What Apple needs to do to bring me back into the iOS fold

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I started carrying an iPhone the day the CDMA model landed on Verizon’s shelves on February 10, 2011. Before that, I had used various iPods and owned an iPad, so I knew what to expect of iOS. But I hadn’t been an AT&T customer before, and I wasn’t about to switch just for an iPhone – I was a BlackBerry and Android guy at the time and wasn’t entirely sold on iOS.

That said, I wanted to give the platform and the iPhone a go as a daily driver. So when the Verizon iPhone was confirmed, I picked one up on launch day and never looked back. Following that, I owned four or five more iPads, the iPhone 4S, and the iPhone 5.

Fast forward two and a half years and I have an LTE iPad mini and iPhone 5 that rarely ever leave the dark abyss on the lower portion of my desk, which I like to call the retirement drawer.

I explained a few times that I had been looking for an iOS replacement for quite some time – that carrying two Android phones simply wasn’t practical and no phone consistently took pictures comparable to or better than the iPhone. I needed a decent camera experience with serviceable software. That’s where the Lumia 1020 entered the equation. And since the 1020 launched, the iPhone has been stowed in a drawer with all the other tablets and phones that lie in the dark, hoping and wishing they become relative enough – even for a slight moment – to be the subject of a video, editorial, or comparison.

I’ve long said that iOS needs a major update, a face-lift, among other things. And, for what it’s worth, Apple delivered with a new, refined interface. It added some helpful features, such as Control Center, a usable Notification Center, and icons that reflect current time and conditions, versus the static icons from before.

In all the changes and vastly improved interface, my time with the betas hasn’t been notably awesome or improved from before. Yes, the visual enhancements are important. But that wasn’t the only problem with iOS. Apple’s lax approach to software innovations … is, and I can’t help but feel I’m using antiquated software when I use iOS – software that doesn’t want to mingle well with others for no apparent reason. Not to mention the hardware issue.

In truth, I will always have iOS around me in some form or another. But Apple has some work to do if I’m ever going to carry an iPhone as a daily driver again.

Apple has an event scheduled for tomorrow (which we will be covering with a Hangout, of course), and there’s always room for new software features to be announced for iOS 7. Below are the four main improvements iOS 7 still needs.

 

Bigger hardware

vsiphone

The smallest high-end Android phones are still much larger than the iPhone 5.

Before you jump down my throat, hear me out. The iPhone 5 was a beautifully built and designed phone, like the iPhone 4 and 4S before it. But users begged for a lager iPhone. Larger is not exactly what they got. Instead, the iPhone 5 simply got taller.

As Adam Doud put it, taller is not bigger.

This is a dead horse, I know. And I’m willingly beating it some more, because it’s a legitimate issue. Some of us have big hands. And I cannot comfortably type or use the iPhone at its current size. A 4.5-inch or 4.7-inch display would be much more logical at this point. Even two sizes – one for those with tiny hands, and one for those with larger digits – would make more sense. The average doesn’t apply to everyone; it’s always going to cut out a certain subset of users. And the sooner Apple accommodates a larger group of users, the better it is for everyone.

We want a lager – not just taller – iPhone.

 

Better sharing options

sharing-ios-7I’ve driven this point into the ground several times, because it, too, needs to be made clear. Apple needs to open sharing APIs up to developers. The fact that I can only share to the services Apple hard codes into the OS is asinine and largely reminiscent of a former era of computing.

The only way you can share to non-standard services from iOS is if individual developers hard code those services into their individual apps or by copying and pasting, playing musical apps, until you finally get all the right info in the right app. That requires a lot more work from the developers, when Apple could easily create an API that would let all applications share data back and forth.

Something about the fact that I can’t take a picture with the stock Camera app and send straight to Google+ or Tweetbot is absurd. It’s not 2007 anymore.

The only logical reason Apple isn’t doing this is for quality control. But what would adding a few tick marks to the existing approval process hurt?

Frankly, this is, by far, the most annoying part of using iOS.

 

A smarter keyboard

I wrote about this shortly after iOS 7 was officially announced at WWDC. Apple updated the appearance of the iOS keyboard. It’s a flat white now, and although its appearance hasn’t change all that much it looks great.

But if you’ve followed some of my coverage on mobile keyboards, you know I have a problem with the standard QWERTY, especially on such a narrow display.

iOS-7-keyboard

Again, conceptually, nothing about this part of iOS has changed since the very beginning of the platform. People tout how great it is. Maybe it is if your hands are tiny, but my big thumbs bump when typing, and the auto-correct is usually pretty awful.

To put it plainly, the iOS keyboard is rudimentary. With keyboards like Swype, SwiftKey, and even the stock Android keyboard, there’s no reason iOS can’t feature gesture-style typing, prediction software, or some new take on touchscreen typing.

This is pure laziness on Apple’s part. The mantra “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” completely applies. Yet, if everyone lived by that, innovation would have come to a grinding halt a long time ago.

 

A file system

file-explorerNo matter what Android phone I’m using, I am always saving and sending various types of files: PDFs, XLSX files, DOCXs, ZIPs, and others. From iOS, this can be tricky, and the best solution is typically cloud storage of some sort. But that sort of supplement doesn’t always work out.

Using third-party apps, you can also open, save, and send various types of files. But then it circles back to my second point – sharing APIs. If you need to send to a specific service, you better hope whatever document editor you’re using has hard coded Dropbox, Copy, or Drive into the list of compatible services.

With a local, viewable file system, this would at least alleviate part of the problems with an over-simplified OS. Why a file system was never offered originally is beyond me. It’s there. It exists. And you can access it through jailbreaking. But jailbreaking isn’t a viable solution for most, and it should be available to all to begin with.

And why do third-party apps that offer file systems not count, you ask? Because I still can’t download a ZIP file or PDF from the browser like I can from Android. (For the record, I also have a problem with Windows Phone in this area.)

 

It’s not like my concerns are unrealistic. These are parts of the iOS and iPhone experience which continue to make it a sub-par experience in 2013. And before anyone jumps to the comments to say, “Basically, you’re telling Apple to turn iOS into Android!” I’m not. I simply long for the day Apple finally brings the core iOS experience up to speed with Android once again – a competitor, functionality-wise, if you will.

Are there any features you feel iOS is still missing? Or are you happy with how iOS 7 is panning out? Sound off below!

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About The Author
Taylor Martin
Based out of Charlotte, NC, Taylor Martin started writing about technology in 2009 while working in wireless retail. He has used BlackBerry off and on for over seven years, Android for nearly four years, iOS for three years, and has experimented with both webOS and Windows Phone. Taylor has reviewed countless smartphones and tablets, and doesn't go anywhere without a couple gadgets in his pockets or "nerd bag." In his free time, Taylor enjoys playing disc golf with friends, rock climbing, and playing video games. He also enjoys the occasional hockey game, and would do unspeakable things for some salmon nigiri. For more on Taylor Martin, checkout his Pocketnow Insider edition.| Google+