Apple’s recent iOS 11 update made some dramatic changes to the user interface, but there are still some significant features missing from the operating system.
Whether you primarily use an iPhone or an iPad, you’re bound to have noticed a few of these. Some of them might even be pet peeves that hold you back on a daily basis.
They are all things that Apple should add to a future update.
1. Default Apps: The Pipe Dream
If there’s one area that iOS has improved over the years, it’s sharing. You can now use the share sheet to email a photo from your non-Mail.app email client. Even so, when you click the support email link in the email, you are taken right back to Mail app.
The same goes for clicking links. Safari is arguably a great browser, but it is not for everyone. If you have synced your Chrome data, it is silly to have to copy a link and switch apps to open it in your browser of choice.
My biggest complaint so far about switching back to iPhone is not being able to use Chrome as my default browser. Safari is #dumb.
— Jason Zimmermann (@jzimmermann11) September 29, 2017
Default app changes are probably never going to happen. The only more significant impossibility is the ability to circumvent the App Store and sideload apps (something so impossible it is not even on this list). But default apps would make the iPad more suitable to replace your computer. That same change would make your phone more convenient to use.
Jailbroken phones have been able to do this for a while. Apple could create a better interface, expanding beyond the browser and email defaults. There could be a setting for everything from a text editor to the music app, which Android users can already do.
2. Multiple Users: Sharing Is Caring
If Apple wants to pitch the iPad as a replacement for a laptop, it needs to be able to support multiple users. This is another catch-up feature, as Android already supports user accounts.
Sharing your tablet is not the worst thing in the world. Sharing an iPad means banning someone to the browser for social media and email. It also means sharing cloud storage accounts. That can make it difficult to access files back on your personal Mac or iPhone.
On the iPhone, it might not be a full on multi-user mode. Instead, it would be nice to see a child mode that locks down all but a specific set of apps (you can already do something similar using accessibility). This would function better as a mainstream function, not a workaround.
What’s most frustrating about this on the iPad, is that it partially exists. As part of iOS 9.3, Apple rolled out multiple user support for the iPad in the classroom. There is already the framework to do so in the OS — it just needs to be enabled for the rest of us.
3. Multipane Mode for All Apps
Safari on the iPad has a helpful feature where you can open a link in a second split pane. This feature allows you to have two sessions open side by side. A handy tool for comparing pages, this was an excellent addition for iOS multitasking.
On the other hand, Safari is one limited implimentation of “same app” multitasking. Imagine being able to split a couple of photos and compare which is the better one. Working with multiple spreadsheets and dynamically linking data would be significant for Excel or Numbers. This would allow power users for business apps to leave the laptop behind.
The drag and drop features in iOS 11 focus on files. Multipane mode should be a no-brainer to expand the way that single apps work. iOS 11 has closed a lot of the most prominent gaps in using the iPad to do work, and adding the ability to work with two documents in a single app would be a big help. Some apps have custom interfaces for single app multitasking, but the feature should be baked into default iOS multitasking.
4. Desktop Safari Mode: More Browser Power
According to benchmarks, iPad and iPhone performance is closing the gap with Macs. There isn’t much of a reason to continue getting a nerfed webpage just because you are on iOS. In most cases, you can fix this by using the Share menu to reload the page in desktop mode. (Tip: You can also hold the “Refresh” button.)
This switch, in most cases, provides a passable desktop browsing experience. However, scrolling limitations and odd behaviors prevent Desktop Mode from being desktop Safari. Typing a document in Grammarly or making a WordPress post reveals the limitations.
There are two ways to make this better. First, give us the full version of Safari on the iPad when loading Desktop Mode. This is a power user feature that isn’t going to be something that you enable by accident. It could mimic the mouse using a similar interface to the Magic Trackpad. Improved the support for web apps and large text fields wouldn’t hurt either.
Second, let the user lock the choice on a web page. Having to always go through the share sheet to reload in Desktop Mode is a waste of time.
Both of these features seem simple to enable. In the last few years, iOS and macOS have shared more of their codebase. On the other hand, Apple only releases Mac-like features in iOS after exhausting every other possible option. At this point, we might just be waiting for more web apps to support mobile browsers.
5. Universal Dark Mode: iOS Goes Goth
You can currently enable a quasi-dark mode for iOS using Accessibility. For many apps, there is a built-in setting for choosing a dark theme. It is a favorite feature, one that has even become part of macOS. However, when you enable Dark Mode through Accessibility it only applies to some apps (and it looks weird).
The iPhone and iPad need a dark mode that is universal. It could integrate with APIs, like the features that assist apps scaling to screen sizes. Older apps would stand out with their wrong color scheme, but it would be better than nothing.
6. Workflow and Siri: Empowerment for Users
Siri is simultaneously not as bad as most people say, and an annoying mess. Though support has gotten better, there are still missing hooks for developers to use. There isn’t any reason to hold your breath on that one.
However, Apple could still help out power users and enable a new feature for Siri: integrate Siri with Workflow, and let power users build their hooks into apps. Using Workflow means that you do not have confusing language for non-power users.
In Workflow you could set up your steps to select the last picture from the Camera Roll and post it to Twitter. Then you name it Tweet Pic. Then you ask Siri to “Run Workflow: Tweet Pic” and it runs no matter where you are. Sure you can do some of this with the Share Sheet, but the Siri method could save time. You could run Workflows from anywhere by holding down the home button.
For iPad Pro users you could use the keyboard to do this and save yourself reaching up to the screen. Now that Apple owns Workflow there are many ways that they can expand its hooks into iOS. Like Automator, it can be a tool for power users that doesn’t scare off regular users. It is a stretch, but so was Apple buying Workflow.
7. Better iPhone Keyboard Support: The Mini Tablet
Using the iPhone Plus as a mini tablet comes relatively close to the experience that you get on an iPad mini. You lose some screen real estate, but for reading or playing games, the screen size is a good compromise for portability.
For writing, the iPhone plus isn’t that bad either. You can pair a smaller Bluetooth keyboard that folds up. That combo is a pocketable experience for writing or taking notes. It is not the best for a longform project or editing, but you are not going to be doing that on an iPad mini either. The main issue is that the iPhone never turns off its onscreen keyboard.
Adding some rudimentary support for this would allow you to get a lot more done with just your iPhone. For most people, it would never be your only computer. Apple should embrace iPhone productivity beyond the touchscreen. This one is a long shot since Apple seems to be creating further separation between the iPhone and iPad.
iPad users are always waiting on the promise of a laptop replacement. On the iPhone, it seems like there’s a long list of small quirks to smooth out. We could all use a bit more freedom to use our phones how we want.
What do you think iOS is still missing? Is there something on Android you want Apple to copy? Would you ditch your iPhone for Android? Let us know in the comments.