A fresh start...
Catriona Cornett User experience strategist, The Archer Group
Today’s mobile technology needs to do more than offer up access to apps: It needs to also surface information that’s valuable to the user. And the current iOS experience is very app-focused, to the point where notifications are organized by the app they’re from, not by how relevant or important they are.
iOS 7 needs to take what iOS is best known for — its apps — and mold the experience around getting to information from these applications more quickly and easily. Apple (AAPL) also needs to give the user more control over the mobile experience. Because, changing the visual aesthetic to look more flat, as rumored, is not enough.
A new home (screen)
My revised home screen experience uses tiles of information intelligently grouped by context, like say, what you’re doing. That’s why you’ll see groups like, “My Morning Routine,” “My Upcoming Commute,” or “Recent Social Activity.”
The tiles serve as a platform for applications to deliver contextual notifications. Users can customize preferred tiles and their priority — the user stays in control of what they want to see when. Sections are customizable, too.
Tiles open upon tap to reveal detailed contextual information. (Swiping them reveals actions to clear or snooze the notification.) They can be dynamic, changing based on conditions like time of the day, location, or what the user is doing at the time. And because app makers have flexibility, they can design and develop their tiles that offer information separate from what’s in their actual app.
Added bonus: The app category list displays the number of notifications in each category.
Ditch the folder system
Today’s iOS home screen limits the number of apps per screen and also the number of apps that can go in a folder. So the user is left to manually organize each “screen” of their device. That can quickly get difficult and confusing if that user has a lot of apps.
My tweaked apps screen serves up more flexibility around organizing them. Imagine each screen represents a category of apps. When apps are downloaded from the App Store, they go to a default app category on the phone, but users can move them to alternate or custom categories. (Swiping sideways navigates between categories.) This removes the need for “folders” completely, which can limit how apps can be organized.
A unique home
Now this might sound a lot like what Google Now already does, but there are some key differences. Google Now sticks to just Google services, or services Google (GOOG) can control. Apple’s home screen could do them one better and serve as a wider platform for third-party developers, so all apps can deliver contextual content, and users can control what they want to see and when. Opening up the experience to all developers will make the new iOS7 that much more useful.
Living in sync
Marco Paccagnella & Jessi Pervola Visual Designer and Associate Director, Smart Design
We’re all creatures of habit, and it seems the most important electronics in our lives should be able to keep up. Imagine if Apple’s new iOS learned what we do day after day. It could pool a broad mix of data, such as historical use, calendars, location, time of day, noise, light and identify what cables are plugged in, in order to prioritize content based on our schedules.
A smarter iPhone
For example, your iOS knows weekend mornings are spent working out because Spotify and Nike Running are on, and your headphones are plugged in. That means it knows to shut down other apps to save battery and prevent accidental pocket-dials. But on weekdays, iOS knows you’re at the office, so it prioritizes your work apps like calendars and Outlook, while social distractions like Facebook and Instagram alerts are suspended until you’ve left work.
Making iOS work harder
The gyroscope in the iPhone is great for motion sensing, but what if the new iOS made it work even harder? Say you’re holding the iPhone in front of you, and it’s perfectly upright, iOS knows you’re taking a photo and opens the camera app automatically. Or if it’s playing music, you could adjust the volume just by waving your hand.
Some more help from Siri
It’s these small moments that add up to a shift in our experience with iOS, and they could go on and on. Imagine if you flip the device over on the bedside table after a certain hour, iOS could learn that it’s bedtime and offers to activate your alarm. Play nice with Siri? Maybe her improved bedside manner means she says helpfully, “Alarm’s set for 7. Good night!”
Files that truly fly
Apple has an edge over their competition because people who have one iOS product generally have several. We’ve seen an opportunity to optimize file-sharing across the iOS system between recognized devices. (Sure, there’s iCloud. But to be honest, we usually email files to ourselves instead.) What if you could simply hold up your iPhone to your MacBook and the new iOS knew to “give” it a file? Or what if your iPad knew your phone was nearby and let you transfer photos by swiping images towards it?
This type of interaction would not only be functional, but users could be thrilled as they watch their files “leap” from one device to the other. That, as Apple might say, would be downright “magical.”