Will iOS 9 be announced this June, at the Apple WWDC event? Will we have to wait a few more weeks for the official announcement? We will soon know the answers – and in the meanwhile, here’s a wishlist of the improvements and new features that the upcoming version of the Apple mobile platform should have.
It has been nearly a couple of weeks since Apple seeded the 3rd beta of iOS 8.4 to developers. Rumors are rife regarding when it would finally be launched – with many mobile software and app developers predicting a late-June release (i.e., a week or two after WWDC 2015). It would be the final iteration of the iOS 8 platform before the Cupertino tech giant announces the already eagerly-anticipated iOS 9 update. Here are some likely (and some not-so-likely) features that iOS 9 will come with:
- An improved Siri – As many as 24 dictation languages were added to Apple’s much-loved virtual mobile assistant in iOS 8. However, it still does not provide an intuitive experience to end-users (something that Siri’s main rival, Google Now, does). On the new version of the platform, it would be great if Apple lets Siri interact with other pre-installed iPhone applications, as well as ‘remember’ the previous questions that it had been asked. At present Siri is little more than a ‘I-ask-you-answer’ app, and Apple needs to make it smarter.
- Improvements in Apple Maps – This has really been a long time coming. iPhone app developers do agree that Maps have come a long way since the shoddy iOS 6-days, but even so, it is far behind in terms of accuracy and overall usefulness than Google Maps. With iPhone 6 having a built-in altitude barometer, it would only make sense if Apple includes indoor map functionality in the Maps app. In addition, presence of a reliable public transportation/navigation feature would be nice.
- Split-screen multitasking – With iOS 9 rumored to be available for the latest iPad, iPad Mini and iPad Air models, split screens for multitasking would be a great addition. Users will be able to work on multiple iPad apps simultaneously, instead of having to close one (letting it run in the background would drain the battery) before launching another. Since the new flagship iPhones have larger screens (will iPhone 6S be larger than iPhone 6?), the option of using multiple screens would be handy for smartphone-users too.
- Guest Mode & Night Mode – Android Lollipop has the Guest Mode feature, and the upcoming iOS version should have it too. This will ease security concerns of users, when someone else requests to use their iDevices. Presence of a Guest Mode would be useful for parents who let their little ones use iPhone apps for kids (the children can log in as ‘Guest’). A Night Mode option, which will enable people to make their iPhone screens relatively less bright, would be an interesting addition as well. It’s all about making mobile platforms customizable – and iOS 9 should build on the work Apple started with its predecessor.
- Opening NFC technology to developers – All the devices that iOS 9 will be downloadable on – iPhone 6/6 Plus, Apple Watch, the iPhone 6S (which should be the handset iOS 9 debuts on) – will have NFC (near-field communications support). iPhone app developers would simply love to have access to this technology – and create apps that use NFC to provide better, secure and more personalized services (primarily, mobile payments) to users. The overall NFC-usage rates should also witness a spike if this happens.
- More organized ‘Settings’ Menu – A common complaint among iPhone users as well as professionals from mobile app companies is that the ‘Settings’ menu of iOS devices can become rather cluttered over time. Searching for something (say, an app or a music file) can be tricky, particularly if the user does not know where it is located/saved. The ‘Settings’ in OS X systems has a dedicated search box, which does away with such potential problems. It’s high time Apple brought that similar smart, organized feel to the ‘Settings’ of its mobile platform.
- More usable third-party keyboard apps – iOS developers and users alike jumped at the news that Apple was finally allowing the installation of third-party keyboard apps from the App Store – on iOS 8 devices. However, the usability and performance of these keyboards have left much to be desired. As of now, external keyboards cannot be integrated with the dictation functionalities of Siri. Neither can they access the auto-correct dictionary of the devices, or display menus to move over to another keyboard. People who have upgraded their handsets to iOS 8.3 have reported a ‘keyboard bug’ as well. iOS 9 would, hopefully, make external keyboard applications more usable, reliable and actually worth it. They have a gimmicky feel at present.
- No storage space crunch, please! – When Apple hyped up iOS 8 as the ‘biggest iOS release’, few had imagined that the bigness would be most evident in terms of its memory requirements. Over 23% of the default storage space of devices was taken up by the initial iOS 8 release (Apple ended up facing a Class Action lawsuit for this) – something that the disastrous iOS 8.1.3 upgrade failed to fix. We can only hope that iOS 9 would not pose similar problems, and users will not have to delete content (apps, games, music, etc.) to free up space before installing the new version of the platform. And while we are at it, can Apple please give people the option to hide some of the pre-installed apps? Many of them are hardly ever used, but are still present on the home screen.
- A boost for iTunes – Of late, both the content as well as the features of iTunes have come under a bit of flak. The new 12.1.2 update has not been universally well-received either. Since iOS 8.4 will already have a focus on music-playing features (the effects of the Apple-Beats deal will finally show), mobile app development experts are expecting the iTunes store to get more user-friendly too, with the release of iOS 9. Qualitatively as well, the iPhone music apps should become better. Apple might well spring a surprise on us all by including an AM/FM Radio application in the upcoming platform release. That would be nice!
- Wallpapers with animations – Apple Watch has loads of animated wallpapers and ‘faces’ – and Tim Cook and his team should seriously think about making the iPhone screens similarly engaging. At present, the wallpaper animation options on the Apple smartphones are, at best, limited. A wider range of animations will lend a more personalized, interactive feel to the phone wallpapers – something that iOS device-users have long been craving for. A few additional themes and a more streamlined layout of the home screen won’t be out of place either.
- Third-party access to Siri API – For professional iPhone app developers, the inability to access the APIs of Siri – which arrived way back with iOS 5 – has been rather frustrating. However, Apple has been showing signs of opening up its ecosystem (iOS 8 was indeed a big step in that direction), and it won’t be a big surprise if third-party developers finally get to include Siri-functionalities in their apps for iOS 9 devices. The virtual assistant would become more useful, and the iOS developer ecosystem would become that much stronger.
- Option to listen to audio without watching visuals – If you want to listen to the music of a video file (yep, only listen)…sorry, you can’t do that on iPhones, at least till now. The corresponding video file also has to be played (the best you can do is keep it in the background) – and that tends to cause unnecessary battery drain. On iOS 9, we would like to see Apple giving users the option to listen to audio files without HAVING to watch the video as well. It’s all about giving more options to people.
- More customized Control Center – One of the high points of the iOS 7 release was the Control Center. Simple swipe gestures are required to perform a whole lot of tasks – right from launching the flashlight and starting music, to adjusting the screen brightness of handsets. On iOS 9, Apple has the opportunity to make Control Center even more useful. There are way too many control tabs and buttons in the Settings app, and it would be convenient for users if they could decide which ones among them they would like to have in the Control Center (i.e., dropped off there). Things would become less confusing.
- Passcode protection for all apps – Most iPhone app developers do not bother adding passcode screens and/or Touch ID support in their applications (unfortunately, this is true even for mobile finance apps). This, in turn, leads to security threats – whenever a user lends his/her phone to another person for use. While it is not that likely to happen, there is an outside chance of iOS 9 providing Passcode Lock option for every individual app. Anyone who does know the unique PIN number of your apps will not be able to use them. This, along with the Guest Mode (if it indeed arrives), would make Apple devices more secure.
- A Battery Saver Mode – This won’t dramatically increase the battery life of iPhones and iPads – but at least people would be able to monitor the battery consumption of each app, and delete any application(s) that is sucking up too much of battery. The Battery Saver Mode would also allow them to get just that extra bit of battery juice that is so often required (for instance, making that one call to home, to inform that you will be late). Android 5.0 Lollipop already has a Battery Saver Mode, and Apple iOS 9 should have it too.
- More stable widgets and extensions – Handling high-memory tasks with extensions is often problematic on iPhone 6/6 Plus as well as iPad Air 2. The frequency of screen freezes and crashes is disturbingly high (the overall crash rate of iOS 8 is slightly higher than that of iOS 7, and disturbingly, a touch higher than the crash rate of the otherwise poorly-adopted Android Lollipop too). Apple has already announced that the iOS 9 platform would be more focused on adding stability and fixing performance issues (instead of focusing on new features) – and making the widgets & extensions more efficient surely features in the company’s plans.
In addition to the above, iPhone app development experts are expecting that iOS 9 would bring landscape view support for iPhone 6 (a la iPhone 6 Plus). To bolster the security factor, there should be an option for users to merge several Apple IDs into a single ID (for all types of transactions). It is not yet certain what the backward compatibility of iOS 9 would be (the lackluster iPhone 5C might be phased out) – however, Apple needs to keep an eye on the speed of the new platform on the older devices. iOS 9 (which bears the codename ‘Monarch’) might even be announced during this year’s WWDC – and all eyes will be on the new improvements, bug fixes, stability quotient and performance level of the platform. iPhone 6S and iPhone 7 are both rumored to release in 2015, and iOS 9 would probably debut on these two new devices.
How many of these features do you expect to see in iOS 9?
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