Over the course of the last year, we've debated, accepted, and ultimately learned to enjoy iOS 7, but that doesn't mean we're not ready for another round of improvements. Here's what we're hoping to see when Apple shows off iOS 8 next week.
Of course, we don't expect anything quite as drastic at Monday's WWDC as last year's complete, candy-coated overhaul, but Apple can still do a lot to make the next iteration of iOS stand out. As always, though, we're realistic about our expectations. Just because something should happen doesn't mean it will.
Mapping it out: Maps has come a heck of a long way since its wrong-way beginnings, but it's far from perfect. Apple's hard-working cartographers are surely updating out-of-the-way places and points of interest for version 3.0, but aside from peace of mind on unfamiliar roads, we'd like to see a couple of overdue features added in iOS 8.
Chief among them is in-app transit directions so we can properly navigate a city when we're not behind the wheel—Apple bought popular app HopStop for just that purpose last fall—but we'd also like the ability to set custom routes for our runs and road trips. As improved as it is, Maps still doesn't always know best.
Moveable type: Even before Apple threw us for a loop with last year's wacky shift key, the iOS 7 virtual keyboard left much to be desired. We're not all that hopeful that Apple will swing open the doors and let us install Fleksy or Swiftkey as the default—though we certainly wouldn't complain if it did—but there are plenty of ways we think it will improve upon the iOS keyboard, starting with a little customization.
Toggling between numbers, symbols and letters is a muscle memory we'd love to forget, and we'd appreciate it if Apple let us take the quote, comma and parenthesis keys out of hiding. While we're at it, we'd like to see a better way to select text, too—those little blue handles have always been a pain in the neck, and we think Apple can do better. Oh, we'd really like to know when we're going to type a capital letter.
Making Siri Smarter: Siri might have been the first digital assistant that actually understood what we were saying, but its contemporaries on Android and Windows Phone have raised the bar by anticipating our needs. We'd like Siri to do the same for us. We're also hoping it has learned a few new tricks, like doing more with the third-party apps on our iPhone than just launching them or being able to identify songs we hear. But we'd be happiest if Apple borrowed a page from Google Now and let us summon Siri without needing to pick up our phone.
iDoctor: We've been reading rumors about an iWatch for months, but before it gives us an iOS device for our wrists, Apple needs to lay a foundation for all of the things it will do. Mark Gurman has pretty much spelled out everything over at 9to5Mac, and even if it shows up next week without some accompanying wrist-candy, we're pretty excited about iOS 8 bringing a centralized, iCloud-synced location for all of the health-related things we do on our iPhones.
Notification superpowers: Anyone who has used Auki on a jailbroken iPhone will nod their head in approval. Apple has always been a step behind when it comes to notifications, but it can really give the system a boost by implementing an effortless way to reply to a Mail or iMessage alert as it arrives. Imagine a world where we didn't have to leave the app we're in just to tell our friend we'll call them later—and imagine how awesome that world will be on a 4.7-inch iPhone.
Split screen: Speaking of better ways to get stuff done, we're totally on board with the rumors of split-screen multitasking coming to our iOS devices (even if it sounds like it won't be fully baked in time for launch). There's nothing necessarily revolutionary about running apps side by side, but if history is any indication, Apple will figure out a more elegant and interactive way to do it than the Windows 8 or TouchWiz methods. The key is sharing; if we can't easily use the information on one side with the other, then it'll just be another unnecessarily cumbersome gimmick, which is the main reason we might not see it until iOS 9.
A cloud of one's own: While Amazon, Google and Dropbox are battling over the best and cheapest way to store our pictures, documents and desktop files, Apple has mostly been sitting on the sidelines, using iCloud as a tool to make our data seamless rather than accessible. Back when Apple's suite of online services was still called MobileMe, there was something called iDisk, which gave users 20GB
Share together: Airdrop is one of those cool Apple features that's great in a demo video but not all that useful in the real world. We can count on one hand the number of times we've used it to send a photo to one of our friends, and with iCloud and Dropbox already keeping our files in sync, we don't really need it to share anything between our iOS devices either. But we'd use it daily if we could transfer files from our MacBooks, even if Apple stubbornly forced us to stick to app-specific share sheets.
Multiple iPad logins: At the very bottom of the possible pile is our fervent hope that Apple lets us create multiple users on our iPads. We'd love to be able to check our email or Facebook messages on our spouse's tablet without changing all of her settings and passwords (OK, we don't really do that), or to have a separate login for the kids. If Apple is serious about the iPad leading the post-PC revolution, it needs to figure out a way to bring over this all-important feature sooner than later. Especially when competitors like Samsung, above, already have.
What's a Longshot
Embrace the widget: The Notification Center has helped give us faster access to the updates we want, but we can't help but fantasize about how much more efficient we'd be if we could check Twitter, jot notes and get tomorrow's weather without needing to swipe and tap around to three different apps to do it. The home screen is probably off-limits, but there's an awful lot of space on our lock screens to embrace info-packed widgets, Apple.
Deep seek: As it stands, the only thing the search field shines a spotlight on is where are apps are located, not necessarily what's in them (aside from Music and Videos, that is). When we need to find a document—even one that resides locally on our device—we're out of luck. On our Macs, Spotlight search saves us from digging through a few years' worth of documents to find something we've misplaced, a feature that would be just as useful on our iPhones and iPads.
More Control Center control It was nice of Apple to add a series of shortcuts and quick settings in iOS 7's Control Center, but until we're able to swap out the ones we don't need very often—Airplane Mode, Do Not Disturb and the timer immediately spring to mind—it's only scratching the surface of usefulness. And while we're on the subject, we're still waiting for Apple to let us change the defaults apps to ones we actually use.