Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ten Simple Ways Apple Can Improve the iPhone

While the tech world waits in thrall for news of the fabled Apple tablet to appear, we should also hope that Cupertino continues to refine its current best seller, the iPhone.

Yes, the device is already a pleasure to use, with copious grace notes sprinkled throughout the operating system -- songs fade out when you receive a call, for instance, and then there's the gorgeous simplicity of visual voicemail. But let's be honest. The interface and built-in apps do have their annoyances. Let me get this straight, Apple: I can cut video on my iPhone 3GS, but I can't edit a playlist?

As a daily iPhone user, I've compiled a list of simple and significant ways Apple can improve its own suite of apps and the iPhone OS itself. Here's my top 10:

1. A more useful "slide to unlock" screen. Show my unread email count, the weather, or upcoming appointments.

2. Fewer taps to move between mail inboxes. Right now, checking my two inboxes requires seven taps: Mail >> Gmail >> Inbox << Gmail << Accounts >> Newsweek >> Inbox. There has to be a better way to navigate.

3. Facebook and Twitter integration with Contacts. Once I've logged into the Facebook app, why can't it populate my contacts list with photos, birthdays, and other information?

4. The weather icon should show the current weather. Just like the calendar icon displays the current date.

5. A new app that shows your minute and text message balances. Yes, you can get this information by dialing *646# and *3282#, respectively; and yes, AT&T offers its own app. But both methods are annoying. (The AT&T app requires a password every time you use it.)

6. A battery app. This could show the battery's overall health (as degraded from its factory state), its expected replacement date, plus stats like average use between charges.

7. A character counter when composing text messages. I'm always wondering if I've gone over 160 characters.

8. A way to delete built-in apps. Some aren't so great. I never use Stocks, and there are better calculator apps than the one Apple offers. Why can't I hide these?

9. Improve how appointments are added to the calendar. The current method requires too many finger taps, and there's no way to add default settings, like always having a 15-minute alert.

10. "Alarms" built into Maps. If you're using the Maps application while driving (I know, I know, bad idea), it would be super useful for the phone to sound an alert when GPS detects that you're at a given distance from your next turn -- say, one mile before your highway exit, or one block before your left turn.

What iPhone tweaks would you like Apple to address officially? Leave your wish list items in the comments.

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