Five Still Missing iOS Features

Two years ago I wrote about some outstanding iOS flaws. It appears all four of these issues have been addressed in iOS 7, so what little flaws/features are left?

1. Inconsistent Number of Icons on iPad Rows

The iPad utilizes it’s larger screen to allow for more icons per home screen than all iPhones before the iPhone 5. The iPad (in all its varieties) has a grid of icons on each home screen that is 4×5, or 5×4, depending on the orientation. There is a downside to this though, icons move around too much. The icon that is on the right side, second row from the bottom when in portrait moves to the left side in the bottom row when in landscape. This saps up any muscle memory when switching orientations. Because the screen size is significantly different from one orientation to the other the solution wouldn’t be easy, but it has to be better than constantly re-located icons.

2. Broken Tethering Functionality

The iPhone supports tethering to other devices via USB, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. I personally utilize this functionality pretty regularly since I have a Wi-Fi only iPad. The speed difference between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi is likely pretty negligible, especially with 4G on the other end serving as the weak link, so the reality is that it shouldn’t matter whether the tether is utilizing Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, but that is not the case.

For whatever reason two of Apple’s built-in features, iMessage and FaceTime do not work over Bluetooth tethering. There is no error message for iMessage, it just never sends. There is no indication (or technical reason I can think of) of why this doesn’t work, it just doesn’t. Therefore it seems like Wi-Fi is the obvious solution, but it prevents its own host of problems.

It’s less secure, even there the password is configurable. More importantly, the connection constantly drops if it’s inactive. After a minute or so, the connection is dropped from the iPad (or tethered device), and the only way to re-establish is to unlock the iPhone, navigate to settings, and click on “Personal Hotspot” to make the device “discoverable” Then the iPad will try to reconnect. This is a major inconvenience, that again exists for no apparent reason.

3. Natural Language Entry for Calendar

Apps like QuickCal and Fantastical created a new breed of application that use “natural language” entry for calendar event creation. The idea being that instead of clicking through multiple fields to create a new entry on the calendar, users can instead just type phrases like “lunch 6pm with Dan at Portillo’s”, and the app figures out how to create the even correctly.

Apple has nabbed other concepts from apps like pull to refresh, flashlight abilities and others, and this feature exists in multiple applications already, so why haven’t they added it in their calendar app?

4. Exclude Some Mailboxes From Global Inbox (Or Smart Folders)

Unified inbox is a great feature, one of the best of Mail.app1. But it’s not always the answer. For those people who mix work and personal email accounts on their phone (likely 75% or more of iOS users) sometimes having just work, or just personal email is the best solution. On OS X there are Smart Folders that can be used to solve this issue, but on iOS there is not a solution.

Of course unified inbox didn’t exist on iOS all that long ago, and overall it’s a more useful feature than it is a hindrance, but it’s crazy to think that Apple doesn’t realize people bounce between contexts all the time. Best case scenario, a simple way to exclude certain accounts from unified inbox. The alternate solution would allow for the creation of smart mailboxes like on OS X.

5. Ability to Remove Apple Installed Apps

The news that Apple’s Newsstand app can finally be hidden in a folder is great for those of us who never use the application. But it doesn’t end there. Apple continues to include many applications by default that just don’t make sense. The argument for having Calendar, Contacts, Calculator and Notes makes some sense. Things like Stocks, Compass, Voice Memos and a separate Music and Video app does not.

What makes the least sense is that none of these apps can be removed by non-jailbroken users. Apple will likely make the case that this could be confusing for users or something along those lines, but even if it were a hidden setting somewhere it would still be better to give users a chance to remove things they don’t need. The only silver lining is that in iOS 7 more applications can be stored in folders which means at least it won’t take 2+ folders to hide all the apps.

  1. Although other apps have it now []