Remember when we got a few years off between operating systems? We got a little break between, say, Windows 95 and 98 or between Mac OS 8 and 9.
But in 2011 Apple started releasing new versions of its Mac and iPhone operating systems every single year. Unfortunately, when you pile on new features that often, sooner or later the OS suffers. It gets harder to learn, harder to use and sometimes buggier.
At this moment, Apple is working on iOS 11 for the iPhone. If history is any guide, it will come out in September. As a public service, therefore, I thought I'd helpfully point out a few things in iOS 10 that need fixing. C'mon, Apple—here's your chance to make things right!
(Note: These are design fails, not features I'd like to see. I could offer plenty of those, too.)
• Clean up the hard presses. The screens on the latest iPhone models (the 6s and 7) have what Apple calls 3D Touch, meaning that they're pressure-sensitive. In many spots, touching the screen hard produces one result; pressing lightly delivers another.
But how hard is hard? If you use the wrong pressure, you get a result you didn't intend.
A classic example: To move or delete app icons on the iPhone's home screen, you're supposed to touch any app's icon for a couple of seconds. At that point, they all begin to—what's the technical term?—wiggle. Now you can manipulate them.
But if you try that on a 3D Touch model, you're likely to open a shortcut menu instead because you're pressing too hard. You have to cancel out and try again, remembering to press lightly but longer. No way is that intuitive.
• Make hard-press features available to all! Some useful features are available only to iPhones with 3D Touch. For example, only with a hard press can you adjust the brightness level of the “flashlight” (the LED on the back of the phone) or clear all the notification bubbles at once. There's no reason Apple couldn't make these features available to the millions of people who own older phones. Why couldn't a long press perform the same function as the hard press?
• Fix the Control Center swiping. In iOS 10, Apple reinvented the Control Center—the settings panel that appears when you swipe up from underneath the screen. Specifically, Apple split it into three “panes”: one with the traditional controls (brightness, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, et cetera); one that contained music-playback controls; and a third that controlled accessories in your home.
Until iOS 10, you could adjust the screen brightness by dragging horizontally on the Brightness slider. But now horizontal swiping means: “Switch to the Music controls.” If your finger's aim on the Brightness slider isn't absolutely pixel-perfect, you wind up opening the Music page by accident. Happens all the time.
• Make a decision about the Genius playlist. Previous iOS versions offered something called a Genius playlist, which automatically generated lists of songs with similar musical styles. That's gone in iOS 10. But the on/off switch for the feature is still there, in the Music Settings; it does absolutely nothing. Oopsie.
• Let us clear our music queue, please. It's easy to create a “queue” of songs or albums that you want to hear next in the Music app. It's not so easy to clear that queue all at once—it's impossible.
• Let us choose our preferred apps! Years ago Microsoft got in trouble for bundling its own apps with Windows, making it harder for independent companies to make inroads with their software. Apple is now doing the same thing with its apps for mail, calendar, browser and maps. For example, if you ask Siri to give you directions somewhere or hit the Get Directions button on an address, the iPhone uses Apple's built-in Maps app to guide you. There's no easy way to direct it to use the far superior Google Maps. That's just 800-pound gorilla-ism.
So there you go, dear Apple: a to-do list for the next release of one of the world's most popular operating systems. Please remember the principle that put you on the map in the first place years ago: simpler is usually better.