Apple’s iOS smartphone operating system is no longer the innovative operating system it used to be – in fact recent shipments of Android-based phones have overtaken iOS device shipments. While this is not necessarily due to Android being a better OS, there is a few things that stand out in recent releases of the software which does make iOS look ancient. And its not only Android -look at HP’s latest iteration of WebOS which is about to be put into their phone and tablet devices. The multitasking system is brilliant, and small tricks like the between-device sharing is awesome. And one unlikely candidate is also showing up – even though Windows Phone 7′s sales have not been great, you only need to spend a few minutes with it to see that it really is a great interface, despite its shortcomings.
So what can Apple do to improve on iOS? In my opinion Apple does not have to improve too much on the hardware – in fact almost 10 months after being released, the iPhone 4 is still the best looking smartphone on the market (and queue the antenna-hysteria…), and the iPad (and iPad 2) is best of breed hardware. My criticism instead lies with the operating system – iOS. So here is what I would like to see in iOS5:
1) First and foremost: a Better Notification System
This is by far the most requested feature right now for iOS. While I like the concept of push notifications instead of constantly running apps in the backround, I really do not like the way the actual notifications are handled on the device. Currently only one single notification can be shown on the screen at a time, and once a new message comes in, you cannot go back and check previous incoming notifications. This is simply pathetic. Yes, it dumbs down the device so that non-power users do not have to thing to much about what is going on. But what about users who have multiple instant messengers running, a lot of SMS interaction and rely on push notifications for certain tasks? Also, the current iOS implementation darkens the entire screen, requiring the user to stop what he/she is doing and first take note of the message. While this is fine for the occasional message, it is terrible if you get bombarded with multiple IM’s every day. And this is especially a shame on the big screen of the iPad. Seriously, you have this big beautiful screen, and I must take note of the message right now?
In my opinion Android still has the best implementation of notifications – the top bar on the phone can be filled with icons to inform you of incoming messages, and the user simply pulls down that bar to see all the notifications at once, and clear the ones that is not relevant anymore. Sure, it can become messy if not kept in check, but it works. Also, look at the way Android’s tablet version (Honeycomb) uses notifications, which does not take over the entire screen. Messages just pop up non-intrusively on the bottom of the screen, much like your desktop operating systems. Take a look here:
If you want to see a great example of how Apple can improve on its notifcation system without spoiling its current look and feel – take a look at Mobilenotifier. While only in beta and available only to jailbroken devices, Apple really needs to take a look at this. Great artists steal, remember?