As the gulf between Android and iOS widens, Apple need to pull out all the stops with the next version of their mobile operating system.
This autumn, to accompany the expected release of the next iPhone iteration, Apple is due to unveil iOS 7, the update to its approaching-venerable status mobile operating system. Over the last two years Android has not only grown, it has morphed from ugly duckling into beautiful swan, whilst Apple have uncharacteristically rested on their laurels and allowed iOS to be firmly supplanted as the most mature mobile platform.
To a certain extent Apple have worked themselves into a corner. Whilst Google have continued to flesh out Android and create what we might call a ‘proper’ operating system, in the traditional style of those used in desktop computing, Apple’s protectionist, locked-down approach has left them very few options for linear progression. To keep pace Apple will need to gamble on a set of massive, transformative changes for iOS 7, with many analysts predicting a wholesale reinvention. In my humble opinion, the following features are needed in iOS 7 for it bear scrutiny in the rapidly mobilizing technology world:
File System Traversal
I was going to use the word ‘manipulation’ instead of traversal, but any possibility of close file system toying will surely be baulked by Apple. Rather than the ability to open up the chest cavity and inspect the innards, at the very least we need to be given an appreciation of folder structure and file storage. With application development pushing further towards making the mobile arena one of content production as well as consumption, it is imperative Apple enable a little more flexibility within the OS to juggle our home-grown digital assets. I simply have to understand where I’m saving my stuff.
I regard Task Switching to be anomalous to minimizing an open window and maximising another. To be at my most productive I need to switch back and forth between tasks as quickly as possible. iOS has progressed slowly towards proper multitasking, but now I need to be able to switch the apps I’m using at the touch of a button, any more than two finger presses is too much. Show me what I’ve got open, what’s currently doing something, and allow me to switch between them easily or close them at will.
Widgets and Launchers
Personally I don’t make any real use of Android’s widgets, other than the toolstrip to turn wireless on and a clock on my main screen. However for some folk widgets, when combined with custom ‘launcher’ apps, are the final polish that make for a rich ‘mobile desktop’ experience. Customisation is king within Android, and whilst there is a strong case for keeping things simple, as is Apple’s mantra, Widget-style features become more important in the tablet market, where greater screen space can be used in savvier ways.
Of late, Apple has suffered a few knocks. Following relatively disappointing sales of the iPhone 5, and the market cannibalisation of the iPad by the iPad Mini, CEO Tim Cook surely must be under pressure. Most commentators agree it would be surprising if Apple released another sparse set of enhancements as with iOS 6. Everyone is expecting something big, both from core features and a complete visual redesign. The only thing certain is that, should Apple not deliver, Tim Cook’s days as CEO might well be numbered.