iOS, given the chance?

Related topics: iOS, iPad, iPhone.

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  1. Govertz
    May 1, 2015 at 6:26 am

    Thanks guys, this is music in my ears. I don't have the budget to buy Apple devices.
    I'm not feeling envy anymore, because now I know what people are doing, when they are burried in their I-devices, they are troubleshooting. :)

  2. John Williams
    May 1, 2015 at 12:29 am

    Does Apple listen to any of these issues? Probably not.

  3. Bronzit
    May 1, 2015 at 12:27 am

    I believe that there is a "typo" in the 5th paragraph:
    "Fortunately by heading to Settings > Wi-Fi, you can check the box that says Ask To Join Networks, which prevents your phone from putting you at risk."

    "Fortunately by heading to Settings > Wi-Fi, you can UNcheck the box that says Ask To Join Networks, which prevents your phone from putting you at risk."

    • Ivan Holmes
      May 28, 2015 at 7:46 pm

      He's saying that you _want_ your phone to ask you to join networks, so that it doesn't put you at risk by automatically joining them. Unclear, perhaps, but not a typo.

  4. Biff
    April 30, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    I am a project manager who works with developers. We live by one creed "done is better than perfect". If they wait for everything to be perfect it would never be released. I agree that there should be some improvements but stop whining. They release new features every year. You sound like my customers...and Babatunde sounds exactly like one of my customers.

    • Dani
      May 1, 2015 at 6:57 am

      And you are arrogant or live in your ivory tower just like Apple.
      You need to listen to your customers and understand their needs NOT to think they are moaners.

    • Harry Mudd
      May 1, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      I think that you hit the nail on the head with that one. Users tend to whine at every little thing that is not just PERFECT. After 25 years of dealing with this, I am very ready to hang it up myself!

  5. SnowyJoey
    April 30, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    Can I have some cursor keys on the keyboard please?

  6. Babatunde
    April 28, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    Why do I have to press the home button every time I need to switch between apps - this is so annoying

    Why can't I permanently put my data connection on 3G or LTE without changing back by itself- this is also very irritating

    The keyboard upper/lowercase issue

    MP3 download direct from safari

    Why do we have to go thru iTunes or purchase a song to make a ringtone -?

    So much so I love apple products and the iOS - I just expect the tech guys in Apple to be more innovative and think in line with the product users.

    We demand significant changes in iOS 10!

  7. Doc
    April 28, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    How about:
    - Allow other app stores (or at least sideloading)
    - SD card slots in iOS devices (besides "dongles")
    - Keyboard with UPPER/lower case letters
    - File manager (besides iTunes)
    - USB ports
    - Real HDMI connection (besides that Lightning/HDMI adapter that compresses/degrades the image)

  8. J R Tur Pineda
    April 28, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    A micro SD card!
    Also the possibility to use music in my iPhone without going through iTunes. Like on Android!

  9. dvous
    April 28, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    My biggest problems with iOS is with devices that use it, the iPhone and iPad.

    Android devices almost always have a slot to add additional storage via a microSD card - a very handy feature to have when you are running out of space. Apple is arrogant in the extreme by not having this on iOS devices.

    And how about making a device that allows a user to swap a depleted battery for a fully charged one. Or to swap a dead battery for a brand new one.

    • Tim Brookes
      May 4, 2015 at 2:33 am

      These are just things you are never going to see from Apple, the same way Porsche aren't going to put towbars on the next 911.

      I did once read a very good article (that I can't find now) about why iOS devices forego the SD card slot. It basically came down to hassle and user experience. People buy Apple devices because they generally do what you want them to with little in the way of friction. Buy tablet, download app, job done. For the majority, this is enough.

      Introducing split system storage and explaining to Joe Average that he needs to move apps from one drive to the other, or that he can't download a system update as it relies on internal storage (which is full) is something Apple doesn't want to have to deal with.

      It's also another method of exploitation — jailbreaking and the like. And of course they can also charge more, adding a $100 bump for each increased level of capacity.

      I wouldn't describe these as problems but design decisions that don't fit your requirements. Fortunately there's lots of Android and Windows devices that fit the bill, though I'd say the standard of software, stability and user experience isn't quite on the same level.

    • Kim Merrild
      May 4, 2015 at 12:58 pm

      Tim I have a 4S and the size is perfect for my hands and for my pockets!
      If I want an iPad I will rather buy that than wasting my money on an iPhone 6 or iPad Nano if you know what I mean?
      And no! I don't want swift keys either!
      Just the good ol alphanumeric keyboard! give me that option and nothing else just that!

  10. likefunbutnot
    April 28, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Default keyboard needs to change case with the state of the shift key. This is so fundamentally insulting to me that it trumps all other issues.

    File system access. Users should be able to segregate and reorganize data.

    Data sharing needs to work like it does on Android. The state of affairs on iOS relies on certain well known apps (dropbox) as intermediaries because many apps won't or can't share data directly.

    There needs to be a work flow for making music files available to the device without use of iTunes. Users can't even download an mp3 with Safari with tools given them on iOS, but if they do manage to do it with an app, those files are separated from the ones available to the default music player.

    Honestly, I could keep going. I flatly hate iOS. I believe that it's hostile to users and I wish it would just stop existing. Android has flaws as well, but at least it has a default keyboard that treks me when I'm typing in lowercase.

    • Tim Brookes
      May 4, 2015 at 2:23 am

      It's all subjective really, but I thought I'd comment on your music point. iOS does in fact allow users to grab MP3s — from either iCloud Drive, Google Drive etc or Safari in a webpage — but you need an app that can do something with them. The problem is that your iOS device won't add that MP3 to the Music *library* without going through iTunes first.

      Now this could be for good reason (to stop libraries being corrupted/out of sync etc they all go through iTunes) but it's also a method of control. The inability to add music files to the library makes them unavailable to apps that use what iOS labels "music" (e.g. djay, RunKeeper).

      Basically it's probably not going to change, partly for technical reasons and almost certainly for financial/controlling reasons.

      Oh and I'm pretty sure you can get keyboards now that have their own autocorrect and let you type in lowercase, but I haven't had the need to look!

    • likefunbuntot
      May 4, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      @Tim Brookes,

      iOS's handling of music data is simply wrong. I don't care what excuse you or Apple care to give, having to choose between jailbreaking a device and having to connect a device to a personal computer and use one particular application to move files between sandboxes is at best a misfeature, especially now that tablet devices are mainstream enough that some users simply won't own a personal computer.

      I suppose that I could go farther and say that, for a device that wants end users to know as little about files and directory structures as is humanly possible, it's entirely counter-intuitive to suggest that a user become aware of the sandbox data model, the need to associate a file with a specific app and how to move data out of one app and into another using itunes in the first place. Those things require several enormous leaps in logic that I would not expect an iOS device user to make on their own.

      Speaking to the keyboard: No one I've encountered has ever attempted to defend Apple's choice. I'm glad that people who have iOS inflicted on them now have options to use something different, but the vast majority of Apple device users will never try anything different. The keyboard is the first thing Apple needs to fix with iOS.

  11. Zafar
    April 28, 2015 at 10:47 am

    I would also like access to the file system. Android allows that, does Apple think IOS users are too stupid and will break the OS?

    Also, make the swipe up from the bottom more feature rich (turn off cellular data, access settings, adjust ringtones / volumes, and PROFILES!

    • Tim Brookes
      May 4, 2015 at 2:17 am

      Apple has essentially "disabled" the file system by sandboxing everything. One app cannot access another app's data (for privacy and security), so there's no real "need" for a file system. Every app has its own private storage area, but at least you can now share data between apps with iOS 8.

      Ergo, despite agreeing with you up until a year or so ago, I don't think this will really make iOS that much better. I just don't think it fits anywhere near the company's vision for a slimmed-down OS X.

  12. Kim
    April 28, 2015 at 8:57 am

    I still to this day hasn't been succesfull at starting up an app with spotlight. Second thing, kill Siri. Fun to swear at here but norhing else than a gimmick she is. Die bitch!

    BUT MY BIGGEST REQUEST IS, give me an alphanumeric keyboard with T9 dictionary so I can type faster with my fat fingers! Pleeeease!!!

    • Swanny
      April 28, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      Siri is really useful while driving with the Eyes Free feature. Outside of the car, yeah I agree, not really useful at all.

    • Kim Merrild
      April 28, 2015 at 2:06 pm

      Swanny I have really tried my best and used all the jedi tricks I can think of… she won't recognize my gestures or accept my English or Danish spoken commands leaving me with an experience similar to this… >:-@

    • Tim Brookes
      May 4, 2015 at 2:14 am

      Kim do you have an iPhone 6, or a smaller model (iPhone 4S, 5 etc)? I recently went from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 6 and I'm amazed how much easier it is to type, despite my fat fingers.

  13. IOS user
    April 28, 2015 at 3:15 am

    Wifi.... if you are not using it TURN IT OFF, your battery will last longer. You can turn it off from the lock screen....
    I would like to be able to turn cellular data off from the lock screen.
    I would also like a home screen link from settings.

    • Harry Mudd
      May 1, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      It's called "Airplane mode."

    • Tim Brookes
      May 4, 2015 at 2:12 am

      No thanks, I'm not a fan of babysitting my smartphone. It should know that I don't want to connect to random networks until I actually need them. If I turned off wi-fi I'd forget to turn it back on and burn through mobile data like crazy.

  14. monogodo
    April 28, 2015 at 1:40 am

    My iPhone only automatically joins known networks. Unknown networks have to be manually joined. Or I can have it set for Ask To Join unknown networks. Not sure why yours is different.

    • Constantinos
      April 29, 2015 at 11:26 am

      I agree with monogodo. iOS doesn't automatically join open networks. You have the option to be asked or manually selecting one by going to settings.

  15. Gary
    April 27, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    Split screen. Where the heck is that??

    • Tim Brookes
      May 4, 2015 at 2:10 am

      Personally I'm not too bothered about this one. I think the fact that Apple opened up apps being able to talk to each other is a step in the right direction. I dont need to open Evernote when I can save things right to it from the Share sheet, for example.

  16. Frank
    April 27, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    Need the ability to turn off nags like "cellular data is off for music".

    • d0gg
      April 28, 2015 at 12:05 am

      That isn't a nag. That is information to let you know that the data source for your music THAT YOU REQUESTED TO BE PLAYED is turned off.

  17. Lars
    April 27, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    Oh, and they surely need to make multi-user support on iPads!

    • John
      April 27, 2015 at 8:13 pm


    • Tim Brookes
      May 4, 2015 at 2:08 am

      Interesting, and an oft-requested feature. Personally my iPad is just that — MY iPad! I wouldn't want to waste available space with secondary users that occasionally use my tablet.