Apple is expected to announce iOS 15 later this year, and when that happens, the company is expected to add a few features to make its next software release as memorable as the last one. 2020 has been a huge year for Apple, with iOS 14 being a big reason. Many people have complained for years that iOS feels outdated and boring. With iOS 14, Apple has dealt with many of the main complaints head-on, adding widgets, better home screen customization, a suitable app list, and a parcel Following.
The major design changes in iOS 14 were a perfect match for the iPhone 12 series, which debuted with its own cosmetic updates. While the 12 and 12 Pro still look a lot like iPhones, Apple’s decision to bring back crisp, flat edges was a big change of pace after years of sleek, rounded aesthetics. From a software and hardware perspective, 2020 has succeeded in making the iPhone exciting again.
It’s now 2021, however, and rumors say the iPhone 13 will be a year of subtle refinement. There are expected to be technical upgrades to the processor, screen, and camera, among others, but the overall appearance of the iPhone 13 series is expected to be similar to its predecessor. Just as important as the hardware itself is the software that Apple ships with its new iPhones, and for iOS 15, Apple would be smart to follow a similar strategy. The past year has seen a lot of major changes, and for this year’s iOS version, focusing on refining some of those things to make them even better is a guaranteed recipe for success. As the release of 15in iOS gets closer and closer, here are five features that would really help it stand out as something special.
Extensive home screen customization
iOS 14 has made iPhones more customizable than ever, giving users the ability to add widgets, hide unwanted homescreens, and use the app library to view all installed apps. Users have also found workarounds to get even more customization options, such as using Siri shortcuts to create custom app icons. With iOS 15, Apple has the opportunity to expand these things significantly.
For starters, it would be amazing if Apple ultimately let users put apps and widgets wherever they want on their homescreens. Apps and widgets always have to follow iOS’s restrictive placement rules, which means if someone wants to have two rows of app icons at the bottom of their screen, widgets at the top, and nothing in the middle, it is simply not possible. It’s such a simple feature request, but for some reason Apple hasn’t implemented it yet.
Getting back to custom app icons, iOS 15 should make this a fully integrated feature rather than a workaround. Using custom icons with Siri Shortcuts is okay, but Apple should take it a step further by officially supporting third-party icon packs, just like Android has been doing for years. This would help developers who want to create them, make it easier for iPhone users to customize their homescreen, and drive more traffic to the App Store for people looking to download new icon packs. It’s a win-win-win all around.
More interactive widgets
Speaking of widgets, iOS 15 is the perfect opportunity for Apple to make them more useful than they are in their current form. While iOS widgets look fantastic and have seen strong adoption over the past year or so, they are inherently limited by what they can actually do. Widgets can present information and use simple buttons to link to sections of an app, but that’s it.
While that would likely require a major overhaul of how widgets work in iOS, Apple could do a lot more here. Imagine being able to control music playback from the Spotify widget, scroll through activity information with Apple’s Fitness widget, or mark tasks as completed with the Reminders widget. There is so much potential if Apple allowed just a little more freedom with what widgets can do, then hopefully iOS 15 fixes that problem somehow.
New App Library Layout
The App Library was another big addition to iOS 14, giving iPhone users a more organized way to view all of their installed apps. Rather than having to manually put everything into folders or clutter endless home screens with apps, the App Library automatically groups everything into predetermined categories. There’s also a search bar to find a specific app, as well as a vertical scrolling list that displays each app in alphabetical order. In other words, it is a massive improvement over all previous versions of iOS.
But that doesn’t mean the app library can’t be improved. While grouping apps into defined categories is a good idea, it’s a bit lacking with the current implementation. For starters, there is no way to rearrange the order in which the folders are presented. If someone rarely uses the Social or Productivity & Finance apps, it doesn’t help much to have these folders at the top of the App Library. Just allowing users to rearrange the position of these folders would make the Application Library much more convenient.
Going further, Apple should give users the option of using these smart folders or just having all of their apps presented in a multi-grid list by default (similar to how Android’s app list works). Grouping folders has its advantages, but so does a more traditional application listing.
Apple tends to offer Siri upgrades with every iOS version released, but year after year, the virtual assistant still feels like it’s a stone’s throw away from Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Whether it’s being too reliant on generic web searches, misunderstanding a question that has been asked, or just giving something the wrong answer, Siri still has plenty of room to improve.
It’s hard to imagine Apple fixing all of Siri’s wrongs with just one iOS update, but no progress is made if Apple doesn’t try. Siri has gotten smarter, faster, and more natural over the years, and in 2021 Apple needs to keep working on all of that.
Default app functionality for more apps
iOS 14 has given users the option to replace some proprietary Apple apps with third-party apps. For example, when they tap on a website link, users can choose to open it in Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or another web browser instead of Safari. This choice for default apps currently exists for web browsers and messaging apps, and iOS 15 could (and should) expand on that.
Apple Maps has improved a lot since its inception, but it would be great if tapping on an address link automatically opens Google Maps or Waze instead. The Apple Calendars app is also quite limited compared to some third-party apps, so having the option to make Google Calendar, Readdle’s Calendars app, or any other default app would be amazing.
It is also possible for Apple to improve the operation of third-party defaults. On iOS 14, closing an iPhone resets one of those app selections to the default and reverts them back to Apple’s. With iOS 15, these selections should stay in place, even if an iPhone is turned off.
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