Apple is expected to start outlining key details of its next mobile operating system, iOS 11, at its annual developer conference coming up in June. Until then, here is our (very reasonable) wish list for the improvements we'd like to see in the new OS.
Voicemail transcription out of beta
Apple rolled out voicemail transcription with iOS 10 and the feature has been labeled beta ever since. It seems like a minor addition considering the endless capabilities of our smartphones, but it's one that we appreciated immediately.
It's convenient to see the content of a voicemail at a glance, as it often takes longer to listen to an entire message than to skip to the relevant parts. Apart from increased accuracy, the beta feature works well enough that we see little room for initial improvement.
Siri was the first eponymous virtual assistant to hit our smartphones, but since then similar and competing technologies like Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant have eclipsed Siri in function.
Siri could be improved in any number of ways, but high on our wish list is better app integration. As of now, Siri can't follow simple commands like "Post to Instagram" nor can it understand the context of your current apps and activities. Considering the competition, Siri shouldn't just be a hands-free way to control your phone. It should also be able to make performing certain tasks with voice control easier than could be done manually.
We also wish for an option for Siri to default to Google search results instead of Bing's, but, given Apple's and Google's contentious history, we won't hold our breath for that. Right now, you have to include the word "Google" in your voice command to get those results.
Compelling uses for 3D Touch
Apple introduced 3D Touch, its pressure-sensitive touchscreen technology, in the iPhone 6S. In 3D Touch-equipped devices, you can navigate differently based on how long and hard you press the display. For example, if you hold lightly on an app icon, it prompts the shaking-icon delete screen, but if you deep press an app icon, an app-specific contextual menu launches.
There is lots of potential for 3D Touch, but we've yet to see it really come to fruition. iOS 10 introduced a greater number of deep-press shortcuts, but not many that significantly enhance the experience.
So far, one of our favorite applications of 3D Touch is found in Velapp, a video app that creates a highlight reel based on your pressing action during recording. Apple could take a cue and integrate similar conveniences into its camera.
Another idea: 3D Touch could also allow you to navigate with one finger in circumstances where you would normally need two. For example, it some instances it might be convenient to to deep press to zoom in and out on an image instead of being limited to the current pinching action. We hope Apple takes the convenience of one-handed operation into account when expanding uses for 3D Touch.
A strong cue from Google Photos
Google Photos has a number of perks that Apple's Photos app lacks. Our favorites? Unlimited cloud storage for photos under 16 MP, smart content detection so you can search by keyword whether you've entered descriptors for your photos or not and built-in ways to create easily exportable animations.
We think it's unlikely that Apple will cut its users a break on cloud storage, but it would be convenient if iOS rolled out with enhanced keyword organization options in Photos. iOS 10 introduced some searchability (you can search Photos for auto-generated categories like "dog' and "mountains") but we'd like to see a greater number of supported smart categories and the ability to manually enter a searchable description. At this point, many users have had iOS devices for several years and that means thousands of photos accumulated over time.
We'd also like to see a way to easily export Live Photos as GIFs or video. There are third-party apps that do this, but there should be a native way to share Live Photos with non-iOS users. Even better, we would also appreciate built-in ways to create animations and collages directly from the camera roll.
Apart from adding the ability to make voice calls, Apple hasn't changed much about FaceTime since it first appeared with the iPhone 4. FaceTime allows one-on-one video calling between users, but group calling support would make it more enticing.
Not only would this allow more scattered friends and family to have face-to-face conversations, it would also make FaceTime hold up better against competitors like Skype and Google Hangouts.
A few unsubstantiated rumors suggest that group FaceTime is in fact arriving on iOS 11, but we'll have to wait and see.
Customizable Control Center
The Control Center is the gray panel that appears when you swipe upwards from the bottom of the display on your iPhone or iPad. It contains shortcuts to common tools like the flashlight and camera; iOS 10 expanded it so that if you swipe right, there's a second page with music controls.
It's a convenient feature, but there's no way to personalize the Control Center to better serve your specific needs. For example, if you don't have an Apple TV, there's no need for the permanent AirPlay mirroring button. It would be great if users could choose a different tool or shortcut to take up that real estate. Given Apple's historical preference for prescription over customization, though, we wouldn't hold our breath for this one.
Customizable default apps
Count this as another pipe dream, but we wish Apple would allow iOS users to choose default apps for web browsing, music playing, e-mail, etc. that are different from Apple's preinstalled stock apps.
There are slight workarounds – for example, you can delete the Mail app and install Gmail in its place – but this option isn't available for all of the iPhone's core apps, and these methods don't always play nice with other apps and system preferences.
Apple typically launches major iOS updates alongside its annual smartphone flagships, so iOS 11 should officially launch with the next-generation iPhone 8 expected later this year. It's logical to wonder if OS updates will mirror the dramatic makeover rumored to be part of the 10th-anniversary iPhone, but we will know more after the WWDC.
For more background, read up on the types of changes introduced by iOS 10.