The WWDC 2014 opening keynote is only a few short days away and that means, if Apple sticks to pattern, we should see the first preview of iOS 8. Since the big redesign was already done last year, that should mean polish and rounding out the feature set is what we get this year. Granted, getting OS X 10.10's big update out the door might mean some iOS 8 features become iOS 8.1 or even iOS 9 features. That can always happen. However, outside the walls of Cupertino we here have the luxury of just wishing for stuff. Just wanting it. And that's what this is — a list of some of the things, big, small, and in-between we'd love to see in iOS 8.
Free iCloud backup storage for each and every iOS device
The whole point of iCloud backups is to be easy enough for anyone and everyone to use them. They're supposed to just work. However, Apple only provides 5GB of storage space for free. Granted, Apple doesn't count some things, like apps, iTunes media, and Photo Stream against that storage allotment, but 5GB is still far below most peoples' needs, and far less than what Apple's competitors have recently been offering. What's worse, even if you're willing to pay extra the highest you can go is $100 for 50GB. That's despite Apple selling devices that hold 16, 32, 64, and even 128GB of data. You literally cannot even pay to get enough storage to back up a single device much less multiple devices.
Apple should provide enough free storage to backup every device you buy. If you get a 32GB iPhone 5S, it would come with 32GB of free iCloud storage for backup. If you get a 64GB iPad Air, it would come with another 64GB of storage for backups. Most people wouldn't use the full amount, but they could absolutely use the better experience and peace of mind that would come with it.
Pervasive inter-app communications
People want to move their photos from Camera+ to Snapseed to VSCO Cam without having to save them to and open them back up from the Camera Roll each and every step of the way. People want to have 1Password or LastPass insert their saved password into Settings, Safari, or Gmail without having to go to one app, search for the right bit of data, copy it, go back to the other app, and paste. People want to have links open in Chrome rather than Safari and locations open in Google Maps rather than Apple Maps. People just want their lives and workflows made easier. Could Apple make this a reality with iOS 8?
Interactive notifications and push interface
Interactive (what some call actionable) notifications take interface from being pull — I have to go find what I want to do — to push —the system brings what I want to do right to me. Home screens, widgets, apps are all pull interface. I have to go to switch out of what I'm doing in order to go do something else. Interactive notifications are push interface. No matter what I'm doing, they come right to me. Depending on implementation and settings, that can be convenient or annoying, but it's inarguably powerful. Get a text, reply right in the banner. Have an alarm go off, reset it right in the popup. Never leave where you are or what you're doing but always be able to respond or act when and as needed. That's the dream, right?
A smarter, contextually aware Spotlight search
Imagine if, in iOS 8 or some future version of Apple's mobile operating system, Spotlight became a secondary, text-based point of access to Siri, able to parse the same type of natural language queries and commands, and retrieve the same kinds of responses, and perform the same kinds of actions? With Spotlight hooked up to Siri's action engine, "Text Georgia I'm running late" is just one example of the type of text-based quick-action that could be possible. "Tweet Guy Wow, arrow was bananas!" could instantly send your status. "Meeting with Ally at 6pm tomorrow" could add an event to your calendar.
Files.app + DocumentPicker, because file handling on iPhone and iPad has hit a brick wall
If I create a plain text file in App One there's no way to access it outside of App One. If I later switch to App Two, I have no way of getting to that file. I have to go back to the old App One, hope to hell there's an Open In... function, or copy and paste the text from the old file in the old app over to a new one in the new app. For a couple files that's annoying. For dozens or hundreds, it's crippling.
Worse, if one day I'm using App Five for my text file editing and suddenly realize I need a document from a few months or years ago, I have to try and remember which app I created it in — App One? Two? Three? Four? — re-download it, and hope my file is still there. And then deal with moving it over.
In a world with Files.app and DocumentPicker I could create that plain text file in any app. I could then go to Files.app and see it in the Text Files section, tap on it, and open it in app other app that supports plain text files. I could also go to any text editing app, tap open, have DocumentPicker slide up, see any text files supported by the app, choose the one I want, and start editing.
- Read all about how Files.app + DocumentPicker could work in iOS 8
- Read all about how better file attachment could be handled in iOS 8
Customizable Control Center
Apple introduced Control Center in iOS 7 as a way to quickly get to the settings, controls, and basic functions most iPhone and iPad users need most of the time. That includes Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, and Orientation Lock, Brightness, media scrubber, player controls, and volume, AirDrop and AirPlay, and FlashLight, Timer, Calculator, and Camera. Yet not all of those options, especially the app ones, will be useful for all people, all of the time. So, with iOS 8, it would be great if Apple made them at least partially customizable.
AirDrop, as it is currently implemented on iPhone and iPad in iOS 7 isn't compatible with the service of the same name as it's currently implemented on the Mac in OS X Mavericks. In other words, you can't AirDrop between iOS devices and Macs, and that's both frustrating and confusing. Apple certainly knows and appreciates that. So, with the upcoming iOS 8 and OS X 10.10, it would be great if Apple could unify their AirDrop services, to keep the power of the old Mac version, keep the simplicity and security of the iPhone and iPad version, but make them work together in harmony.
Privacy Sheets to make permissions manageable
Right now if you download and launch a new app the amount of privacy popups that can fire off at you, one after the other, verges on the ridiculous. "[App] would like to use your current location", tap, "[App] would like to access your Twitter account", tap, "[App] would like to send you push notifications", tap, "[App] would like to access your contacts." "[App] would like to access your calendars." "[App] would like to access your reminders." After a while even savvy people get popup fatigue and just start tapping their way through to end the percussive modal pain.
Instead, whenever a newly installed (or re-installed) app is launched for the first time, a Privacy Sheet could automatically come up before anything else is allowed to happen, and provide one, unified place that describes the permissions being requested along with options to grant or deny them on a per-request basis.
Battery life is one of the most important elements of a modern mobile device. That's why iMore's battery life tips are some of our most popular articles, and why our comments, social feeds, and forums are filled with battery life questions, boasts, and complaints. Apple prioritizes battery life above almost everything else, even making the iPad 3 and Retina iPad mini ever-so-slightly thicker and heavier just to maintain 10 hours of battery life. Yet some apps, especially those that use VoIP like Skype, that use GPS like Google Maps, or those that have rogue processes or other glitches can still chew through power at an alarming rate. That's where battery shaming comes in. Battery shaming was introduced on the Mac with OS X Mavericks and I'd love to see something like it on the iPhone and iPad in iOS 8.
- Read all about how battery shaming could be implemented in iOS 8
iTunes for iCloud: All our media accessible on the web
iWork for iCloud is a a way to share, view, edit, and collaborate on Pages, Keynote, and Numbers documents on the web. It looks great, it works great, and most importantly, it allows Apple — without having to build or maintain separate native apps for each and every alternate platform on the market — to open up their productivity suite beyond iOS and OS X, to make it available to anyone and everyone who has a compatible browser. So, why not do the same thing with iTunes, and with their media suite of music, TV shows, movies, and books?
The idea of logging in from any compatible browser,, seeing all my music, movies, TV shows, and books, and being able to play them, from the beginning or from where ever I last left off, immediately, with a tap or a click, is compelling. As would being able to buy or rent more, right there.
- Read all about the potential for iTunes for iCloud in iOS 8
Comic book reading mode for iBooks
Okay, technically this is an iBooks wish rather than an iOS 8 wish but what better time to ask for something as amazing demonstrable as a comic book reading mode than when Apple's about to kick off their first Keynote of the year? And given the recent sale of comiXology to Amazon and the subsequent removal of IAP from the Comics app, when better for Apple to give their own comic book reading experience some attention?
iTunes Extras for Apple TV
Back on September 9, 2009, Apple introduced iTunes Extras, an HTML5-based way for studios to include digital versions of director's commentary tracks, behind the scenes videos, and the other kinds of bonus material commonly found on DVD and Blu-Ray. The original OS X 10.4 Tiger-based Apple TV was updated to support iTunes Extras, and it's musical cousin, iTunes LP. Then, on September 1, 2010, Apple announced an all-new, all-streaming, all-iOS second generation Apple TV, and... iTunes Extras didn't survive the transition. Not only that, they didn't get added back with subsequent software updates. On March 7, 2012, Apple announced the third generation, 1080p Apple TV, and still no iTunes Extras. Now, some 4 years later, iTunes Extras on Apple TV are still MIA.
Print to PDF
When Apple introduced AirPrint to iOS, they made it incredibly easy to send files right from your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad to any compatible Wi-Fi printer in the vicinity. Unfortunately, what Apple didn't do was bring Print to PDF (Export as PDF) along for the ride. See something, make something, want it wrapped up nicely and neatly? Tap Share, tap Print, tap PDF, store it up on iCloud or Share it by any of the usual methods. That'd be a great bullet point for iOS 8.
What's your biggest iOS 8 wish?
iOS 8 will no doubt have 8-12 "tent-pole" features that get a lot of time and attention lavished on them at the WWDC 2014 keynote. But there will also be that slide with features set in type small and large. The one that says 100 or 200 new features right in the middle.
What do you most want those new features to be, big, small, and tent-pole?
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.