What I Want to See in iPhone OS 4.0

Posted by Jeff Scott on January 25th, 2010

As I'm sure you've heard by now, Apple has a special event scheduled on Wednesday this week. As usual they are very cryptic on what they are announcing. Speculation seems to focus on the much rumored tablet computer and a major update to the iPhone OS.

We know one thing about the tablet, and that is that we don't know anything for sure about the tablet. Apple will only enter the market if they can do things that no one else has thought of. So come Wednesday I'm pretty sure we will see some interesting things from them.

But I want to focus on the update to the iPhone OS. I first started talking about OS 4 on my Twitter stream in November. One of the key indications of an impending major OS update is Apple not releasing new versions of the iPhone OS for a while. We haven't seen an update to 3.1 in many months, and now seems like a good time -- along with the tablet that is rumored to also run the iPhone OS.

Let me say that I use my iPhone a lot. My battery runs down to 10% just about every day, and that's even with it sitting connected to my computer for a couple hours every day in addition to a full charge at night. Here are the things that I'm most looking for in the OS update.

New App Launcher

First and foremost is a new application launcher. The current launcher, called Springboard, is too dated and too hard to use once you have more than a few apps installed. Have 180 apps installed on your phone -- trying to find a single one can be impossible. Apple made a stop-gap change by adding spotlight search in 3.0, but who wants to search for each app they launch?

We're expecting a new way to navigate apps -- something very original. Something that will work on both the tablet and the iPhone. Perhaps voice control will be expanded to launch apps, but then again, I can't see people walking down the street saying "Launch Fart Machine" - or maybe I can.

Open up the OS special features

Apple is generally opposed to allowing people to change their phone look and layout at will (think phone themes), due to the reduced usability. There are many things they can allow developers to do that will maintain the usability but increase functionality and customization options.

[caption id="attachment_25762" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Possible lock screen implementation"]

[/caption]Allow developers access to the lock screen. This screen which usually sits blank except for a background image is a great quick reference screen on many devices. Allow developers to publish data to it in a structured way. Think appointment details, stock ticker, weather, sports, etc.

Extend Spotlight search to allow search inside app data. This would be a fairly simple change. It may require the developer to structure their data in a certain way, but it would be a simple extension to the database functions to specify what data fields Spotlight should search. The only issue here is security -- this is something the developer would need to be careful with.

Extend sync functions to third party apps. Yet another simple function. While Apple doesn't need to provide a way to third party applications to sync, they just need to provide a way to kick off the sync. This could be as simple as launching an app on the phone (preferably in the background), and on the desktop and sending a signal that the phone is connected. Let the programs handle what and how to sync.

Notification manager needed desperately. Currently you are limited to viewing the last notification you get. Be that calendar, SMS, phone, voicemail, or any app that utilized the notification service. The more apps that use notifications the more notifications you miss. There needs to be some sort of a central location that notifications are queued awaiting reading so that we don't miss as many as we currently do.

Extend voice control. Allow third party programs to integrate with it. Voice control right now is a rather underutilized feature - this would make it much more useful.

Status icon changes. If you notice the calendar icon on the phone, it changes based on the date. Very useful. Why can't every app do that? Think of the app icons as mini widgets. Weather shows the real current condition. Stock portfolio app shows if you are up / down. Easy, quick, and useful. Not to mention a unique feature for the iPhone.

Bigger Changes

Wireless sync. It's about time we ditched the sync cable. Why can't we sync over Bluetooth or Wifi?

Background Apps. Apple gave a bad excuse last year -- as a matter of fact it was the same excuse they gave for not supporting 3G originally -- decreased battery life. The truth was, I believe, they were just still working out the best way to support background apps without risking the overall user experience of the device. If you've ever used a Windows Mobile phone you know what I'm talking about. Background apps on that device is just clunky. And Apple wants to stay away from having any sort of a running process monitor. I think they've figured it out and we are going to see it in OS 4.0. Perhaps only for the 3GS and later devices though. The 3G and older have way too little RAM to really support multiple running applications.

I know one thing -- I'll be watching attentively on Wednesday to see what Apple does announce. If you'd like to follow an analysis by some iPhone bloggers as we roundtable the announcements, head on over to Friendfeed and join us on Wednesday.

Agree with me? Hate my ideas? What do you want to see in the next iPhone OS? Leave your comments below.

Posted in: News, Rumors
Tagged With: Iphone os 4, Os 4, Apple event
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