iOS 12 wish list: All the features we absolutely need

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iOS 12 wish list
Here's everything we want from Apple's next major update.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

WWDC is right around the corner, which means we’re about to get our very first look at Apple’s next major update to iOS.

We’re expecting big things from iOS 12, including a whole host of improvements that will make our devices more stable, and plenty of welcome bug fixes. Apple will surely surprise us with some nice new features, too.

Here’s our lengthy wish list for this update, which includes a Home screen overhaul, a more powerful FaceTime, better multitasking, and more!

iOS 12 may not be like other major updates to iOS. Apple is expected to make performance and stability its top priority, which means we could be lacking big new features.

If we had it our way, we’d get both: A stable iOS free from bugs, plus all of the following.

A more advanced Home screen

iPhone X home screen
It’s time the Home screen got some attention.
Photo: Apple

Apple hasn’t made any drastic changes to the Home screen in a long time, either. It did get a big redesign in iOS 7, but its basic functionality remains the same as it was on the original iPhone in 2007. Oh, you can put apps in folders now…

Here are some things the Home screen desperately needs.

Adaptive icons

App icons really need to be more informative. Icon badges that tell you how many notifications you have outstanding are no longer enough. Why can’t our icons adapt to provide us with useful information at a glance?

Apple has already made it so that the icon for the Clock app shows the correct time, and the icon for the Calendar app shows the correct date. This functionality should be extended to other apps, and third-party developers should be able to take advantage of it, too.

It would be great if the Weather icon showed today’s forecast. Or if the rings on the Activity icon reflected your actual progress in real-time. It would be even greater if Apple allowed app icons to be resized, so that even more information could be displayed.

Windows Phone’s excellent Live Tiles offered similar functionality. Android’s widgets do the same. Apple has the ability to take inspiration from those and provide us with something similar — but even better — in iOS.

Customizable 3D Touch

You might never use 3D Touch. It seems few iOS users have integrated it into their workflows, or even acknowledged its existence at all. But some of us use 3D Touch for all manner of things all the time — and we would like it to be better.

I’m referring specifically to the 3D Touch actions and shortcuts available on the Home screen. I use them to call favorite contacts in the Phone app. To message recent contacts in WhatsApp. To instantly jump into Portrait mode in the Camera app. To open a private tab in Safari when I want to look at… things.

But I’d really like the ability to customize those shortcuts. Some apps offer shortcuts I just don’t need, so it would be useful if app developers had ability to give us a whole bunch of options that we can choose from ourselves.

Free placement of app icons

It’s about time Apple lifted its restrictions on app icon placement and allowed us to stick them anywhere. Giving us a grid is fine — that helps keep things nice and tidy — but we should be able to place icons wherever we want inside that grid.

If I have just one line of apps on my Home screen, I don’t want to have to reach all the way to the top to open one of them. We should have the ability to place those icons at the bottom of the screen, or in the middle, without having to use transparent icon tricks.

A better FaceTime

FaceTime iPhone iPad
FaceTime should be able to do more.
Photo: Apple

FaceTime made video calling easier than ever when it made its debut with iOS 4 in 2010. It negated the need to setup third-party services like Skype, or to convince friends they should do the same. But over the past eight years, FaceTime hasn’t really changed a great deal.

Apple has made improvements, but big features that are commonly found inside other video calling apps are still missing. Here are three things we want FaceTime to get in iOS 12.

Group calls

FaceTime is great for one-to-one conversations with friends, family members, and even colleagues. But sometimes, a conversation needs to happen with more than just one person. That’s not possible inside FaceTime today, but it certainly should be.

Almost every other video calling service supports group calls. Apple even has conference call support baked into its Phone app — and has done since the iPhone made its debut. We want FaceTime to offer the same abilities.

Video messages

FaceTime also needs support for video messages. When you call a contact who doesn’t pick up, it would be super useful if you could leave a video voicemail so they know why you were trying to get hold of them.

Screen sharing

The ability to share our screens over a FaceTime call would be incredibly helpful in so many situations. How many times have you tried to provide a family member with tech support, but you have no idea what it is they’re actually doing? If you could see what they see, it would be easier to provide instructions on how to fix a problem.

Apple already gives us the ability to share our screens in iMessage on macOS, so we have no doubt its engineering teams understand this kind of functionality is useful. It’s about time we got to use it on iOS inside FaceTime, too.

Tweaks for iPhone X

iPhone X notch
iPhone X needs a customizable status bar.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

There are a few changes we would like to see for iPhone X, specifically. Some of them may work well on other devices, too — but they would really help us make better use of the iPhone X’s hardware and design.

Customizable status bar

iPhone X’s notch means we don’t get much of a status bar, but in the space we do have, it should be up to us to decide what we see.

iOS displays the time, cellular signal, Wi-Fi signal, and battery life by default; others would prefer to see different things in their place. I would take battery percentage above all else. Some might find a Bluetooth indicator more useful.

Always-on display

The iPhone X has an OLED display, unlike its predecessors, which all use LCD. What’s great about OLED is that it allows pixels to be lit individually, which makes it significantly more power efficient.

This could enable an always-on display feature that uses very little battery life. Lots of Android devices offer this, and iPhone X should, too. It would be useful to see the time, weather, calendar appointments, outstanding alerts, and other things when the device is asleep.

Ability to use Face ID in landscape mode

Face ID is awesome. I didn’t think I would ever get used to not having a fingerprint scanner before I got my iPhone X; now I completely understand why Apple ditched Touch ID for facial recognition instead. But one thing’s missing.

Face ID should work in landscape as well as portrait. Not only would it make unlocking the iPhone X easier, but it will be even more useful when Face ID comes to the iPad, which many people use almost exclusively in landscape orientation.

A more intelligent Siri

The iPhone's home button could be going away.
Siri should be a lot smarter.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Siri is fallen a long way behind rival virtual assistants. The likes of Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant especially are better in almost every way. They’re more reliable, they do more, and they work better with third-party services.

Siri needs to catch up — quickly. Apple could start with making it more reliable — Siri still doesn’t understand half of the commands I feed it — and then add key features that are missing. A more natural voice would also be welcome.

Google showcased even more improvements to the Assistant in May that highlight just how far behind Siri really is. Not only does the Assistant now allow for more natural conversations, without the need to say “Okay, Google” before every interaction, but it can even make calls and schedule appointments on your behalf.

We’d be more than happy for Apple to rip off Google in this instance.

A cleaner Notification Center

iPad Notification Center
What is this mess?
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Something has to be done about the Notification Center in iOS 12. Like a lot of things, it has gone too long without any real attention, and it’s now a confusing mess.

Grouped notifications

Once of the simplest yet most effective improvements we’d like Apple to make is to group notifications by app. If I have a bunch of unread iMessages, I’d like to see them all together, rather than having to hunt for them in a long list of other alerts.

Apple could also give us greater control over notifications and groupings, like Android does. We’d like to be able to specify priority apps which take precedent over everything else so that their notifications always appear on top.

Better actions

It would be great if we could do more with notification actions, too. Apple already allows for some simple things, like archiving an email or replying to a message without actually opening it, but it could allow for a lot more.

A true dark mode

iOS 11 dark mode
iOS 11 has an inverted colors option, but it’s not a true dark mode.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

iOS needs a true dark mode. It’s another feature that would work best on iPhone X because of its OLED display, but we’d like to see it come to all iOS devices, including the iPad. Many of us would rather look a darker interfaces over lighter ones.

The closest thing we have to a dark mode in iOS right now is the invert colors option inside the Accessibility settings. This turns many of the white user interface elements black, and it’s a step in the right direction. But there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Real multitasking on iPhone

multitasking view iphone x
This isn’t true multitasking.
Photo: Apple

Apple will tell you that the iPhone supports multitasking because it lets you quickly switch between apps, but it’s not proper multitasking — not like the iPad has. We’d like to see some of the iPad’s excellent features ported to the smaller screen.

Split View

The ability to run two apps in Split View on iPhone would be incredibly useful in so many situations, like when you need to jot down some notes while watching a video, or look something up in Safari during a FaceTime call. Picture-in-picture would be wonderful, too.

Now that our smartphones have larger displays — and more than enough power — this should be an option in iOS. It’s yet another feature that works well on Android.

Split View improvements on iPad

iPad Split View iOS
Split View could be better on iPad.
Photo: Apple

While we’re on the subject of multitasking, let’s talk about Split View on iPad. It’s awesome. It addresses one of the biggest problems we had with using the iPad as a productivity tool. But there’s one way Apple could make it better.

Two windows for the same app

We’d like support to use the same app in both Split View windows. Apple already allows you to view two Safari tabs side-by-side, but the same functionality would be immensely useful in apps like Pages, Numbers, and Notes.

Support for multiple users on iPad

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro (left) versus the 9.7-inch model.
Shared iPads need multiple user profiles.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Many of us share our iPads with other family members. Right now, that means also sharing the same iCloud account, apps, and settings. We want Apple to finally add support for multiple user profiles on iPad — each with their own iCloud account and apps.

We would also like support for child accounts with better parental controls. We should be able to disable certain apps, limit usage times, block purchases until they’ve been approved by an adult, and even prevent usage entirely during certain times of the day.

Greater security

Face ID iPhone X
Let us lock any app with Face ID.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

iOS is already more secure than competing platforms, but there’s one thing it’s missing — that’s the ability to lock apps using Face ID or Touch ID. App developers can add this functionality, but Apple should allow us to do it at system level so that any app can be secured.

This would prevent others from accessing sensitive content or data, even if they’ve been able to pick up your device while it was unlocked.

A more functional Files app

Share documents
Files is awesome, but it could be better.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Apple finally gave us a Files app with iOS 11, and it makes managing documents on iOS easier than ever. It boasts lots of useful features, including support for third-party services like Dropbox, but there are some things that should be added.

Support for USB drives

We’d like the ability to copy files to and from USB drives. This would make it easier to work across different devices, and to move larger files — like a photo library — that you don’t want to upload to online storage services.

Allow files to be renamed when saving

When you export a document to the Files app from another place, Apple lets you choose where to save it, but it doesn’t let you rename it. You’ll need to take additional steps later to do this. This is basic functionality that should really be included.

Mouse support on iPad

iPad Pro drawing Apple Pencil
Apple Pencil can’t beat a mouse at many things.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple doesn’t want us to use a mouse with iOS, but if it really wants the iPad to be a laptop replacement, it should reconsider.

I now use an iPad Pro for almost everything. I haven’t switched on my computer for weeks, and the last time I did, it was only to grab a document that I hadn’t uploaded to Dropbox. I find I’m much more productive on my iPad without background distractions, and now that I’ve mastered my workflow on iOS, everything is as simple as it was on Mac or PC.

Having said that, lifting my arm to touch a screen ten hours a day gets pretty darn tiring. I also find it difficult to complete more precise tasks — like carefully resizing an image in Pages — with my fingerprint. I’d give anything to be able to use a mouse with iOS instead.

The ability to choose default apps

Astro is these best email app for both iOS and Mac.
Mail isn’t always best for email.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

iOS users have been asking for this for years. If we want to use Chrome instead of Safari, Google Maps instead of Apple Maps, or Newton instead of Apple Mail, we should have that option. It’s not going to harm Apple in any significant way, or have an impact on service revenue.

We’re already using these services, whether we can make them default or not. The only difference it would make if Apple allowed to pick our own defaults is that iOS would be simpler and much more enjoyable to use.

What do you want in iOS 12?

So, there you have it. Our exhaustive wish list for iOS 12. Is there anything we missed? Is there a feature you want that iOS still doesn’t have? Let us know down in the comments.