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Dear Apple: What we want to see in iPhone 4.0, part 3


Even with rumors swirling that iPhone OS 4.0 will be previewed on Wednesday (along with some tablet thingy), chances are the OS won't be finalized until early summer, so there's still plenty of time for Apple to take your suggestions.

In past letters I broke down what readers requested by percentages. Because of the sheer number of requests for app improvements, in this letter I just compiled feature requests by app. So, without further ado, here is your letter to Apple:

Dear Apple,

Who know what you have up your sleeves for Wednesday. Is it "only" a tablet, or will you be showing us a peak at the next iPhone OS? If so, here is some of what we hope to see:

CALCULATOR: Yeah, what more can we really need, right? We've got one suggestion for you: some think graphing options ala Grapher app for Mac OS X would be nice.

CALENDAR: Out of all the Apple-branded iPhone apps, this one (along with Mail) is one that can use the most work. Our wants:
• Landscape calendar.
• Week view.
• Selectable calendar display. Right now, you can either view one calendar, or all the calendars. If we have 4 calendars synced, we would like the ability to display contents from either one, two, three or all of the calendars.
• Tasks support!
• A way to set the "normal" day hours like in iCal...those hours when we're usually asleep or "off duty" can then be dimmed.
• The ability to dial phone numbers or add attendees from inside Calendar.
• Birthday calendar sync.
• "Go to specific date" button. Pressing backward/forward to view past/future events is somewhat tedious.
• In Month view, double-tapping on a day will allow us to edit/add events on that day. Likewise, a double tap on empty space in the Day view will add an event in that specific time. The Event Name and Location entry field will then automatically open.
• Alarm/badge reminders option for events. In fact, we'd like better notification options on the home screen overall.

: Most of us think the software here is pretty solid, but we would like to see a few things:
• A "self-portrait" mode that turns the whole screen into a button for easier shutter access.
• Timer mode.
• Image controls: White balance, scene modes, etc.
• Digital zoom.
• A movable shutter button. In its current, fixed position it's awkward for people with bigger hands. What would be awesome is if the user could drag the button around and position it where it works best for him or her (kind of like how you can drag toolbar icons around in apps).

• Give us the ability to play a song or entire playlist as the alarm tone.
• As you'll see in other app suggestions, we love dynamic icons (like iCal's, where it displays the day and date). Show the actual time on the clock icon.
• And please, let us set the length of the snooze alarm.

COMPASS: Some of us feel this app is kind of pointless. Many think it should be integrated into the Maps app (see below). Other believe it could become a very powerful travel tool. Image you are wandering around a foreign city. You've designated a certain corner of a street as "the meeting place." Your group splits up, but because you've hit a "remember location" button in the Compass app, you can easily navigate your way back. This is especially useful for smaller cities... if many streets aren't sign-posted it makes Maps much more difficult to use.

An improved Compass app would also help us find where we've parked our car in that mall parking garage (there the Maps app can't help at all). This can be done offline (without using Google Maps) only with the compass and the GPS, or online (using Google maps, compass and the GPS).

• Coverflow landscape view. We could swipe through our beautiful friends and tap their pictures to call.
• Social network integration to grab latest contact details & pics from networks such as Facebook, Flickr, Myspace, and LinkedIn.
• Ability to create groups on the iPhone.
• Thumbnail pictures next to the names in the contacts menu.

iPod: We covered our wishes to be able to turn off landscape mode system-wide in the first letter, but we'll repeat it here (because it's annoying to have landscape mode pop on and off while we're jogging). Here's what else we think can make the iPod app better:
• Sort songs in a playlist by name, artists, album, and date added.
• Ability to erase single songs.
• Using the Remote app is a much more pleasant experience than using the iPod app. Why? Because of the playlist icons. Please duplicate that here.
• Does shuffle ever seem not quite random enough to you? It does to us.
• Voice control improvement. "play/pause", "back", and "next."
• The ability to edit playlists.

MAIL: Like Calendar, we feel Mail can use a lot of improvement. So here goes:
• Unified inbox! We aren't the first to mention this, and quite frankly we'll be shocked if this isn't in the next version.
• Junk mail filtering.
• Rules! It's annoying to see fifty messages in your iPhone inbox when, if we were at our Macs, we would see forty-five of those already separated into their rule folders.
• Multiple signatures, because we have some pretty annoying witty quotes we want to share with some people.
• Ability to create a to-do from a message.
• Ability to flag a message.
• Let us bounce a message back.
• UI tweak: When composing an email the cancel button should change to say "close" once the user has entered information. Right now, you have to remember that hitting "cancel" is going to prompt you to save. Simple change for a poor UI word choice.
• There needs to be a way to switch from inbox to inbox without going back up the chain. The standard iPhone UI black buttons representing different inboxes at the bottom of the screen could do this.

• Integration with our Google Map profiles, My Maps, etc...
• Turn-by-turn GPS!
• Add a mini compass in the corner of the app (thus perhaps eliminating the need for the current Compass app?).
• Save maps directly to the iPhone so when we're out of cell and Wi-Fi range, we can still use the map we saved.
• Landscape mode.
• The ability to save routes.
• The ability to export routes to email.
• Street view with augmented reality option.

• Group Texting. Sure it's nice to type out a name and add them, but when we want to text a group of people, we don't want to have to pick them one at a time.... we want to either be able to select a WHOLE contact "group", or select them as we scroll through.
• Give us different vibration settings for different types of messages. For example, two pulses means new text; one new email; a long beat means voicemail. Something like this would be helpful for when the phone is in our pocket during a meeting or while driving.
• Quick reply texts! (see video above)
• The ability to save sound clips we receive.
• New colors for the SMS boxes during chat.
• Delivery reports.
• Add character count to SMS edit box.

• Let us choose the font and font size!
• MobileMe sync! It's a pain to have to plug in via USB for them to sync.
• Sorting options (date, tags, alphabetically).
• Check boxes so we can use it for grocery lists, etc.
• Voice recording in directly in notes.

PHONE: Yeah, some of us actually use our iPhones to make calls. We'd like:
• The ability to forward voicemail.
• The ability to delete one call entry at a time in our recent call log. This potentially could save you from issues with the significant other.
• Ability to display contact pics added via Address Book in full screen, during an incoming call.

• Ability to arrange photos into albums. Add passcode lock to albums that have sensitive photos.
• Faces & places view.
• Create email-able post cards.
• Sorting options (date, faces, tags, places, albums).
• Basic editing (cropping, etc).

• In Safari, when several pages are open, when you switch to one of the pages it reloads automatically rather than showing the cached version. This is slow and consumes more battery. Please give us a choice of turning this off.
• It would be great to have the ability to view MobileMe webmail via Safari for those times when a fellow Machead wants to check his email on our iPhone.
• Top Sites! It would free up home screen space if we could have easy visual access to our favorite sites directly in Safari.
• Private browsing.
• Search directly in a web page.

• Again, a dynamic icon would be cool. It could change according to a user-selectable market or particular stock. Green badge up, red badge down.

• Let a single click of the headphone's handsfree button be "pause recording" and a double click be "start recording." Also, there is currently no way to resume a recording if the screen is locked.

WEATHER: One of the only iPhone apps that's not been updated since iPhone OS 1.0! Here's what to do:
• More than any other, this app needs a dynamic icon.
• Turn the app to landscape mode to see an hourly breakdown of the weather.
• Add a current location screen to the app, utilizing GPS, so no matter where we are instead of rolling down the window and sticking our hand out, we can reach into our pockets to see if it's raining.

• Ability to play our YouTube playlists.
• Allow commenting on videos from inside the app.
• Enable search for peoples' channels.

So there you have it, Apple: three long letters about what we would love to see in the next iPhone and its OS. We know you're listening, and even though we know you would never admit to being influenced by this feedback, the people have spoken and we think you'll agree some of the ideas are pretty darn good. Whether you take them or leave them is up to you. Just know that despite our myriad suggestions, one thing is still certain on our end: we love our iPhones and we can't wait to see what the next version brings!


The loyal readers and iPhone owners of TUAW.

TUAW Readers: Thank you so much for your contributions. In total, I received over 3200 emails from you. I included as many of your suggestions as time, space, and feasibility allowed. If you guys want to see any of the lesser-suggested ideas that didn't make it into the letters, let me know in the comments and perhaps I'll compile them in a follow-up article!

Maps and Notes mockup by reader Michael W.

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