Dear Santa Jobs: All We Want for iPhone 4.0 is...
Don't get us wrong, you revolutionized a lazy, arrogant smartphone industry with your UI in 2007, shook up mobile app delivery with your store in 2008, and re-defined the "budget" $99 price point in 2009, all the while pushing software updates and evolving hardware that forced your competitors to catch up or re-invent themselves completely. But if the merry little elves of the Round Robin have shown us anything, it's that catch up they have. And more than that, even though we got stockings chock full of iPhone 3.0 cut-and-paste, stereo Bluetooth, MMS, and other goodies last year, there's still some minor little things we'd love you to resolve in 2010.
(And yes, we're aware almost all of these suggestions are straight out of Cydia and already available for Jailbroken iPhones. That's not coal worthy, it's a holiday miracle!)
Comfy? Good, because here's the naughty and nice of it...
You worry about us, we get that. You don't want to bother us with nasty little task managers like Windows Phone, or no helplessness in the face of crash dialogs like Android. But Palm webOS took a play from your own MobileSafari Pages and showed that background app managements can be handled elegantly. Sure, they have issues with lag, but they can choose to open or close their cards, and we'd like our iPhones to give us that option as well. Heck (can we say heck to Santa?), ProSwitcher and Backgrounder have done it for you on Jailbreak.
Limit it if you're really worried. 8 Safari pages are it, maybe 2-4 background apps are more than enough for most people, especially as the iPhone 3GS is 2x as fast, and presumably the 4th generation iPhone will be yet more capable still. Push Notification is working great for many things, multitasking Pages would fill that final gap.
Speaking of Push Notifications. Gifting us with that service in 3.0 was right jolly indeed. Binding it up in old-school 1.x model dialogs was pure bah, humbug. Why force us to deal with something immediately or lose it forever, and why have a new notification obliterate one that came in half a second earlier? Android hinted at how to handle this better in 2008 and Palm upped the ante in 2009. They both queue notifications without locking up the system, and both let you go back and see what you've been notified about later. You've got them, you've got Apps like Boxcar that place notifications into a list view, and you've got several Jailbreak options, including GriP that's similar to Mac OS X's Growl (which we're still not certain why you haven't bought out and integrated yourselves).
Full on Android or webOS-style services would be fantastic, but at this point we'd even settle for a Notifications App that we could go to and see all our alerts, like our missed phone calls, stored and ready for access when we want to access them.
Widget-ized Lock/Home Screen
All our friends over on Nokia and HTC (that's who's basically taking over Windows Phone and Android) all got these things called Widgets now, which we really thought we'd have gotten too, given you're the same Santa Jobs who gave us Dashboard and Dashcode. But those Widgets are Apps on our iPhone, like Weather and Stocks, and instead of being glance-able they're only launch-able.
And see, we've got this lovely large screen here that when it's locked just stares at us anemically with the time and date and nothing else but boring, static wallpaper. Look at that lovelier, larger HTC HD2 screen and its animated weather. Look at the Nokia N97 (or even MotoBlur, if you can without turning to stone) and its Twitter and Facebook status bites. We know you could give us this too. You have the technology. And yes, Jailbreak has been doing this for a while as well. (Our friend James basically Jailbroke the equivalent of Sense UI onto his iPhone. Don't give him coal!)
You could also do it with a Home Screen or several. We can already swipe left to get to Spotlight. Make widgets the default screen and let us swipe right to get to all the apps. It's do-able. Do it.
Instant Access to Settings
The iPhone is wonderful for multi-touch. Everywhere except for the bar across the top. Sure, we can tap on it to scroll all the way up (and wonder why there's no equivalent to scroll all the way down), but when we tap on the 3G or WiFi icon, we get nothing. Zero. Zilch. Certainly not a quick and easy way to toggle Airplane Mode, WiFi or Bluetooth on and off, or anything else. Palm webOS does have that. SBSettings for Jailbreak too. We bet you could figure it out. We'd bet milk and cookies on it!
To be honest with you, theming is not really our thing, but what's even less our thing is theming not being available for those who for whom theming is their thing. (And they shouldn't have to resort to WinterBoard or put up with obtuse Verizon commercials either).
Maybe the mere thought that someone outside Apple might change the "look" of your beautiful dock, but de-harshen that mellow. Let it go. Figure out some awesome theming system, elegantly package it and make it ready for developers to sell in packs on the App Store for the 30/70 split good of all.
Pull Down to Refresh
With Tweetie 2, that Spirit of UI Future that is Atebits introduced a "pull down to refresh" action that's just so intuitive we end up trying to do it in Mail, in Safari, in every application that pulls and presents net-based content. And it doesn't work. Fix that, would you?
Right now most apps implement a soft "back" button, but it's not consistent across all apps and it's not that intuitive. Other platforms have a hardware "back" button. We know you probably think the iPhone has too many of those already, and we don't want another one anyway. Still, you could better use the one "home" button you have. Holding it down activates Voice Over on the 3GS and Triple-tap can turn on Accessibility. Those are fantastic services for iPhone users who need them. For those who don't, how about letting us customize what those controls do? For example, let us click "home" to go back, and double-click to go to the Home Screen SpringBoard proper. Or hold down. Whatever. You're Apple, you can figure out how to give us "back".
Palm even has a "back" gesture below the screen. Gesture areas are the new black (slab). They stole your rubber-banding. Steal their gesture area. We'd be fine with that. You could use it right-to-left for "back", left-to-right for "forward" (hey, doesn't the Magic Mouse do something like that already?), and maybe down-to-up for that notification service we asked for earlier?
It took you until 3.0 to give us pervasive landscape mode, and we're grateful, really, even when we lie down to read and the screen flips back and forth like it's dancing to Randy Newman. Actually, not really then. Then we really wish you'd stick a little toggle in preferences that let us lock the keyboard to portrait or landscape more. Sure it's not dynamic. If that's your concern though, think up a gesture for it. We'll wait, honest. Even until 4.0.
Turn off Alerts
Last year the neighbor boy, CrackBerry Kevin asked you to let him turn off incoming email alerts while he was talking on his seldom-charged iPhone. You gave him coal instead and fair enough. This year, what with Push Notifications and everything, it's gone from beep and buzz to worse. Now we can't even hang up before dealing with dialogs.
Okay, we're trying to sneak that in again, but you must be disassembling Droids and Nexus Ones and HD2s in the dungeons of Cupertino, so we know that you know that we want something BIG, something iPhone HD-esque next June/July. Sure, that's way after Christmas, but we'll wait. Promise.
Check it Twice
Okay Santa Jobs, that's it for our list, but we've brought all these TiPb readers with us and they might just have a demandment or ten of their own to hit you up for on the holidays. It could include Google Latitude baked into the Maps app, podcast subscriptions, those nifty iTunes LP and iTunes Extras Apple TV keeps talking about, real, honest-to-Rudolph push Gmail via IMAP IDLE, 720p (or 1080p) video out, working AVRCP for our little Bluetooth stereos, Lala streaming iTunes, and Chad still has a huge list that just says Mobile iChat over and over and over again!
If there's anything we missed, or anything we didn't ask for strongly enough, we're sure they'll sort you out.