WWDC 2017: Apple's mobile OS is in need of an overhaul, here's what we want to see in iOS 11

WWDC is just around the corner and an iOS overhaul is in the offing, which could mean a design overhaul. Here's our wishlist for iOS 11.


Every year WWDC comes and then WWDC goes, what always remains of the event, which, surprisingly, interests the common consumer (apart from developers) is updates to iOS, Apple's much-loved mobile operating system.

But not every year sees a complete milestone update. A complete shift from the old to something brand new. Clearly, there are reasons for this, because you cannot keep changing UX of an OS or else one would end up like Windows 10 Mobile (not a good spot to be at).

With iOS 11, many are expecting bigger changes this year and there are two main reasons for this.

No matter how simplified iOS and its icon based menus are, things need to change. With the introduction of 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s, the company added a new layer of software interaction, by adding features like peek and pop, widgets and more, all of which respond to a slightly harder press on your iPhone's display. But there needs to be more. iOS has gradually turned into a mess. There's the Today Screen that nobody really uses and then there's the Control Center that one cannot customise. Apple needs to step out of this rigid "control freak" mindset and  open up its OS to some user customisations (in the right places). In short, Apple is in desperate need of a UI overhaul. But I think it also needs new design language, hints of which we have been seeing in some of its recently updated apps like Apple Music, with big bold fonts all over the place. Even though it kind of reminds me of Microsoft Metro UI, it's refreshing and makes the rest of the apps look a bit stale.

WWDC 2017: Apples mobile OS is in need of an overhaul, heres what we want to see in iOS 11

Image: iDrop News

Secondly, there's the upcoming iPhone X or the iPhone 8. From what we know about it, thanks to the rumours and leaks, it will arrive with a full face display, taking up the entire front face of the device. From artist renders, there will be room at the bottom for what many would call a permanent control center that will change and adapt, much like the Touch Bar on your MacBook Pro. With all of that extra room at the bottom of the display, we could expect Apple to add some additional functionality at the bottom, forcing iOS to change and adding new features to both native and third-party iOS apps.

Indeed, developers will have better knowledge about this once they go through the new SDKs for iOS 11. But for now, here's our wishlist for iOS 11:

Design

While iOS 7 did not get rid of Steve Jobs' skeuomorphism entirely, Apple is looking in another direction for its design. This is visible in the Apple Music app, which recently witnessed an overhaul. There are bold fonts, some of them extra large (by iOS standards), which remind me of Windows Phone's Metro UI, the now dead operating system by Microsoft. The Modern UI, as Microsoft later called it, made the apps look like a magazine, with information laid out in grids (not cards, like Google) and every section being highlighted with big, bold fonts as the header. It worked well on larger displays and with the next page peeking out from the right, it also gave you a good idea of where you need to swipe to see more of what you want.

iOS 11 Wishlist

If you look closely at the Apple Music app, the Maps app, and the My Home app, you will see these bold fonts used all over the place. Indeed this could come across to the rest of the overhauled native apps and even for third-party developers to use as a new design philosophy. It may not be a complete overhaul of iOS's icon-happy UX but it still is refreshing in a subtle way, which is the way Apple fans are used to seeing change.

Animated Icons

While 3D Touch and widgets gave developers the ability to deliver information within an app in a glance, I think that animated icons could be the next step. While I would agree that an app or service's identity on your iPhone (or iPad) depends on its icon, it would make a bit of sense to breathe some life into them by giving developers the ability to animate them. As of now only the Calendar app and the Clock app have animated icons.

The Settings app for example, could spin its gears when an update is being downloaded. The Apple Music App could simply animate the beamed note icon when music is being played, just to show that there is some activity going on what otherwise appears to be a dead cold interface. Third-party apps like Zomato, for example, could showcase different icons indicating the status of the order that has just been placed. Animated icons, in short, could bring iOS back to life, no matter how subtle they may be.

Today Screen and Customisable Notifications Center

One of my pet peeves with iOS is the Control Centre. If there's one area of the interface that needs where Apple needs to loosen up, it would have to be here. While the first implementation without 3D Touch saw little use, the new and updated version with iOS 10 added some additional functionality, but not a lot. the new media control window is also hit or miss depending on your preference.

Another issue I have is with the Today Screen, which I think is practically useless. Upon asking the rest of team here, I came to the conclusion that most of us get there only by mistake. It needs changing.

iOS 10 3D Touch 2

The current Control Center layout is a blatant waste of space.

Our picky wishlist includes an idea for a new Controls Center that will basically get rid of the side swipe to the media controls and have the today screen integrated there. Basically it would be an area where you would be able to add or remove widgets. Need Wi-Fi? Just hit edit and add the button. Need music controls? Hit "Edit" add the controls widget. Need to see what's on your calendar? Just add the calendar widget. All of it will be available with a simple scroll right there in the Control Center. Basically, it's a Control Center with an emphasis on the word "control".

Also adding 3D Touch to those toggles should have been a given. Why do I need to open the Settings app to switch Wi-Fi networks?

Default app selection

If you take one long, hard look at your iOS home screen and the icons on the first page, you will notice that you've installed replacements for most of the default apps, which likely wallow untouched in some nameless folder. Microsoft's Outlook or Gmail replaces the default Mail client, you might be using Evernote instead of mail, a better calendar app, etc. There are options, but not the way I want them.

While iOS gives third-party apps the ability to plug into the default ones, it still does not let you select a third-party app as a default. Want to use the Truecaller dialer app instead of iOS's very own? Not possible. Desperate to use Google Maps instead of Apple's useless Maps app (sans navigation and directions) in India as your default app for navigation? No can do! While Apple refuses to let go of its defaults out of fear that these will be replaced by Google's Services, its own native apps are lacking and don't work so well with third-party apps in many cases. Apple needs to come out of its shell and open up. A move like this could also draw in some Android fans. Clearly, it all boils down to opening up a few options, and the ability to choose a default app is a vital one.

GIF keyboard?

I love the default keyboard on iOS, I think it's smarter than the rest, contextual, and works brilliantly with every app (unlike some third-party keyboards). My only problem? Well, it does not support GIFs. Like the innumerable sticker collections for iOS apps. A GIF search built into the default iOS keyboard, would be beyond compare and could probably make the iOS keyboard the greatest one ever (at least for me)!

Manual mode for the Camera app

The iOS Camera app is great. It works well with Apple's philosophy of delivering a great end product (the photograph) by leaving the complications of image processing and shutter speed to the software and hardware. While Apple has opened up its Camera API to developers, we would love to see Apple's interpretation of manual operation, by delivering a pro mode or a manual mode with the default camera app. Apple has already included a Portrait mode and X1 optical zoom, but it would be great to see some manual controls show up with iOS 11. For example,why can't I manually adjust white balance if I want to?

Control over data

With data getting cheaper out here in India, it makes sense for Apple to unlock its 100 MB cap for downloading apps in the App Store. Alongside this, it would be great if Apple could also let us download movies over a data connection from the iTunes Store. The current process is pretty tedious as users to tether a phone to a Mac, download using iTunes, and then transfer it to mobile device, which is lame and inconvenient for 2017. Again, this is 2017 and telecom providers are falling over themselves to give us free data. Why can't we use it as we see fit?

With Apple's Music video programming on the horizon, we can expect to see these download limitations go away pretty soon.

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