You’ve got five minutes with Apple boss Tim Cook. Quick: how would you use your time? What idea would you pitch Which product would you beg him to launch – or ditch? And (assuming he asks) where would you advise him to take Apple over the coming years?
For this fantasy feature, we put ourselves in that wonderful (and entirely imaginary) position. We created an Apple manifesto for 2013 and beyond. From iPhone mini to iPad 5, from iWatch to iOS 7, here’s what we’d like to see from Apple’s next round of launches. Oi, Mr Cook! We’d like a word…
The Next iOS
1. Multiple user accounts
Picture this common scene. A family shares an iPad, with each person struggling to maintain control of it long enough to play their favourite game, check Facebook, send email and surf the web. But since an iPad can have only one account, Mum can’t perform such everyday activities as checking her personal email account (unless she uses webmail), checking Facebook (without logging out and logging in with her credentials), and saving her high scores or recording the levels she has completed in a game; in addition, her bookmarks and browsing history are visible to all other users, as are any saved auto-fill information and passwords.
Most people get around this problem by not using a shared iPad for email and other personal data – but why should they have to limit their use of the device? Apple could easily fix the situation by adding multiple user accounts to iOS.
Logging in and out of a shared Mac or PC is no big deal: lots of people do it regularly. On an iPad, having multiple user accounts would enable you to wake it up, see a screen with several icons, tap or swipe the one for your account, enter a passcode, and access your own setup.
Many couples and families share an iPad; with a system of multiple accounts, each user would be able to set up a separate home screen, and each would have personal settings, just as happens with OS X accounts. Users would have their own email accounts, bookmarks, contacts, calendars and so on. And their games would be linked to their Game Center accounts: they’d see personal stats and high scores. Finally, each user could hide any of the apps installed on the device.
Naturally, Apple would prefer that we just buy more iPads to serve each member of the household. But for people who can’t afford the expense, the best way to make iPads more flexible is to allow each user to have his or her own account.
Having the option to create multiple user accounts is standard in desktop computing. Why not in mobile?
2. Parental controls
Microsoft has so far struggled to stand out in the smartphone and tablet war, but its Windows Phone 8 platform contains one fairly fantastic innovation: Kid’s Corner. It’s effectively a user account within the phone – accessible at any time by swiping left from the lock screen – that’s designed to be safe for children: one in which the apps and settings are all controlled by you. They can’t make calls or texts, and social networking is severely restricted.
Windows smartphone users swear by the convenience of this feature. You can simply hand the device over to the kids, safe in the knowledge that they won’t waste your money on in-app purchases, stumble on to 18-rated games or view inappropriate websites. Unlike owners of iPhones and iPads, who have to activate parental controls on a case-by-case basis, and have far fewer options even then.
So why not pinch Kid’s Corner for iOS 7?
3. Default 3rd-party browser
Many of our colleagues use Apple Macs, but almost none of them use Safari as their default web browser; most favour Chrome or Firefox instead. So why does Safari maintain such a stranglehold on iOS? Because you still can’t make a third-party browser the default.
Dolphin is a great web browser; Chrome for iOS has its fans. But as soon as you hit a link in an email or on Twitter, you’re yanked back to the default: Safari. When Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer with PCs, it got taken to court for monopolistic practices. It’s time for Apple to give the other browsers a chance, or it might as well ban them.
4. Multi-user facetime
Skype lets you speak to more than one person at once; Google+ Hangouts allow you to do it for free. Apple is officially behind the times.
5. Customised autocorrect
Apologies to the comedy websites that would be put out of business if autocorrect stopped changing “See you in five minutes” to “I like wearing dresses”. But it’s time for Apple to give finer control over when and where this much-mocked function weaves its magic.
Pages, for example – where you create long pieces of writing, want to work fast, and are likely to check through at the end for howlers – really benefits from autocorrect. In emails and tweets it’s more dangerous. It would be nice to have the option to selectively apply autocorrect on an app-by app basis.
Autocorrect might save you from some embarrassing errors, but it’s better known for creating gaffes of its own
6. Battery emergencies
A staple proposal of these kinds of article is “a better battery”. But even in our fantasies, we’re grimly realistic about battery lives. With all the extra features we’re adding, Apple is going to have to work hard just to keep battery life the same.
Instead, how about a set of customisable actions set to kick in when your iOS device reaches 10 percent power? Instead of just popping up that annoying warning, the device could be programmed to automatically lower the brightness, switch off 3G, Bluetooth and location services, and generally do everything in its power to stay alive.
7. Default app on wake
Instead of defaulting back to whichever app you were using last when you wake the iOS device, we’d like the option to set a different app, or the Home screen, as the default.
8. Widgets and home-screen customisation
Last but not least, a concept straight out of the Android handbook: widgets or mini-apps on the Home screen. Our fantasy iOS 7 device has a Home screen stuffed with widgets displaying the weather, the latest headlines and the first line of unread VIP emails.
Much as we like this idea, it’s not very likely to happen: Apple hates the idea of users being able to create their own ‘desktop’ on iOS and has been known to remove apps from sale for attempting to offer this.