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The iOS 7 Crystal Ball Report- Part 1

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We are now a little less than six week from the announcement of iOS 7, so the silly season of Apple rumors is about to really get moving. Thanks to Tim Cook’s statements at Apple’s recent earnings call, there isn’t any reason to be expecting new hardware. However, there’s plenty of room for speculation about iOS 7, and what it will bring to the table.

The iOS blogosphere is already abuzz about Jony Ive applying a new “flat” design makeover to Apple’s mobile OS, so let’s just let that be for a while. Instead, in a few installments over the next six weeks, I’m going to take a look at some areas of iOS that are also in need of either a little sprucing up, or a complete makeover.

 

Notifications

Apple did a lot self-congratulating when they “revolutionized” notifications. However, even though the Notification Center of iOS 5 did bear a pretty striking resemblance to a certain other mobile OS, there’s no doubt that it was an upgrade to the popupus interuptus system that previously delivered all push notifications on iOS.

Unfortunately, while the initial rollout of Notification Center was an acceptable start, Apple didn’t do much of anything to build on that last year. And no, adding Post To buttons for Facebook and Twitter doesn’t count. ¬†Instead, Apple decided to focus on other things that proved to be much less popular (Maps), and heads subsequently rolled. Here’s hoping that Apple takes a look at the following notification annoyances in the near future.

 

 

Push and Pull

When a phone call is answered on your iPhone, and you go back to using another app, the top of the screen becomes a link back to the call, and pushes everything else down slightly. The same happens when you are using Apple’s Maps app to navigate while using another app.

 

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Why oh WHY can’t notifications at the top of the iPhone’s screen do the same thing? How difficult would it be to simply push the rest of the screen down momentarily? This is a complaint that I hear over and over again regarding the way Apple currently handles notifications.

 

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If Apple does make this change, app developers will have to adjust to it. However, considering that most have already implemented some type of work around for use during phone calls and navigation, it wouldn’t be difficult for them to add this handy little tweak with a little heads up at WWDC. Come on Apple. Please make this happen in iOS 7.

 

 

Clear the Decks

Here’s some more low hanging fruit, Apple. You can leave the little “x” icons for each notification category if you want (although you could stand to make the touch target around it twice as big), but please…PLEASE add a dismiss all button this year.

 

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I’m a programmer, and know full well that this isn’t that difficult a task in the grand scheme of things. However, no matter how easy the solution is, this point is a source of constant complaints.

I learned a long time ago that, if you handle an area of your interface or programming poorly, no matter how important it is, people won’t use it. They will complain, or may even switch systems, but they won’t put up with the hassle if it is too much trouble. Apple, this is one of those things. There are people who never go into Notification Center because they get sick of having to clear stuff out and manage clutter. One button will fix this. Make it so.

 

 

Two Birds With One Stone

I try to be realistic when it comes to Apple announcements. They don’t always deliver what us geeks want. Ok, let me rephrase that. They hardly ever do what we want. That said, I don’t think this idea is too far fetched, and it would really help to modernize things a bit in a year where the primary changes to iOS will probably be more cosmetic.

What I would like to see is Apple make notifications actionable for iOS’ bundled apps and services. I know. This is asking a lot. We’ve been waiting for OS level SMS response capability for five years now. However, considering how far behind the Springboard interface has fallen, this is an easier way for Apple to move iOS 7 in a more modern direction, without having to touch the Home screen yet. Actionable notifications would allow iOS users to manage some of their most common tasks faster, without having to bounce in and out of apps.

Apple’s direction over the last three years has been completely app-centric, so this would be a big departure for them. There’s no doubting that. However, this is where the puck is going. No one else has quite gotten there yet, but Android, Windows Phone, Facebook’s new Home, and hell, even Blackberry are all moving away from reliance on going into apps to complete tasks. It’s time for Apple to make the small move this year, that leads up to a much bigger one in iOS 8.

It would be completely unrealistic to expect Apple to open this up to 3rd party developers before they get all of their ducks in a row. However, when you consider the possibilities of having SMS, Calendar, Reminder, Twitter, and Facebook quick response and editing, that would really smooth out some edges in the iOS experience. Jailbreakers have been using and loving this functionality for years, and it’s really the only Jailbreak feature left that I am really interested in. Time to make this stock, Apple.

 

 

A Different Sort

Wouldn’t it be nice to have the notifications in Notification Center listed by most recent, rather than broken down into categories? Yep. Me, too. This should be nothing more than a database sort, with a simple toggle in the Settings app to switch it. Easy money, Apple. Easy money.

 

 

No More Disappearing Act

While notifications may hang around in Notification Center for days on end, good luck getting them to do so on the Lockscreen. I love the fact that Apple displays notification information here. I just wish it was more useful. Having your new email notification disappear before you’ve read it. Not useful. How about having your meeting notification disappear, even though the meeting’s time hasn’t yet passed? Not useful.

 

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Again, considering that Apple makes messages in Notification Center more persistent, this shouldn’t be difficult at all to implement. If they are worried about cluttering up the Lockscreen, then they can just implement the same Clear All button that they also need to add to Notification Center. This feature is incredibly useful when using Jailbreak tools, and still has a ton of potential in stock iOS. Like most of my suggestions here, Apple needs to pick all of this low hanging fruit, and turn it into some user goodwill.

I’m sure there are plenty of other things that could be done to make Apple’s iOS notification systems better. These are just some things that I hope to see them look at this time around. I’m sure they won’t check all of these boxes, but if they just hit the simple ones, it will be a nice, ease-of-use improvement. If Apple decides to make notifications actionable, well, then we’re talking about some major changes. Either way, there is a lot of potential for improvement in an area that affects most iOS users multiple times per day.

What do you think about notifications in iOS? What would you like to see changed? I would love to hear your suggestions. Feel free to let m know in the comments below, or on Twitter @jhrogersii, or on Google+.

 

 

 

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