Wednesday, January 7, 2015

iOS 8: 5 Big Changes For Apple In 2015


There is no sugar coating it, iOS 8 has had a rough start. Ongoing problems on older devices have resulted in the lowest adoption levels in the platform’s history

This is a great shame because on paper iOS 8 is one of the best releases of iOS to date. It is Apple most open software yet, expanding interoperability between third party apps, adding long awaited features like support for widgets and third party keyboards and bringing Apple HealthKit and Apple Pay all the while remaining slick and fast in use.
There is no sugar coating it, iOS 8 has had a rough start. Ongoing problems on older devices have resulted...

So how does iOS 8 improve its public image? It isn’t a lemon but frustration is growing and changes are needed to reinstall confidence. So here is what I think should be top of Apple’s iOS 8 hit list:

1. More Considered Releases

With iOS 8.1.3 having leaked Apple is now up to its fifth iOS 8 release since September. On the one hand Apple may argue this shows its determination to fix the wide array of Bluetooth, WiFi and battery problems users have reported. But on the flip side I think the company risks doing more harm than good.

Having multiple releases without getting to the bottom of problems actually erodes user confidence and I’ve seen an increasing number of comments on my own posts expressing doubts as to whether Apple will ever solve them. After the self centred farce of iOS 8.1.2 Apple needs to calm down, take the time to properly address the bugs and push out a real fix. The scattershot approach needs to stop.

2. Homescreen Overhaul

iOS 7 gave iOS a long overdue facelift and iOS 8 finally brings support for aforementioned features Android users have had for years, but one aspect of iOS remains horribly out of date: the homescreen.

Apple may not want to bring widgets to the homescreen like Android or even the ‘Live Tiles’ on Windows Phone, but it really should be giving users the option – especially on the larger screens of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

There is also no excuse for forcing every home screen to arrange its icons starting in the top left corner. This is the most difficult place to reach on bigger screens and it is daft making a user fill the entire screen just so it is possible to place an app in the more convenient bottom right corner. This is a level of Apple OCD that needs to go.
There is no sugar coating it, iOS 8 has had a rough start. Ongoing problems on older devices have resulted....

3. An App Drawer

Apple also needs to get over its obsession with making users place an icon for every app installed on their homescreen. There are many apps we only use once in a blue moon, not to mention an increasing amount of Apple bloatware that cannot be uninstalled and takes up space on iOS homescreens. Making ‘Unused’ (or less politely named) folders is a half baked solution to which users shouldn’t be forced to resort.

Of course Android and Windows Phone got past this problem years ago and the simple solution is an App Drawer. This is accessed via a single icon or button shortcut and shows a list of every app installed on the device (sorted alphabetically or by most recently used). Users can then drag apps the apps they want from here to their homescreens giving them control of what can and cannot be seen.

4. Reachable Back And Next Buttons

I have made this complaint before and it still stands: iOS needs to move its Back and Next buttons from the top left and top right corners of the screen now it has moved to larger screen sizes that make them harder to reach.

In fairness to Apple it has recognised the problem by adding swipe gesture shortcuts and ‘Reachability’ (sliding down the whole screen down with a double tap of the home button), but they feel like workarounds to the bigger challenge of refreshing the user interface to better suit bigger displays.

The Android and Windows Phone solution is to put a Back button beside the home button. This is an option for Apple (the space either side of its iconic home button does feel wasted), but there is also an opportunity to do something new and innovative that could see iOS leap ahead of its rivals on any device size.

5. Phablet Specific Apps

For me the iPhone 6 Plus was the most interesting smartphone of 2014 and one of the reasons for this is Apple’s decision to differentiate how core apps work compared to other iPhones and iPads. In short when in portrait mode apps display just like on smaller iPhones, but switch to landscape and they adapt to be more like the iPad in the landscape to take advantage of the extra screen size.

There’s a real opportunity here. At present Android and Windows Phone have just two categories of app – phone and tablet – while iOS can give developers the chance to merge the two so apps can be optimised for the iPhone 6 Plus in landscape.

This would be one in the eye for Android in particular which has long had phablets, but still treats them like blown-up phones so manufacturers are forced to do all the phablet customisation work themselves – like Samsung’s ongoing efforts on the Galaxy Note 4.

If iOS can step ahead here then Apple not only sits in the driving seat for phablet app development, but also creates a powerful differentiator for customers tempted by a bigger phone to opt for the company’s most expensive iPhone.