Software // Operating Systems
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3/1/2011
10:09 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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iOS 5.0 Preview: 5 Must-Have Features

Apple will probably provide a sneak-peak of iOS 5.0 at its iPad event on Wednesday. Here are five features InformationWeek would like to see make their way to iOS.

Apple has announced details of the next version of iOS at about this time the last few years running. Last year, we learned what was in store for iOS 4.0. While iOS 4.0 brought multi-tasking, threaded email, and folders, iOS still lacks features offered by some of the competition.

At Wednesday's introduction of the new iPad, Apple is expected to show off some features that we will see in the next version of iOS. Here's what we want Apple to include.

Completely Revised Notifications

Let's face it, almost every other platform handles notifications better than iOS at this point. In iOS, new text messages, calendar alerts, and other notifications interrupt any task the user is working on with a pop-up bubble that must be acknowledged before the user can get back to work. It's an extreme hassle.

What's more, the unlock screen provides almost no information about missed calls, emails, text messages, and so on. Apple needs to take a cue from the likes of Android, BlackBerry 6.0, and even webOS and improve the behavior of notifications. This item was on our list for iOS 4.0. We sincerely hope that Apple listens this year.

Widgets

This one is a long shot, but it would be a nice addition to the platform. One of Android's biggest strengths is its support for widgets. Android 3.0 Honeycomb, in particular, supports powerful widgets that can be used from the home screen. Rather than shoot for the moon, we'd like to see Apple integrate widget support for a few key apps, such as email, messages, phone functions, and perhaps social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter. This would be tricky for Apple to accomplish given the current architecture of iOS, but it's not impossible.

Local File Support

As someone who uses the iPhone and iPad for work, one of the most frustrating aspects is the inability to manage local files on the device. Even if Apple creates one master folder on the device that holds all the documents and/or files in a single spot, that would be better than nothing. Granted, iOS does allow users to sync select files from the device back and forth to a computer, but the process is clunky and not supported by enough business applications.

Better Email

My biggest complaint about the iOS email program is tied closely to iOS's lack of local file support. It really needs to change. Nearly every other platform allows users to go into the email program, compose an email, and then attach a file to that email before sending it off -- just as you would on a computer.

With iOS, this process is reversed. If you want to attach a photo or document to an email, you have to start in the photo gallery or Pages application and attach the document before composing the email. The email application should be able to reach into files stored locally on the iPhone or iPad and attach them to emails after the email has been written.

I'd also like to see improvements to the way threaded email works, and support for more of Gmail's features, such as stars, labels, and folders.

FaceTime Via 3G/4G

FaceTime is Apple's proprietary video chatting software. iOS device users (right now, just the iPhone 4 and latest-gen iPod Touch) can FaceTime with one another via Wi-Fi. Many of the competing video chat platforms (Skype, Qik, et al.) offer chats over Wi-Fi, 3G, and 4G technologies. Apple needs to make FaceTime work on whatever data network is available (especially if it wants to stop getting kicked in the face by those nasty T-Mobile commercials). This would vastly improve the usefulness and reach of FaceTime.

Has Apple been working hard on any of these features? Will they be included in iOS 5.0? Hopefully, we'll find out on Wednesday, when Apple kicks off its iPad event.

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