It’s tough to be Apple these days. You’d say why, right? They’re still the most valuable tech company in the world, they sell millions of iPhones, iPads and apps every month, and they’re sitting on a pile of cash that’s big enough to end the national debt of many countries, so why should it be that things are tough for them if they’re on a high? Well, it mainly has to do with what Apple may or may not do with iOS 7 on WWDC this Monday, and those of you who watched the first trilogy of Spiderman movies remember a phrase that Uncle Ben would always say to Peter Parker:
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
Apple’s existence was never easy back when they were an underdog just a decade ago, but that mentality helped them take a lot of the risks that have shaped them to be the company they are today. A clear example was the iPhone. If you rewind the track to 2007, the iPhone was so different to everything else that was already successful in the market that every single expert battled between praising the company and calling it nuts. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer wasn’t wrong in mocking Apple when he said, “$500 for a phone and without a physical keyboard is not a good strategy.” How’s that going to gain any market share, right?
As it turned out, Apple’s bold move proved to be a game changer. It’s shaped a lot of the primary elements that define most of the smartphone designs and user interfaces that we see today. Any expert would even tell you that what’s broken should never be fixed, and that iOS should remain the same until sales prove otherwise. Well, that saying applies to any industry but the mobile industry, and I’m sure Palm, BlackBerry and Nokia can tell you more about that.
Fast-forward the track to today everyone. Who would’ve thought that Samsung, a late bloomer in selling us Android phones is now dominating the market? The iPhone may still be the best selling smartphone in the world, but how long do you think that will last? Regardless of whatever materials Apple brings to the design of the next iPhone, that doesn’t change the fact that we only use the build quality to hold the phone in our hand. What really defines our love or hate for a smartphone is the user interface.
Think about it for a second. Surely plastic feels cheaper in the hand than aluminum, but once you snap a TPU case on either your Galaxy S 4 or iPhone 5, all the charm of the materials chosen to build the phone is gone. You never get frustrated over any of that after the first day. What is frustrating is to have to turn your phone on and having it load the same grid of icons that we’ve seen since January of 2007. Even more frustrating is to know that if I want to turn Wi-Fi on or off on an iPhone, I first have to find the Settings app, navigate to Wi-Fi and turn it off, when everybody that uses a Galaxy phone can just slide from the top and hit a button.
iOS needs to change. We don’t just need flatter icons and less color. How is that going to speed-up the time that it takes me to make phone call? How is less glare on an icon going to improve my experience with anything if not to just make it look different. Here’s my opinion on the things that I would like to see change, and hopefully you can provide your thoughts in the comments.
iOS is simple, but not simple enough
There’s no denying that iOS is easy to learn and handle. It may bore many of you, but my 3-year-old son learned how to use my iPad in minutes, and the same happened to my 78-year-old grandfather. The logic behind moving in and out of apps seems natural to them, even if it’s boring to me personally. I feel that there’s nothing wrong with the approach, but then again, that doesn’t mean that we all want the same hurdles it takes to turn-off Bluetooth.
For the longest time I’ve dreamed about user profiles for iOS and every other smartphone platform. I’d love to be given the option to have the UI tailored to how advanced or non-advanced I am. If I’m a senior citizen, fine, give me the row of icons and let me jump in and out. If I’m a power user, can you please give me an easier way to make a phone call or respond to a text message? It doesn’t necessarily have to be widgets, but quick toggles anywhere would make a huge difference in our perception of iOS. The iPhone is slowly becoming the phone that only grown-ups use, and even though I fall on that list, I’m sure Apple doesn’t want to be perceived that way.
Simplicity is not just about making something easy to understand, but also quick to use. Whenever somebody asks you how you deactivate notifications, responding the question with an “it’s simple” and then giving them five steps to get it done is not simple in my book. How hard can it be to implement quick toggles for basic services? Coming from the company that eliminated the function keys on the Mac line-up in order to give quick toggles more priority, this is the most ironic of issues with iOS.
iOS 7 needs to be open
As a Spotify customer, I pay those $10-a-month for a reason. I love music and I want to hear it constantly, in every single scenario that I face every day, and that includes those songs that I like, but that I don’t necessarily want to keep. One of the things that I do almost every day is hit the gym or go for a run. I use Nike+ to track my runs and to provide me with music as I run. The feature is really awesome because I don’t need to leave the app to control the music, which takes me back to my point in the previous section with regard to simplicity. Sadly, the problem is that if I want these services to work, I can’t use Spotify. Sure I can play it in the background, but I can’t control it through Nike+, making the experience cumbersome and forcing me to buy music to use the feature.
In the same fashion, not everybody prefers Safari. If you’re like many of us who live a Google lifestyle, Chrome is always your best pick if you’re also using the desktop browser. Sadly every time you hit a link, you’ll be taken to Safari whether you like it or not. Surely Google’s apps now allow direct links to Chrome, but you’re forced to use them for this to happen, and if I get a link through Whatsapp, Safari is my next stop.
Apple really needs to open up. The last thing I want is for the Honda dealership to tell me that I can’t add a bumper sticker to my own car. It’s my car, I paid for it. I’d even give a car dealership more authority since I’ll take a while to pay for the car, but in the case of a phone, I had to pay for it fully to take it home, or get it through a carrier. As users we deserve more of a right to chose the services that we want to use, and that’s something where Android excels and Apple doesn’t.
iOS 7 needs to be smarter
Every time I use Google Now, I’m impressed. I find it genius that I don’t have to ask the phone anything most of the time as it usually predicts many of the things that I want through my search history. Surely Apple has Siri, but there’s nothing smart about the service. As much as Apple boasts that the service understands what you mean, all I notice it that it has a broader set of variable questions in its list of things that it will wait for you to ask from it, but if you don’t, you’re given a web search, and you could’ve done that yourself.
Phones are definitely more capable than they were when the first iPhone was launched, but to call them smarter phones is really not the case any more. They can do more now, but they can’t understand me any better than they never did before. To call a product an assistant is to consider that this service is really capable of doing things for you. So far, with Google Now and other services we see in the market, Apple really needs to step their game up.
The bottom line
Let’s be honest, the only reason why I still use an iPhone is because I’m locked in the ecosystem. The last thing I want is to have to pay for many of the apps that I use all over again. Sadly, I’ll admit that I do most of my smartphone interaction with Android lately, as I’ve become really bored of iOS. Want to make a phone call? Dig for the app. Want to send a message? Dig for the app. Want to dim your display? Dig for settings, and then display brightness. It’s predictable, easy to use and boring all together. It’s also a major waste of time in many cases where you just don’t remember where the specific app that you’re looking for is.
Google is no longer just experimenting with Android, and neither are their OEM partners and carrier partners. They’re in this to win, and unless Apple is able to wow us next Monday, I doubt they’ll get any “magical” comments about it once the keynote ends. Whatever the case may be, Apple is on the crossroads of dipping into less market dominance, or leapfrogging Android all over again.
What do your think will happen on Monday at WWDC? Do you think that Apple will boldly go where no OS has gone before with iOS 7, or do you think this is just another iteration? Leave us a comment.