WWDC 2020, Apple's annual World Wide Developers Conference, is less than two weeks away. That means our first look at iOS 14, Apple's next-generation operating system for the iPhone, is also less than two weeks away.
There have already been some reports about just what exactly we might see this year but I think, after the pain of iOS 13 last year, there are also a few things we need to see this year.
I've been asking for always-on Lock screen complications for years. For the very same reasons complications are so informative and actionable, glanceable and tappable, on the Apple Watch. Maybe Apple's waiting on adaptive refresh rates on future iPhone hardware to offer that power-efficiently, though.
Something else I've been asking for for a long time is a GuestBoard. Something in between the locked down PreBoard and open SpringBoard that would let you lend your phone to a person in distress to make a call or look something up on the web without also giving them access to your personal data.
I know every convenience is a hole in security, which is why we see so many Lock screen bypasses already, but the option to turn GuestBoard on would be nice to have.
For the Home Screen, there are reports we'll get a list view like the Apple Watch got a while ago. Also, the ability to set default apps has been rumored, so I don't have to spend time advocating for them either. All I'll add is that if Apple has to compete for users on an app-by-app basis, that'll result in better Apple apps for everyone. Including Apple.
When Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone, the phone part got fully one third of the billing, alongside wide-screen iPod and internet communicator. Back then, for most of us, the phone was the most important part and Apple had to make sure there was absolutely no way, no matter what else we were doing, that we'd ever miss a call.
Now, for many of us, the phone is just another app and we need a way to set phone call notifications to stop taking over the screen and simply become a notification like any other app.
Also, while we've gotten FaceTime group calls now, we still don't have FaceTime call recording — with broadcast notification and consent, of course — and most importantly for those of us stuck at home with family now equally stuck far away — FaceTime screen sharing like on the Mac.
Photos & Camera
Apple has made huge strides forward when it comes to computer vision and machine-learned saliency. Editing features for both stills and videos, at a basic level, are powerful and almost complete.
One of the biggest things lacking is anonymization. That is to say, the ability to quickly and easily blur or block out the faces of people at risk, or children that shouldn't be shared, even license-plate numbers. Apple already has face detection. They need to provide face protection for situations that demand it.
Also, the ability to use technologies like Smart HDR on the cameras that support it to do Smart Zoom for when we do need to capture better, cleaner, more color-accurate details.
It would also be great to be able to lock and hide albums, even entire apps, and unlock and reveal them with the Touch ID and Face ID system. Not all clunky like notes, but simply and elegantly like the authentication API already allows for password manager, banking apps, and the like.
Lastly, I'd love to see the full-on augmented reality camera app that's been rumored for years but I'm guessing that's waiting on LiDAR on the iPhone 12.
I know a lot of people want task management features built into Mail, like snooze, or more machine learning to separate signal from noise. And that's fine.
What I really want is a recognition that Mail is only one of many modes of modern communication and that VIP should move beyond this one single app and become a system-wide, contact level service so that it can be used to fine-tune notifications for… everything.
I mean, Email VIPs sync and Phone Favorites don't and why are they separate and what is even going on?
If I don't want to miss my mom or my bosses or my coaches email, I sure as hell don't want to miss their iMessages or Slacks or Zooms, or anything else.
We've been able to set contact apps or a while now, we should be able to set notification and organization priorities within them as well.
It's 2020 and you still can't set multiple timers on iOS. Why does Apple not want me to be able to time my pizza and my cookies? This just feels like old technical debt that desperately needs to be paid down.
Apple has been steadily improving Maps for the last year, though primarily in the U.S. We just need those better maps to keep propagating internationally, especially the crowd-sourced traffic data so people have the choice to not hand their locations over to Waze if they don't want to.
I'd also love a CarPlay mode. People buy phones far more often than cars. Instead of locking iOS down in car mode, take a page out of Google's playbook and offer the CarPlay experience on-board instead. That way everyone gets the functionality even if they can't afford a new car yet.
The other big thing is augmented reality maps. Where you don't just see directions but you see them super imposed over the real world. That might also be waiting on LiDAR and the iPhone 12. But we'll need it for glasses, so the sooner the beta the better.
A little while back, Apple bought Dark Sky, so I'm guess that means better hyper-local weather for everyone eventually — and hopefully internationally.
I'd love — uppercase Love — the ability to set Notes to plaintext. Just let me paste in a link as a URL when I want and need to.
Also, top and bottom apps like there are side by side apps on the iPad. Sometimes I just need to take notes while I'm watching or reading something and not being able to do it at all is way more frustrating than just having to do it on a smaller, squarer app window.
It tells you a lot when Apple can launch Music and TV in over 100 countries on day one but, years and years later, News is still in less than a handful.
Well, it tells me Apple should at the very least let all of us add any RSS feed we want to into the News experience. Also, slap down a proper search tab so we can find any article at any time. And, integrate with Safari so anything we save to read later can be quickly and easily pulled up in the News as well.
That one's been on my list since launch as well.
If I do a YouTube video on WWDC, while you're watching my video, you'll see MKBHD and iJustine and a bunch of other videos from creators you maybe never heard from before in the sidebar. That's what makes YouTube so powerful as a discovery engine.
If I do a podcast on WWDC, while you're listening, all you'll see is a list of my previous podcasts. I'd love it if Apple took a page from Google's playbook here as well and showed me Gruber's WWDC podcast, Viticci's, Rocket's, and a bunch of similarly focused episodes from new creators I could discover.
Basically, not just artist pages based on shows, but dynamic, topical pages based on episodes.
TV & Music
Apple introduced Continuity and Hand Off in iOS 8 back in 2014. It's 2020 now and we still don't have real Continuity and Hand Off for media.
You can use your iPhone to enter search and passwords on Apple TV, or tap music to your HomePod, but what Hollywood devilry is preventing TV, and Music for that matter, from just handing off like every other app on the platform?
If I'm watching or listening to something on any other device and I leave, it should handoff to my iPhone so I can take it with me. When I come home, I should be able to push it off so I can watch or listen bigger and better.
It should… just work.
So should picture and picture. I know the screen is cramped compared to the iPad but, if I want to watch something while taking notes or looking up something on the web, I'd rather do it cramped than not be able to do it at all.
And yeah, I know, I know, even if Apple adds it, YouTube probably won't support it, but then we can all just yell at YouTube.
Right now, fitness features on the iPhone are pretty much limited to showing off whatever you've accomplished on your Apple Watch.
But, there are reports the iPhone will actually be getting fitness features of its own this year — namely, guided workouts.
Companies like Pelaton have made a fortune offering services like this, so it makes sense Apple would want to expand into the market.
And I for one can't wait to hear Apple fitness lead Jay Blanic yell out, repeatedly, "on your left…"
I get that Apple either couldn't or wouldn't coral accessory makers the way they do pretty much everyone else in the ecosystem into letting Apple control the experience, but years later and we're still paying the price for Home being fragmented across a plethora of vendor apps and NO HUE I don't want you to overwrite all my damn rooms again. Stop it!
I would so much love it if Apple would deprecate Home control from within vendor apps and move it fully, finally into the Home app, and then make it rock solid.
Let vendor apps do things like offer control for accessories that don't otherwise work with HomeKit but only Alexa or Google.
Safari will be getting an auto-translation feature, which is great for people who'd prefer not to use Google's.
Also, while, I'm not blaming Safari for this, but I am blaming the misuse and abuse of its web view offshoots: Whatever is happening with universal links, which are supposed to let you tap a YouTube or Insta URL in Twitter and go to the YouTube or Insta app or all the vices versa'd, and not be held prisoner in any of their web views, would be great.
There are a bunch of reports about Messages getting better group features, like multi-typing bubbles and @mentions, which is great. Likewise, mark as unread and messages retractions. Because who hasn't whoopsied on more than one occasion.
Many years ago, though, Apple began experimenting with peer-to-peer and relay messaging. Basically, off the net, off the grid — even if a disaster takes the net and grid down — you could still use ad-hoc Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to communicate with other people.
Given the recent advances with everything from the Find My network to COVID-19 tracking APIs, and the increasing need for people to have safe, secure, resilient and rugged ways to communicate with each other, it'd be great if Messages offered an off-line mode.
I'm going to save my Siri list for now, because I think it's big enough and important enough to warrant its own video. Hit that bell gizmo so you're alerted as soon as it goes live.
But, basically, I think SiriOS is the future and as much as Apple's silicon team has been key to their success over the last decade, their machine learning team will be just as key to the next decade.
And right now there's just no indication they've stopped fumbling that particular ball, never mind picked it up and started running.
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.