The MacStories iOS 10 Feature Wish List And Concept Video

20 April 2016


For the past few months, I’ve been collaborating with Sam Beckett (author of a fantastic Control Center concept we linked to a while back) to visualize my iOS 10 wishes with a professional concept video and static mockups. Sam and I discussed my ideas for a couple of months, and he was able to visualize2 what I would like to have in iOS 10 – both for the iPhone and iPad – with a style and attention to detail I’m extremely happy with.

Below, you’ll find a collection of my iOS 10 wishes, organized in tentpole features (the ones also shown in the video) plus additional sub-sections. Some of these wishes have been on my list for years; others are a consequence of the features Apple shipped with iOS 9.

You should read the list and watch the video before going any further. I could post this with a comment of agreement and say everything Viticci suggests in the MacStories concept video is useful and Apple should add it all to iOS. That’s a boring (and obvious) thing to do so I’ll spare the words. As iOS is an endless cycle of feature releases, ultimately almost everything in the article will probably come to light eventually.

This is one of the best iOS feature concepts I’ve watched, ever. It offers realistic ideas about how iOS could and can improve with interface designs that are nice to look at and fit well into the existing metaphors of the system.

The Control Center customisability is great, utilising the same jiggle indicator as the Home Screen to show mutability. Expanding the Messages app to handle more rich media types is an obvious future direction and the video does the idea justice with some cute UI work. Changes to the iCloud Drive app and Document Picker are well-warranted and the proposed layout is a great balance of Finder-esque power with overall iOS simplicity.

Their choice of side-by-side multitasking app switcher redesign is also nicely considered with a higher priority given to recent apps and an affordance for user-defined stickied favourite apps. I don’t like how they have chosen to activate a drag-and-drop mode, by exposing a drag handle alongside the Cut-Copy-Paste menu, but I don’t have a better answer to hand so it’s hard to genuinely critique it.

I love the subtle bounce animation the video uses for popovers that isn’t even mentioned explicitly; a nice quick effect to draw attention to the modal view. This is what iOS 6 had and what iOS 7 and later needs; bits of delightful whimsy that don’t get in the way of what you were actually trying to accomplish.

All that being said, the realities of making a video mockup versus actually creating the feature as an Apple engineer are different things. When you are making a video, each feature is about the same amount of work: think up an idea, make some assets and glyphs, incorporate that into a series of moving images.

I’m not claiming it’s easy to do, I couldn’t make these mockups, I’m saying each item can be taken of equal priority and equal importance. Implementing this stuff into a working, shipping, version of iOS is very different. I’m certain a lot of this stuff as is would have usability issues when actually made, there are lot of edge-case issues that pop up in development that don’t come through static screenshots and concept videos.

Different features have wildly different requirements about what is involved. Making rich Message previews for URLs and Notes is probably easier to do than change up the Apple Music machine learning algorithms to be more contextually relevant. Similarly, making Message previews for links is easier than making a framework for all third parties to integrate into message bubbles and show custom content and buttons.

Dark Theme is a great example of a feature that is easy to visualise in a couple of Photoshopped screenshots (MacStories’ video depicts a dark version of Messages, Calendar and Music) but actually doing it well at an OS level involves many more challenges than simply turning a white background black. There needs to be a lot of planning and thought for how the settings work, whether there are automatic options for sunrise/sunset or brightness, Control Center overrides, handling timezone changes, etcetera etcetera. Simply adding ‘night’ themes to every system app would be a huge undertaking for Apple’s design and engineering departments.

The varying workloads required is what ultimately determines what Apple tackles and when from the smorgasbord of potential thought-up features. Looking realistically at the major things on the list, my guess is iOS 10 will probably include a more flexible Control Center, a better multitasking app switcher, read receipts per Messages conversation, and drag-and-drop between side-by-side apps as an outside bet. Everything else is probably out of scope for this year.

This isn’t a criticism of Viticci’s work, he’s not intimating this is simple stuff, but many people watch these videos and believe as much, with a sentiment like ‘this guy on YouTube did it, why doesn’t Apple?’. The same applies to feature request written posts of course, but there’s something about the visceral quality of video that reinforces that feeling more than words on a page.