Latest posts by Hussain Fakhruddin (see all)
For all the hype and hoopla about iPhone 8 and, to a much greater extent, the outrageously expensive iPhone X – the adoption of iOS 11 has been decidedly ho-hum. By the third week of January, the global adoption rate of the latest version of Apple’s mobile platform had climbed to 65%, more than 10 percentage points lower than iOS 10’s adoption rate in January 2017. What’s more, iOS 11 has been touted as one of the buggiest updates in recent years (both iOS 11.2.1 and iOS 11.2.2 were launched to fix important glitches). There are rumours about the iPhone X getting a price cut (and maybe a new ‘blush gold’ colour option, to push up the faltering sales figures). iOS 11.3 has only just been released (there will be an iOS 11.4 update too) – and in what follows, we will look at certain fixes and new features that users would love to see in this year’s iOS 12 update:
Dark Mode API for developers
Last year’s iOS 11 did have a ‘hidden dark mode’, but the Cupertino company probably missed out on the chance of doing so much more. Although iPhone X has not done as well as expected, it has ‘set Apple up for the next decade’ (in the words of Apple CEO Tim Cook) – and since it has a OLED display screen, the battery performance of the device can be significantly enhanced by keeping most of the screen dark. With across the board availability, Dark Mode would make the task of reading at night/in low-light areas considerably less strenuous on the eyes. It would also be great if iOS 12 came with a Dark Mode API for third-party app developers – enabling the latter to determine how their new applications would ‘behave’ when the Dark Mode is activated. The triggers for activation – for instance, the ambient lighting – should be included in the ‘Settings’ menu.
A more customized Control Center
For years now, Android-users have gloated over the (much) greater flexibility available on their handsets, in comparison with iPhone-users. iOS 11 has made the Control Center more customized, and this summer’s iOS 12 update should take matters further forward. For starters, app shortcuts need to be included over here, along with the option to add other important settings. Users are not given any option to toggle the Bluetooth and/or wifi to ‘off’ from the Control Center – and this is another thing that should be addressed by Apple (a stronger 3D Touch option in iOS 12, maybe?). What’s more, things like ‘screen mirroring’ and music controls should be easily removable from this section. iOS should ideally be striving to deliver Android-like levels of personalization, and there’s still a long way to go for that.
Group calling on FaceTime
Given that FaceTime Audio made its debut way back in 2013 (in iOS 7), it’s downright surprising that multi-user calling options have not yet become available on it (iOS 11 was rumored to have it, and fans were disappointed). It has been reported that Apple is struggling with am patent-related issue over this – and provided that things get sorted out soon enough, iOS 12 might very well finally come with FaceTime Group Calling (video calling). The phone screen can be divided into multiple quadrants, to facilitate multi-person video calling, and users will have the option of turning off the visual feed option as well (i.e., operating in ‘audio-only’ mode). Of course, the functionality of this multi-user video calling feature would crucially depend on the internet speed and network strength of each participant.
Note: Both FB Messenger and Whatsapp already offer group-calling options. The new iOS update can offer FaceTime video calling for upto 4-5 participants.
A smarter Siri to keep up with the competition
Siri on iOS 11 is fairly good in its own right – but it is still not a patch on other popular virtual assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon Echo. In iOS 12, users would love to see an upgraded Siri with a series of improved features – from greater accuracy in answers and quicker response capabilities, to better contextual conversations, improved voice recognition, and (hopefully) some cool little games and activities, to keep up engagement levels. SiriKit, which was introduced in iOS 10, could also do with some enhancements – preferably in the form of aids for music and shopping functions. The biggest point of concern is that there is not much buzz about Siri improvements in iOS 12 till now. Let’s just hope that Apple will give its much-loved mobile digital assistant the performance boosts to compare with its competitors.
Note: In a artificial intelligence (AI)-based test survey in February, the accuracy of answers given by Siri on HomePod was 52.3%. There is much room for improvement over here.
Quoted replies and ‘@’ mentions in Messages
The number of monthly active users WhatsApp users crossed the 1500 million mark last December. The Telegram app registers close to 400000 new users every day. While both these applications are hugely popular among iPhone-users worldwide, there is no way of neglecting the native ‘Messages’ app on the platform – and that is precisely where the shortcomings of the latter become evident. iOS 12 should bring in an update that allows users to quote specific messages from chat threads (just like WhatsApp and Telegram does), and reply directly to them. In addition, group conversations should start allowing people to tag anyone with ‘@username’. This will ensure that notifications are sent to a particular user only when (s)he is mentioned in a group chat. Being notified for each and every message is unnecessary and can be rather irritating.
Note: iOS 10 brought split-screen multitasking to the iPad. If iOS 12 extends the same feature to the iPhone, it will bolster the convenience levels of users.
App icons that are rearrangeable
Make no mistake, Apple does allow people to ‘reorder’ folders and icons on the Home screen. However, the way in which these are pre-arranged in rows cannot be altered – giving a somewhat sandboxed feel to the overall system. For example, a person might want to put a frequently used application at a position which can be easily reached with the thumb – but such customizations cannot be made presently. While making the entire grid positions customizable might be off the table for iOS 12, people should at least be able to arrange app icons according to their preference and convenience. Providing a dedicated ‘app drawer’ would also be a nice option, to prevent the screen from becoming cluttered. The average iPhone-user has 30/35 apps installed on his/her handset – and it’s important to keep them properly organized.
Note: We will, in all likelihood, have to wait till iOS 13 for dynamic icons.
More features in the Camera app
Wish to change the video format? You will have to head to the ‘Settings’ menu, to make the necessary tweaks. That’s an extra hassle – one that iOS 12 should resolve. The Camera application itself should allow people to make changes by tapping on the video format displayed on the screen. The ‘Time Lapse’ tab should also receive this functionality. There are reports of Apple working on several major changes in the Camera app – like an all-new ‘Pro’ section for playing around with the white balance, ISO, shutter speed, and other key controls. There are no questions about the quality of iPhone photography – but it’s time that the Camera app had more of the controls.
Better Face ID; Improvements in Portrait Mode
The Cupertino tech giant is eyeing the release of three new iPhones in 2018 – and each of them will have TrueDepth Camera (which debuted on iPhone X). While opinions remain divided over FaceID replacing Touch ID in the latest generation of iPhone models – it certainly seems that the former will feature in most (if not all) future models. In such a scenario, it would make a lot of sense if iOS 12 brought in more recognition patterns for Face ID, along with significant improvements in the reliability and accuracy factors. Apple also has some catching up to do with the ‘Portrait Mode’ (iPhone 7 Plus had it first) – which appears rather mediocre compared to that of Google Pixel 2. With the A11 chip present in the latest iPhones, it is certainly possible to make enhancements in this context.
Note: This keeps on surfacing every year and nothing happens – but the absence of a ‘Back’ button is often problematic. Maybe, the iOS 12 update will have something regarding this?
Smarter iPhone unlocking
Apple can easily take a leaf out of Android’s Smart Lock system, to make the iPhone unlocking smarter than ever before. It should be possible for users to unlock the handsets in trustworthy Bluetooth or wifi networks, after upgrading to iOS 12. For instance, a connected Apple Watch will be able to unlock a iPhone (it can already unlock paired Mac systems). In future, unlocking a device by syncing it with the Apple CarPlay system should also be a possibility. In the Apple ecosystem, security concerns are accorded much more importance than in Android – and that probably makes it next to impossible for iPhones/iPads to unlock in all scenarios. However, unlocking should be possible in more frequent (and safe) use cases, the range should be improved, and devices – once unlocked – should remain in that state for a few hours. It’s all about implementing proper geofencing and wifi standards in the next iteration of the iOS platform.
Return of the wish list
Why iOS 11 did away with the wish list feature in the App Store is anyone’s guess (the other tweaks were mostly good). As a result of that, iPhone-users were stripped of the option to add applications to their personal wishlists, to purchase/download them later. Given that it is not always possible to install a new application as and when one sees it at the store (the cellular data may be week, the price may be rather high), and memorizing the names of many apps is hardly possible – it is highly recommended that iOS 12 brings back this feature. At present, users cannot even see their previously saved wishlists either. If wish lists indeed make a comeback, that would boost app downloads and revenues in the long-run too.
Arrival of ‘always-on’ displays
Android has it, and iPhone does not. ‘Always-on’ displays can have implications on the battery lives of devices – but on the OLED displays of iPhone X and its successors in 2018 – not much battery juice will be consumed for lighting up a small section of the screen (battery used in OLED depends only on the number of lighted pixels). While more elaborate updates can wait till 2019, the iOS 12 update can bring an ‘always on’ screen with the clock (multiple designs), calendar, a summary of new notifications, and (perhaps) some of the home screen widgets. The display needs to be customizable – and going forward, Apple should provide a new API to facilitate developer access to this screen. Reduced colors and the dark background will make sure that there is no excess battery drain.
Note: The last couple of iOS updates have made improvements to iPhone notifications – but there are still scopes for further streamlining. Apart from customized notification grouping, people should also have the option of ignoring do-not-disturb (DND) settings.
12. Improvements in the Files system
The Files app in iOS 11 is promising, but not much more than that. It does not quite function like a dedicated mobile file manager/file explorer yet – and that’s something that the upcoming platform update can address. Putting it differently, the software should be overhauled in such a way that, people are able to check out all the documents stored locally on their iDevices at one go. With more and more media content being stored on iCloud worldwide, storage is also an issue (Apple currently offers 5GB free storage, which often turns out to be inadequate). If iOS 12 allows users to purchase additional iCloud storage space without that being added on to the personal storage limits, things will become a lot easier. Google offers similar features (photos on Google Pixel), and upgraded iPhones/iPads can do the same.
Four new animojis have been added to the iOS 11.3 (it is, rather curiously, been made available only on the sixth-gen iPad). In iOS 12, app developers would love to be able to create and register custom animojis (with a separate Animoji API). Parental controls need to be improved, a user should be able to mark Messages as ‘unread’, a double-tap feature to put devices to sleep can be included, and there is need for a greater sync between timers and alarms (the way they are set and displayed). Phil Schiller might have referred to the iPad (more specifically, the iPad Pro) as the ‘ultimate PC replacement’ – but until it gets multi-user support and seamless user-switching features, its popularity will remain limited. It also remains to be seen what (if anything) iOS 12 does for Apple Music – given that it is still well behind Spotify, in terms of global subscribers (38 million vs 70 million).
iOS 12 (codenamed ‘Peace’) will be announced at this year’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2018 has been scheduled from the 4th to the 8th of June), along with tvOS 12, macOS 10.14 and watchOS 5. Given the early troubles iOS 11 ran into, Apple is expected to focus on strengthening the security, reliability and performance levels in the new version – instead of going for big feature additions. Even so, iOS 12 will have more than its fair share of interesting new stuff – and we’ll have to wait and see how many of the features listed above actually makes the cut.