Developers' wish list for iOS 8

Suggested features for the next iPhone and iPad OS range from diagnostic data to parental controls to leaving things almost as is

Apple's iOS 8, the so-far-theoretical major upgrade to Apple's iOS 7 mobile operating system, ought to show more diagnostics information and maybe take a lesson from iOS 6 in visual style, say iOS application builders looking at the future of Apple's popular platform.

Developers have very strong feelings about where Apple should take the OS. The company released iOS 7 for its iPhone smartphone and iPad tablet in September, and it was considered a departure from previous versions, with a different look, but its HTML5 capabilities were buggy.

With iOS 8, Apple could look at "little things," such as spatial awareness capabilities, says Peter Nowell, a designer at Peter Nowell Design. "When people opened up an iOS 6 app, they were able to pretty quickly understand what they were looking at and where things were. Often in iOS 7, it takes five or 10 more seconds. That's unnecessary, and it might just be an indication that the visual style won't hold up over time."

Apple should consider offering diagnostic information, stresses Alex Doub, a software enginer at Web and mobile apps builder Rocketmade. "It would be cool if there was some way to see information about running apps, like how much CPU time or power is being used for this app. Apple added that to [OS X] Mavericks -- in Activity Monitor, you can see energy usage by application." Doub also suggests improvements in navigation and archiving for messages and a quick way to kill all apps. "When you're switching apps, there's a ton of free space on the top or bottom for something like this. Or even a button that you can tap that will show you the CPU and power usage for that particular app, so you can kill apps that are killing your battery."

Better privacy controls are needed on iOS, says developer Brandon Roth, also a software engineer at Rocketmade. "For example, apps use analytics to send all kinds of data, and I have no idea what they are doing, and I feel sort of helpless that I don't know nor can I control this," he says. "Apple took a big step on their crackdown of using unique devices identifiers in iOS 7, and I'd like them to go further in iOS 8." It would also help if Apple allowed different user accounts on the same device, he adds.

Advocating minimal change is Sean Woodhouse, CEO of consulting company Itty Bitty Apps, which makes the Reveal tool for debugging iOS apps at runtime. "I almost would like it to be like [OS X] Snow Leopard, where they just nailed down all the bugs and just settled things down a bit." Apple ought to just make developers lives easier with the release, he adds.

At Smule, which provides music creation and sharing apps, Nick Kruge, director of design, cites a need for a new navigation framework. "One thing that has been catching my eye a lot since the release of iOS 7 is a design shift to a less visually intrusive and perhaps more intuitive style of navigation," says Kruge. "We are seeing a lot of successful apps abandon common interface elements, such as navigation bars, tab bars, and side menus in exchange for immersive navigation, perhaps even experiential navigation."

Interfaces are emerging that cleverly hide complexity, he said. "It would be great to see a new navigation framework centered around this immediate, bar-less new paradigm that seems to be at the forefront of iOS design. Users would become more familiar with navigating in this way and thus would help this body of design move forward, all while allowing developers to save engineering cycles."

Nowell, meanwhile, is dissatisfied with color contrast on iOS 7. "I frequently see two really bright colors right next to each other," he says. "I'd like to see a lot of visual improvements to the usability of the home screen."

With iOS 7, Apple blazed a new trail, says Rusty Mitchell, creative director at mobile apps developer Mercury Intermedia. "You really can't think of iOS 7 as necessarily the seventh implementation of iOS. It really is kind of starting over." Developers, he said, should assume there will be lots of refinements ahead, but designers have to deal with whatever is dealt to them by Apple.

Roth cites a need for better parental controls in iOS. "This is an area that iOS and both Android have for the most part ignored, and Apple could really be a leader in this area." He suggested enabling limits on usage of apps and Internet filtering. (Apple recently settled a case with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in which children were allowed to run up large purchases of apps on Apple devices. The company will pay at least $32.5 million to customers.)

This story, "Developers' wish list for iOS 8," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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