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What We Want in iOS 5, and What We’ll Likely Get

WWDC 2011 is just around the corner, and that means we won’t have to wait long before we see what Apple’s (s aapl) latest major update for its mobile operating system has in store. iOS 5 is sure to pack a few powerful surprises, but here’s a list of things we can expect, as well as things we’d like to see.

Good Bets

I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I’d put money on just a scant few changes for iOS 5. It’s not that I don’t think iOS 5 will bring big changes; in fact, it should be one of the most significant updates for Apple’s mobile OS since its introduction, due to increased competition from Android (s goog) and the possibility we won’t see any new iPhone hardware Monday. But Apple has done a good job of keeping a tight lid on any details about iOS 5, so there’s precious little to base predictions on.

New Notifications. Apple will probably change the way notifications work and appear on iOS. I argued a while ago that Apple’s notification system was perfectly adequate for most users in its existing form, but as competition grows in the mobile space, they’re starting to look decidedly old-fashioned. Apple will change how they work, but what changes are in store remain up in the air. Look for a central notification history screen, at the very least, so they aren’t lost to the ether once dismissed as they are now. iOS app Boxcar provides a pretty good example of how better native notifications could work.

iCloud Integration. Apple is unveiling a suite of cloud services bundled under the iCloud trademark. It stands to reason we’ll see iCloud hooks built-in to iOS itself, and an iOS-style icon spied on a banner at the WWDC venue seems to reinforce that assumption. iCloud integration in iOS 5 could be what those early rumors of Photo Stream and Media Stream features are all about, and will likely handle syncing up your digital life via email, contacts and calendars as well. Look out for some surprising additional x-factor features, too, since Apple has to make a big splash with iCloud to make it a runaway success.

AirDrop. This is an announced OS X Lion feature that lets Mac users automatically and easily share files with other AirDrop-enabled computers nearby, without setup. So far, Apple hasn’t said anything about AirDrop coming to iOS devices, but easy wireless file sharing between devices is something iOS users have been looking for in third-party apps like Bump for a long time. Apple has a golden opportunity to increase cross-platform integration by bringing it to mobile.

Interesting Possibilities

These are things that have popped up on the radar, but either because they’re somewhat extreme, or because there isn’t much backing them up, they remain little more than exciting teases at this point.

Twitter Integration. As per my article earlier today, the Twitter-iOS integration rumor is gaining traction in some influential circles, and for good reason: OS-level Twitter support would make direct social media interaction on the iPhone much more of a reality, and could give Apple a leg up on the competition. Such a close partnership would be a big step for Apple, however, which tends to shy away from such arrangements, so we’ll have to wait and see just how close they’re willing to get.

Widgets. Along with new notifications, rumors have been circulating that widgets will get introduced in iOS 5. These would provide live, updating information directly on the home screen, and go way beyond the badge notifications iOS currently offers. Android already has widgets, and Apple’s own native Calendar app icon updates automatically as the day changes. Apple should and likely will provide live updating content to the home screen, but don’t expect its approach to resemble Android’s.

Spaces. Home screen management on iOS devices got a lot easier with the introduction of Folders and the ability to reshuffle your icons and screens in iTunes, but it could be easier still. An iOS version of Spaces, which Apple has already patented, would do a great deal to make managing your iOS “desktop” easier still. Even just the ability to quickly rearrange the scrolling order of home screens would be a big usability boost.

Far-Fetched, but Awesome

I would love these to be true, but there’s little or no indication that they are, unfortunately.

Facebook Integration. While Twitter integration is being talked about by some fairly reliable sources, Facebook integration isn’t. Apple has had a rocky relationship with Facebook in the past, thanks to trouble with Ping at launch. But Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg did meet for dinner once, and who knows what they discussed there?

Live Lock Screen. Apple’s iOS lock screen doesn’t do much beyond telling you the date and time, and in the opinion of many users, that’s a waste. If Apple added a better notification system to the lock screen, or provided a way for third-party apps to display live updating information from RSS or Twitter source, for instance, it would be a lot more useful. Even if Apple just let you display the current weather on the lock screen, it would be a huge improvement.

What do you want from iOS 5? Feel free to point out anything I’ve missed here, or your own suggestions for what features would really make Apple’s next platform revision also its most ground-breaking yet.

32 Responses to “What We Want in iOS 5, and What We’ll Likely Get”

  1. Chadley

    It would be nice if the battery settings could be selected to stop allowing charge at a preset level (90-100%) when connected to a car charger, to prevent battery overcharging.

    How about Apple releaseing an SD Card adapter (or just allowing a MicroSD slot) that perfectly integrates between iOS, Mac and Win sharing?

  2. Erik Schwartz

    What about notifications that don’t interrupt streaming videos? Also I would like to turn off email, text message notifications and tones when I’m on a phone call. They can be very distracting.

  3. Glenn

    Whatever iOS5 has, and I think it will be just a couple new features, it will probably only apply to iPhone 4 and above. Apple ended support for the 3G and started ending support for the 3Gs with the 4.3 update, so I expect the next version, which probably won’t come out until Fall when the iPhone 5 (4s)/whatever is released to be only installable on the 4.

  4. Apple is all about new user experience. The industry is literally copying their ideas for ages. So although I will NEVER buy an Apple device due to community/openness/axis-of-evil arguments, I think that they are going to amaze us this time, yet again.
    My bet is on 3D camera and display. And maybe just maybe the first 3D interface. Or the first 3D video calls. SyFy over WiFi.

    • Chris

      New user experience?
      And when Jobs said magical experience you didn’t really believed it did you?
      You mean simplified user experience…
      iOS was the best up until Android and WP7 came out.
      They wasted so much development time doing nothing on iOS while others thought of a better “user” experience.

      Widgets and better notification system on Android. Heck folders existed when Android first release.

      Live tiles on WP7 is whole of a lot better than the static (barely updating) icons on iOS.

  5. Scott Young

    How about fix the bug that has been all along? When you input the address it defaults to letters instead of numbers. This is stupid since there is no address that doesn’t start with numbers.

  6. I don’t get the “Live Weather” thing at all… How many times a day does someone need to know the weather??? With that said, I have three weather apps on my iPhone and it’s a rare day when all three show the same temperature/forecast.

  7. Isn’t anyone else anxious for integrated voice commands and voice navigation? What good is a mobile device if you can’t talk to it while actually being mobile?

    • Yes – I am so waiting for this. I need to be able to hear text messages and/or email while I’m driving. Then, I need to be able to reply to those using my voice. If iOS 5 doesn’t have that, then I’m leaving. I can’t wait another year for that. I’ll deal with some of the android bugs just so I can have that.

    • Chris

      You mean something like Android already has?

      I like iOS’s idea of a walled-garden approach. But to nearly improve your OS for 3 years is a waste of time. Now they are playing catch up with all these other OSs. Heck, WP7 has a better live tiles (notifications) than iOS.

      • Well. Why do you think i said I’ll leave if it doesnt have this? I’ve been with the iPhone since day 2. I applaud apple for coming out with it an it took android 2+ years to catch up. Apple fell behind becAuse there was too much competition and they felt it unnecessary to lead any more I guess. Anyway. Come on apple impress me please!

  8. ADDICTEDchris

    Option to have the cal with up coming events listed out. Weather widget and updating icon like the cal icon. Better notifications. Widgets. Facebook and twitter integration.

  9. They should copy the lockinfo cydia app. I jailbreak my iphone almost exclusively for that app — so useful having a list of emails, text messages, and upcoming appointments at the touch of a button. Forecast on there is useful too.

  10. EmmEff

    You argued that the current notification mechanism is adequate? I guess you don’t use an iPhone. Having to “Close” or “Reply” to an incoming SMS text while on a voice call just to hang up the call is pathetic. Modal dialogs are archaic. Apple can do way better.

    • I thought if you pressed the lock button it ended the call and left the notification pop up in place…..I may be wrong….try it :)

  11. Ishan Dwivedi

    as per your last points regarding that there are very few things on the lockscreen that’s not entirely true.through jailbreaking and third party apps that are available through Cydia we can customize our home screen greatly.i would have liked to upload a screenshot of my own homescreen but i don’t know where to post it :p

    • um… yes, that’s entirely true. Saying the jailbroken cydia version allows you to do this would be like saying “sure you can get stuff on the iPhone lockscreen, just look at my Android phone.”

  12. Ive always felt that Apple could set up their OS so that missed calls, time display, email notifications, etc. could be displayed on the iPhone while it’s in sleep mode, that is, displays on an unlit screen in monochrome, so one doesn’t need to push the home button to display that info. This feature existed on my previous cellphone, the Sony Ericsson K750i.