This time last year, we were coming off one of the biggest performance and stability releases in Apple's history with iOS 12. It was so stable and performant, the betas felt better than some previous shipping versions.
But, hardware like the iPhone XS and especially the iPad Pro made it clear Apple needed to amp up the functionally and fill in many of the still-missing features.
Enter iOS 13 and its offshoot, iPadOS 13, which brought a ton of exactly that functionality and those feature fills. But it came at the price of stability, resulting in a beta worse than some internal builds and a release that wasn't even a fully baked beta.
So, rather than do my usual wish list for iOS 14, I'm going to do exactly what I've asked Apple to do — make iOS 12 the new normal. Split focus between paying down the technical debt and adding a restrained amount of new features.
That means I'm going to be just as restrained in my pull list, and request only those new features and functions that I think will make a real difference this year… but without too much disruption.
And I'm going to start with the iPhone.
Last things first
My wish-list from last year included a few things we got partial support for, but nothing we got full-on Markdown asterisk finally asterisk done.
That includes lock screen complications, which like on watchOS would negate some of the need for Screen Time limits by actually giving us a screen that limits the amount of time we need to spend just getting basic data, and risking getting sidetracked into social while navigating down the productivity app stack. And, sure, a Pixel 4-style toggle to blast right through the Lock screen and get into the phone even faster if we care more about this than that.
The iPad got a kinda-sorta new home screen with an optional widget space, but not the iPhone, which has far less space and could benefit far more from a blend of static, predictable, muscle-memory tappable apps and Siri recommended apps based on triggers like behavior, time, location, and current activity. Also, the ability to put any app in any slot, even if it leaves gaps. To hide app labels if we don't need the text and want a cleaner, icon-only look, and a return of the landscape home page, with optional widgets, iPad-style.
We got Night Mode but no ThemeKit, so we can go dark or light but not moody red or yellow bright. Likewise, we got Font apps which still seem few and far between and no real system-level FontKit which I think would still be more useful to more people more of the time.
We got input variables for Siri Shortcuts, but still no persistent Siri where you can always swipe back into the Siri roll and interact with what you've already done rather than having to start anew each time with what you're about to do.
And still no multi-window and picture-in-picture multitasking for the iPhone, or the ability to secure any app with passcode or biometrics, or the ability to change default apps for the iPhone and iPad.
Like I said, iOS 13 was already over-packed to the point of bursting, but, I'm the guy who complained about the lack of a Files.app and DocumentPicker API for like 7 years until we finally started getting them.
So, while I'm absolutely going to make the case again for restraint, I'm also going to pitch some features for consideration as well.
I did a whole video on what I think is needed to prevent iOS 13-style buggy releases from hitting customers again, and I'll link it in the description, but the TL;DW is two-fold:
First, repeat iOS 12 every year. Give the best and brightest engineers, the ones that built and own the foundational frameworks, half the year to improve them, every year. Not just fix the big issues, the showstoppers, but the little ones too. The buzzkillers.
Once upon a time, iOS was a singular target. One display size. One resolution. Hell, one device. And everything rendered and animated beautifully, every time. Not a frame dropped, not a pixel imperfect.
Now, it's six to five and pick'em if text is going to overflow when state changes or layouts are going to break completely when orientation rotates. Get the pickiest people to spend some time with every size class and then give them the time to make every one of those classes shine.
Second, extend the same thing to services. iOS 13 didn't just feel buggy. In several important ways, from Siri accuracy to iCloud reliability to Machine Learning quality from autocorrect on up, it felt like a regression.
I've joked about there being one Siri server in some back closet somewhere, that's never been updated, that everyone just hits one out of twenty or fifty times, and returns some ridiculous response. But it's not that funny when it calls a florist instead of your mom or decides to rout you to a place across the continent instead of across town.
Local bugs you can kinda sorta put up with because if things go too far sideways, you figure you can just restore from the cloud. But when the cloud is bugged, you have no recourse. It shakes your faith.
Zero regression is the famous mantra of the WebKit team, but it should be proudly emblazoned across every one of Apple's engineering efforts.
Give every DRI — directly responsible individual — that half-year to improve what is before they switch to what's next, and watch them run.
Continuity and hand-off were introduced way back in iOS 8, but ever since it was introduced it's had a giant, glaring hole in it — media.
From day one you could hand off messages and mail, safari pages and… Pages pages. But not music, movies, podcasts… anything to do with media at all.
That's why proper media handoff in iOS has been on almost every one of my wishlists ever since.
Sure, yes, I know some media syncs. You can open the TV app and see what you've been watching recently and resume it with just a few clicks. Music and Podcasts, not so much. But even the TV app makes you do all the work, hunting down what you were watching and resuming it… like an animal.
You can change AirPlay sources if you want to move audio from your iPhone to Apple TV, and you can even tap to switch audio to your HomePod now. But that's all push, not pull. It doesn't cover everything true and proper hand-off would.
Go to any of your devices, see what was playing on the previous device, and with one tap or click, resume it.
Get up from your sofa, pick up your iPad, tap and continue playing whatever was on your Apple TV as you leave the living room and walk into your bedroom. Walk out, pick up your iPhone, tap, and keep continuing as you leave the house.
All third party media apps should support it as well, from Netflix to Spotify and back again.
A couple of years ago I did this big FaceTime wishlist and… a short time later we got out half of it. FaceTime and Messages integration, even FaceTime group calling.
What we didn't get, at least not yet, is FaceTime call recording. It may not sound like a big deal, but it opens the door to some super interesting functionality.
The first is call recording itself. Properly disclosed, of course. Everyone on the call has to agree to be recorded and you know you're being recorded for as long as you're being recorded. But calls with loved ones, with kids and grandparents, can be as meaningful as any photos or home videos, and right now there's just no easy way to keep them like there is photos or videos.
Second is FaceTime messages. If someone doesn't answer, you can leave a short video message for them. Sassy, sexy, snarky, salesy, whatever.
Third, is video podcasting. One-on-one, panels, the whole gamut. A high-quality recording where Apple uploads the local video and audio from all parties and makes it available as a multi-track download, and it'd basically be the best thing ever.
Also, picture in picture on iPhone. Because, damn already.
The iPhone is… a phone. And, for many people, that remains a primary function. They just can't miss a call ever not ever never. For other people, if the phone rings at all, it's rare and annoying interruption to anything and everything else they're doing.
But, currently, iOS treats both types of people the same — call comes in, whole screen gets taken over.
And, sure, leave that as the default and for those people who absolutely, positively, can miss a call. But add an option for people who don't care anywhere nearly as much about calls so they can revert phone notifications to just regular old notifications. Same as alarms get.
Better yet, do another thing I've been asking years for and move VIP out of Mail and make it a contact-level service. Replace Phone Favorites with those unified VIPs and sync them across devices. That way, anyone I set as a VIP can have their own notification settings, whether they message me or call me. That way, they can blow through Do Not Disturb, even take over the full screen, if I choose either of those options in settings.
But everyone else, no matter how else, can just stay a regular notification.
The Notes app, just like all built-in apps, is meant to provide baseline functionality. If you want anything more, you can and should download more from the App Store. I get it. Really. Truly. I get it.
But there's still some baseline functionality missing.
First and foremost, a plain text mode. There are just so many, admittedly nerdy, use cases where pasting in rich text and hyperlinked text is far from helpful, and where the ability to set a Note to plain text would truly come in handy.
Same as Mail, which the Mac version has done for what feels like forever, but the iOS version, never.
It would be particularly terrific if Apple added support for Markdown, which they do in developer tools already. Switch a Note from plain text to rich text and boom, you see the markdown as formatting. Switch back, you go back. And just leave embeds inline, it's fine.
CarPlay is great, and if your car doesn't come with it, in most cases you can add an aftermarket CarPlay unit. But, it can be expensive and in, some cases, some companies like BMW have charged extra for it.
So, what would be great, when you're in your car, is if Apple would let you run CarPlay off your iPhone.
Obviously, it wouldn't be as good as built-in CarPlay, but it would be way better than the current Do Not Disturb While Driving option, which is so limited I'm willing to wager most people simply avoid it entirely.
Like Android Auto on phones, you'd basically get a version of the CarPlay interface but on your phone. By all means, please lock out typing. Just lock in something much easier to use for navigation, communication, and audio entertainment while driving.
Siri still needs… a lot of work. As someone who uses Siri constantly, all day, every day, the number of regressions over the last year have been painful. I talked about it a bit in my HomeKit video from last week but I really need to do a whole video on it.
For now, though, there's one feature I've been wanting for years already that I think would still be worth implementing even while most of the effort goes into fixing up literally everything else.
We already have Siri, remember this. Say it while on web page or a photo or a message or something similar and Siri will create a reminder with the web page or photo or message or whatever.
What I'd love to see is just way more this. Siri read this, and the text just gets spoken to you. Siri, send this, and the photo just gets shared with whomever I say, like mom.
Sure, Voice Control is starting to let us do anything with our voices that we can do with our finger taps, but voice should also still be faster than finger taps.
It should be able to understand and act on whatever is filling your screen at any given time.
Siri this is the next step towards that. The future.
Your iOS 14 wishlist?
I'll have some more suggestions in my iPadOS 14 wishlist later this week but, for now, I want to hear your suggestions. What do you want to see in iOS 14 this June at WWDC 2020?