WWDC is just two weeks away and just like every other year, we should expect to see what’s next for iOS at the event. Although rumors are pointing toward a rather modest update with iOS 12, I still have hopes that we’ll see at least a few tentpole items in the change log. The following is an unordered list of features and enhancements that I’d like to see included in the next version of iOS.
- Keyboard Shortcuts for Share and Action Extensions: Application extensions are such a vital part of the platform. They give users the ability to process and move data between applications mitigating the downsides of a sandboxed operating system. But activating these extensions through the touch interface can be tedious at times — especially if you’re used to having some applications’ keyboard shortcuts available system-wide, as they are on macOS. Giving users the ability to setup custom keyboard shortcuts for their most-used extensions would greatly improve the speed and fluidity with which power users navigate their devices.
- Family Photo Libraries: My wife and I have resorted to using Google Photos to keep all of our images backed up. We set it up in the early days of the service, before you could automatically share your entire library with a loved one. We just share a single account that all of our devices are logged into. This gives each of us access to every photo that we’ve ever taken. If one of us wants to find a specific photo of our niece, we can each find it, regardless of who actually took the photo. I’d like Apple to give us this capability in iCloud Photo Library.
- iOS Remote Access: Over the last couple of years, my father- and mother-in-law have both received iOS devices from the family — an iPod Touch and iPad, respectively. They’re both fairly new to the platform and it would be invaluable for troubleshooting if my wife and I could login to their devices remotely. Talking them through various processes over the phone gets the job done, but there’s often a communication breakdown because of their unfamiliarity with the terminology. Being able to take control of the device remotely to show them while explaining what you’re doing would be a powerful tool to help them learn the system.
- Activity App on iPad: I already share this data with a handful of friends and it would be nice if Apple utilized that same syncing system to let me view this data on my iPad. The app could make use of the larger display size with beautiful charts and graphs, giving me a better big-picture overview of my fitness activity.
- iOS Trackpad Support: Many iPad owners have discovered the benefits of a keyboard on the platform. Keyboard shortcuts and comfortable touch typing are an indispensable aspect of some users’ workflows. And the addition of trackpad support to the platform could be a great way to improve ergonomics and accessibility. Limiting this to trackpads specifically (instead of external pointing devices in general) might prove foolish in the long run, but I believe iOS should remain as a touch-first operating system. And trackpads would let us continue to use many of the same multitouch gestures that are already built into the system.
- Photo Printing Services: Apple’s photo printing service is one of the best on the market. But its still only available on macOS. Apple should add a Projects tab to the Photos app and give users access to the full suite of printing services — photo books, prints, cards, and calendars.
- Ability to Change Any Application’s Icon: You can hack this functionality together with Workflow, but the experience isn’t ideal. What I really want is something built into the system, either in settings or within each application’s force touch menu.
- Clipboard History API: Clipboard managers are severely hindered on iOS by their inability to monitor clipboard changes in the background. This leads to clunky solutions that rely on the app’s Today View widget, action extension, or drag and drop. iOS should keep a clipboard history of a dozen items or so and let applications access it through a new API. Users would have to explicitly allow access to this data through a modal dialog in the same way they give access to their location. This would prevent nefarious developers from accessing your data without your knowledge while empowering an application category that has been limping along for the past decade.
- Cover Sheet Remembers Previous Location: I use Today View widgets dozens of times throughout the day and iOS 11 made accessing those widgets much more cumbersome. Prior to iOS 11, the system would remember whether you last accessed your widgets or Notification Center and would display the previously accessed view whenever you swiped from the top of your screen. But that’s no longer the case. Cover Sheet always displays your notifications first and requires an additional swipe to see your widgets. I hope Cover Sheet in iOS 12 is a little less forgetful.
- External Storage Support in Files: iOS already has support for external storage devices through the Lightning to USB and Lightning to SD Card adapters, but at the moment this is only used for importing photos. I’d like to see thumb drives, external hard drives, and SD cards appear within the Locations menu in the Files app.
- Customizable App Shortcuts in Control Center: With iOS 11 we were given the ability to customize the items that appear in Control Center, but we’re still limited to the small set of shortcuts that Apple offers. I’d like to see this opened up and give users the ability to place shortcuts to any of their applications in Control Center.
- Save Workflows as Standalone Action Extensions: I’m an avid Workflow user and have built several action extensions that help streamline my work. But I’m not fond of having those automations hidden behind Workflow’s action extension. I’d like the ability to set some number of my workflows as top-level, standalone action extensions that live alongside all of the other apps in my share sheet.
I don’t expect Apple to include all of these features in iOS 12. Especially if this year is going to be a modest upgrade. But even if they only tackle a few of them, I’ll walk away from WWDC as quite the happy camper.