iOS 8 changes we’d like to see: The OS and Home screen

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Another hurdle to productivity on the iPad is that it’s a hassle to work in two applications at once. Sure, you can switch back and forth between, say, a writing app and Safari, but you can’t see both at the same time. (Not to mention that, as we mentioned in our Safari wish list, when you switch away from Safari and then back again, Safari will likely reload any webpage you were viewing.) One of the most-frequent requests we hear from readers is for “real” multitasking on the iPad.

We’ve seen innumerable mockups of a side-by-side interface, where two apps are visible simultaneously. For some types of apps, this could work, though each app’s screen would of course be half its normal size. But there are considerable OS- and app-design challenges here, so we’re not sure it’s the kind of approach Apple will take. Still, some kind of improved multitasking feels like the 2014 version of copy and paste: a feature that’s unquestionably needed and long overdue.

ios 8 wish list energy use
We’d love to see an app-energy-usage feature like this in iOS.

And though we’re focusing on the iPad here, more than a few people would love to see the iPad’s four-finger app-switching gestures—which let you switch between apps with four-finger left/right swipes, and access the multitasking screen by swiping up with four fingers—come to the iPhone and iPod touch. Those gestures would be cramped on the smaller screen (though, ahem, there are plenty of rumors of larger iPhones on the way), but they should be manageable, and we’d prefer them to having to double-press the Home button many, many times each day.

Another multitasking-related feature we’d appreciate would be the capability to see how much power (i.e., battery life) each app is using, much like you can using the Energy Impact statistic in Mavericks’s Activity Monitor utility. iOS could automatically notify you about power-hungry apps, or it could simply include this data in the Usage screen in the General section of the Settings app. In either case, it would be great to know exactly which processes are impacting your battery life the most.

Speaking of multitasking, as attractive as iOS 7’s multitasking switcher is, the app-card interface isn’t very useful when it hosts a dozen or more apps. In this respect, Android’s process screen, which puts all “running” apps in a list, with each entry showing a small preview of the app, is oftentimes a lot more useful. We’d like to see a similar list, even if it’s an alternative to the multitasking screen and it’s buried in the Settings app. Maybe this list could even be integrated with the aforementioned energy-use view.

One more here: Though “killing” apps (force-quitting them using iOS’s multitasking switcher) is hardly ever necessary, it can be useful when troubleshooting. Unfortunately, if you use a lot of apps, quitting them all is a major pain. As a troubleshooting tool, we’d like to be able to quickly quit all apps. This is another option that doesn’t need to be easily accessible—it could be hidden at the bottom of the app/energy-use list in Settings.

Keyboard customization

Among the myriad iOS 8 wishes we’ve received via Twitter and email, a huge number have focused on keyboards. Perhaps the most common complaint concerns iOS 7’s Shift/Caps Lock key: When people feel the need to write articles about how to figure out if the Shift/Caps Lock key is on or off, there’s a problem. We didn’t have any issues with the iOS 6 Shift key, so we’d be happy reverting to that. Alternatively, one of our readers had a seemingly obvious idea: Display lower-case letters on the onscreen keyboard when the Shift or Caps Lock key is off, and uppercase when either is on. Whatever the solution, the current Shift/Caps Lock appearance needs to go.

ios 8 wish list swiftkey
SwiftKey’s text prediction is much more effective than iOS’s autocorrect feature.

Another popular response was a desire for Apple to allow users to replace the stock keyboard with a third-party version. Developers can currently opt to integrate alternate keyboards such as Fleksy into their apps, but there’s currently no way to choose, say, SwiftKey as your systemwide keyboard. As good as the iOS keyboard is—and it’s actually pretty good in many ways—third-party keyboards such as SwiftKey and Fleksy offer features such as text prediction that make it easier to type quickly and more accurately.

As for Apple’s own keyboard, in addition to fixing the Shift/Caps Lock key, we’d also like to see some sort of cursor control when working with text. The simplest approach would be to simply add directional-arrow keys to the keyboard, but third-party apps have shown us that there are even better ways. For example, a number of iOS text-editing apps let you quickly move the cursor by swiping with one or two fingers over the onscreen keyboard—one finger could be to position the cursor, with two for selecting text.

We also heard from many people—and we wholeheartedly agree with each and every one of them—who ache for more keyboard shortcuts when using a Bluetooth keyboard. For several years now, we’ve been able to use basic shortcuts such as Command+C for copy and Command+V for paste. And in iOS 7, Apple added a good number of external-keyboard shortcuts for Safari, Mail, Pages, and Numbers. But we’d like to see more.

For example, the most obvious shortcut (at least among Mac users) would be Command+Tab to quickly switch between apps, even if that shortcut simply brought up iOS’s multitasking screen and let you cycle between active apps. [Edit: Reader Josh deLioncourt points out that Command+Tab and Shift+Command+Tab application switching already work if you’ve got VoiceOver enabled. So the code is actually already there.] But we’d also like to see more keyboard shortcuts across the OS. For example, why can you send an email message in Mail by pressing Shift+Command+D (just as you can in OS X Mail), but there’s no way to send a message in Messages other than tapping the Send button on the screen? And though many Bluetooth keyboards let you bring up Spotlight and type a search query, you can’t navigate the list of results and quickly open one from the keyboard.

Expanded Touch ID

Touch ID, which lets you unlock your iPhone 5s with your fingerprint or thumbprint, is one of the coolest mobile-hardware features around, especially since OS updates have made Touch ID much faster and more reliable. But the limits Apple has placed on Touch ID also make it frustrating. For example, it’s always available when unlocking your phone, but when using Apple services—such as purchasing new apps or media—you’re often required to manually type your password. And Touch ID isn’t available at all within third-party apps.

We’d like to see Apple expand Touch ID so that it’s available for pretty much any Apple-related authentication—especially when using Apple’s online stores, but also in combination with iCloud Keychain for autofilling passwords for especially sensitive sites. We’d also like to see the company provide an API that allows third-party apps to use Touch ID to authenticate. For example, it would be great if, when opening 1Password, we could use Touch ID to unlock the app, rather than tediously typing a long, secure passphrase.

Updated developer rules

We’ll just link to this fine article we published a few months back and leave it at that.

Better settings

There are a smattering of useful settings we’d like to see added or modified, most of which would likely be found in the Settings app. One of the biggest is Wi-Fi-network priority. Such a feature, long available on OS X, would let you tell iOS that Network A should always be used first if it’s available, with Network B used only if Network A isn’t available. (Currently, iOS connects to the strongest accessible network, or the first one it detects in the area.)

ios 8 wish list network priority
OS X allows you to set network priority. We hope iOS will soon do so, as well.

And while I’m talking about locations, I love my Beastie Boys ringtone, but something a bit more…subtle is more appropriate when I’m in the office. Wouldn’t it be great if, like the Sony Ericsson phone I owned over a decade ago, iOS would let me configure groups of settings—preferred Wi-Fi network, VPN status, ringer volume, alert tones, and more—that would be chosen automatically based on my network or physical location?

Another Settings-based option many people have wished for is a way to choose precisely which apps get updated when automatic updates are enabled. For example, maybe the latest version of a particular app has lost an important feature, or gained a show-stopping bug, so you don’t want to update it, but you’d like all your other apps to get the latest version as soon as it’s available.

A tweak that would be minor but nevertheless very welcome would be a dimmer lowest-brightness level. Even at its dimmest, my iPhone 5s’s screen feels blinding when I’m trying to do some last-minute reading before bed. And we’d love the option to mute the Camera’s “shutter release” sound when the phone itself isn’t muted.

App assignments

Speaking of settings, we mentioned this in several of the other wish-list articles, but we’ll repeat it here, as it’s a system-wide wish: As good as Mail, Safari, and Maps are, some people prefer third-party alternatives. But choosing to use one of those alternatives currently means giving up a good amount of convenience—and putting up with a good amount of hassle. You can’t, for example, tap a URL to open that link in Chrome or iCab. Conversely, tapping a link always opens that webpage in Safari, even if you prefer another browser.

ios 8 wish list default browser
Another OS X setting we’d like to see migrate to iOS: default-app options

In OS X, on the other hand, you can choose your default browser, email client, music player—your preferred app for pretty much any type of activity. We, and many, many of our readers, would love it if iOS gave us the same freedom, at least for common tasks such as browsing, email, messaging, and maps.

Printing potential

Way back in iOS 4.2, Apple promised to let you print wirelessly from your iOS device to any printer shared by your Mac. That feature never fully arrived—unless you have an AirPrint-capable printer, you need to use a third-party OS X utility, such as the excellent Printopia, to get this useful functionality. But once you have the right components in place, iOS printing actually works well…

…assuming, that is, that the only printing option you want to change is the number of copies to print. We’d like Apple to add a few more options to the iOS Printer Options screen: black-and-white printing, scaling, and n-up printing would be a great start.

Of course, it would also be great if Apple added the entirety of the feature we expected in iOS 4.2.

ios 8 wish list do not disturb schedule
Do Not Disturb’s scheduling feature is great, but even better would be different schedules for different days.

Do Not Disturb daily schedules

Finally, most Macworld editors religiously use iOS’s Do Not Disturb feature, which lets you configure specific hours during which your device won’t bother you with phone calls, text messages, or notifications. The problem is that you get only a single schedule that’s repeated each and every day. We’d like to be able to configure daily schedules, so that, for example, our do-not-disturb hours begin later on Friday and Saturday nights and extend later on weekend mornings.

[Updated 5/30/14, 9:20am to note that Command+Tab and Shift+Command+Tab application switching already work if you’ve got VoiceOver enabled.]
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