100+ iPhone Features I Want

As wonderful as Apple’s iPhone is, it has a lot of room for improvement. I’m hopeful that many of the wishes listed below will some day be realized— either by Apple or by the tireless and industrious iPhone hackers out there. What follows is my brain dump of the dreams I have had for iPhone. As they are realized, I’ll be updating this list.

And much of these would also apply to the newly announced iPod touch.

Thoughts about the “Home” button

Once again, Apple has produced a minimal design device, and as with the mouse we’re now left to imagine creative ways in which to maximize function out of a minimal design. I’m talking about the one-button smart phone; specifically, the ‘Home’ button.

I think the ‘Home’ button at the bottom of iPhone could be used in combination with other actions to allow for lots of new behavior. These behaviors would not necessarily be required to use the device, but would yield features to users that want them. In this respect, this is akin to a right-mouse button on a Mac.

So here’s how it would work. I’ve noticed that the ‘Home’ button doesn’t actually take you to the Home screen until you’ve released the button. This means that it is possible to program the button to work differently when combined with other buttons or actions.

For instance: pressing the Home button plus the Wake button for a few seconds will trigger a shutdown action, which then lets you slide to confirm and upon doing so, iPhone shuts down. This works reasonably well on iPhone today.

I think this would make for an easy way to do text selections, which would then let you copy text to a clipboard. The first step is to define a copy point— this would work by pressing and holding to display the ‘loupe’. You place the cursor where you want to start selecting. Then while still holding the loupe open, with your other hand’s thumb, press and release the Home button. This toggles you to a selection mode. From this point, you drag the loupe to make your selection. Upon release, you get a popup menu which lets you choose between cut/copy/paste/cancel.

If you didn’t make a selection— if you just left the loupe where it was, you still get a menu, but one for just paste/cancel.

So how about ‘Home’ key plus volume up/down keys? That could be useful for specific tasks, but to me, the real extensibility is with the touch screen: gestures. The one problem is the current behavior of the Home key.

Pressing and holding the Home key for a few seconds currently forces the current application to close and returns you to the Home screen. I think this should change to Home key plus Wake key— not holding both, but just pressing both in conjunction. This frees up the Home key for many other uses. Left as a ‘force-close application’ key, I’d be afraid to use it for fear of triggering the close mechanism.

Another way to add more functions to iPhone’s UI is through voice commands. I think these are useful, especially for hands-free operation, like when you’re driving. But I would probably use gestures more frequently, since they can be done silently and are more easily recognized.

Thoughts on iPhone as a Mountable Drive

I’d really like to try using iPhone as a small computer. To do so, making it work as a mountable drive when attached to another computer would go a long way.

For instance, I could copy files from my laptop to iPhone, then while away from my laptop, I could email those files to others, or could edit text files right on the iPhone. I could take files I receive my email and put them on another computer. This wouldn’t require syncing— it would just mount the iPhone data volume.

Custom applications would also be able to locally edit and manage files in the data volume on iPhone.

Thoughts about iPhone Games

While iPhone doesn’t yet offer any (legitimate) games yet, I think it could make for a really good game platform. And the video out support that is coming for iPhone may promise even more. Think— would it be possible to hook iPhone up to a TV and play a game that is controlled while attached to a TV? Imagine playing a full-screen video game on a HDTV display while holding iPhone— and mind you, it has a built-in accelerometer which makes for some really cool possibilities. Now add to that, the idea of being able to use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. You could be playing iPhone DOOM this way some day.

General Features

  • Custom application support. Number One Request. These are already available, but non-sanctioned by Apple.
  • Custom Dashcode widgets. You know, so mere mortals can make iPhone apps! I’m surprised no one has enabled this yet.
  • Custom keyboard overlays/layouts. Switch to international keyboards. (Available as of the iPhone 1.1.2 release)
  • Use iPhone as a mountable drive, just like an iPod. This would create a file-based data storage area that could be drawn from for Safari file uploads, editing local files in the Notes app, email attachments, etc.
  • Method to copy and paste text and pictures.
  • Word completion dictionary learns new words/patterns from typing history.
  • Better recognition of caps mode. For example, when typing two or three consecutive upper case letters, enable caps until end-of-word character is pressed.
  • Use of wallpaper for background of home screen, not just for the unlock screen.
  • Better Bluetooth support: file transfer, keyboards, mice, stereo headsets. I’m hoping this doesn’t require new hardware.
  • Spellcheck! One that works for every instance where a keyboard is available.
  • Sync over WiFi.
  • Transmit your contact card to another iPhone user, just to annoy Palm.
  • Support for Bonjour.
  • Remote control for a desktop computer via WiFi. This would employ a mouse pointer that you could drag around with overlay buttons to click, right-click, double click and so forth.
  • Easy tether support to let you access the Internet over EDGE on your laptop.
  • Customizable keyboard input macros. I.e. ‘zsig’ might be a trigger to suggest input of a common signature line.
  • Spotlight… for email and notes at least!
  • Voice commands— “Music”, “Videos”, “Play”, “Next”. These would go a long way and would make up for a number of missing buttons.

Notes

  • Choice of font. Nobody really likes Marker Felt— it’s the equivalent of Comic Sans for Mac OS X.
  • A way to sync notes to host computer. Good news: this should be in Leopard.
  • Assign title of note independently from content.
  • Simple formatting: bold, italics, etc. I’m not asking for Pages functionality, just the basic stuff. This requires some means of selecting text— a feature also required for copying text.
  • An easier way to produce bulleted/numbered lists. Like, if you start a bulleted list, continue it with each new line, as most word processors do these days. End it when the user makes a new paragraph. And support for a simple asterisk as a bullet choice, since that’s Markdown-friendly.
  • Ability to post content in note to a blog using metaWebLog or Atom APIs.
  • Folder support.
  • Ability to type notes with a horizontal iPhone.
  • Ability to open/edit text files that are stored in data storage portion of iPhone (if configured to work as a mountable drive; see above).

Calendar

  • Ability to assign events to specific calendars. I hate that this is a choice you make in iTunes. I want more control.
  • Ability to subscribe/publish iCal calendar updates over WiFi/EDGE.
  • Colored events matching the colors assigned to calendars in iCal.

Phone

  • Better prevention of accidental dialing. No calls can be initiated by clicking on lists such as the recent calls list- they must be initiated by clicking a button.
  • Taking a photo for assigning to a contact should also place that picture in your photo roll.
  • Voice dialing. “Call home” dials home regardless what screen you’re on.
  • Set an option for a contact to force their calls into voicemail immediately.
  • A mode that forces ALL calls into voicemail. That lets you leave the phone on.

Maps

  • Way to plot a route and email it to someone.
  • Hybrid view. Map labels + satellite view. (Available as of the iPhone 1.1.3 firmware release.)
  • Google street view.
  • Ability to bookmark locations and routes and add notes to them. (You can drop pins to create your own bookmarks with the iPhone 1.1.3 firmware, but you can’t add notes yet.)
  • Ability to define a location as your current location, which would allow iPhone photos to be assigned GPS coordinates.
  • Ability to define a “trip” which would save the route, along with cached imagery for the route. Multiple resolutions to allow scaling, viewing satellite/streets, so that maps could be accessed even without WiFi/EDGE.
  • Fuzzy location detection based on cell tower position. (Available as of the iPhone 1.1.3 firmware release.)
  • Ability to reveal GPS coordinates for a particular location.
  • Home button gesture— Home plus tap, add a bookmark to tapped location. Home key plus tap on a bookmark, menu options for removing, editingng it.
  • Home button gesture— Home plus drag on a route— alter route.
  • Home button gesture— Home held down; raises menu options, among them being the “Set as current location” command (see above) which would let you pinpoint your current position on the map.

Mail

  • Support for flagging email for IMAP based accounts.
  • Support for junking an email.
  • Option to prevent loading of images from people that aren’t in your contact list.
  • A way to exclude certain IMAP folders from being listed/syncing.
  • A way to specify the photo resolution for photo attachments; both a default and per email setting. Or just a simple on/off switch for rescaling photo attachments. It’s rather atrocious that 2 megapixel pictures are resized down to 360x480— that’s a paltry .2 megapixels. This makes “moblogging” to Flickr and even .Mac Web Gallery rather useless.
  • Ability to add new attachments to an existing message. From photo library, or from files in the data storage portion (see above).
  • Ability to save images from email to your photos.
  • Ability to save other attachments to a ‘Documents’ folder, or a folder of your choice. These would be accessible when connecting iPhone to any computer as a mountable drive.
  • Email templates. A “Templates” folder, which is similar to a “Drafts” folder, but once you edit and send an email, the template version stays in the “Templates” folder.
  • Ability to compose email with a horizontal iPhone.
  • A bonus wish for Google: Google Mail via IMAP. (Yay! Google supports IMAP!)
  • Home button gesture— Home pressed down while “Delete” button is shown for a message changes the button to “Junk”, which marks the message as junk and moves it to the Junk folder.

Stocks

  • Actual trading.

Weather

  • Weather forecast text.
  • Ability to set the weather to something more desirable. Okay, I had trouble coming up with ideas to improve this.

Clock

  • Time server sync support as a fallback if AT&T service is unavailable.
  • It’s silly, but I’d like a display mode for a big analog/digital clock. One that tilts based on orientation of iPhone. That way, I can prop iPhone on my desk when it’s idle. Perhaps another mode that displays clock plus calendar.
  • Ability to assign any song / playlist for an alarm.

Calculator

  • Programmer mode. So I can add DECAFBAD + DEADBEEF.
  • Scientific mode. Graphing calculator even?
  • Support for paper ticker that can be saved/revised.
  • Home button gesture— hold Home down, raises menu with alternative modes.

iPod

  • Voice recording.
  • Buy songs from iTunes over the network. Yay! Already announced. (Available as of the iPhone 1.1.1 firmware release.)
  • Buy TV shows and movies (and games?) from iTunes over the network.
  • Play music over AirTunes to an Airport Express.
  • Play media from shared iTunes libraries.
  • Remove prompting to erase videos on watching them; make this a function of syncing alone.
  • Free WiFi at Starbucks with purchase of $5 or more from iTunes store?
  • Could iPhone’s accelerometer serve as a pedometer similar to the Nike iPod Sports Kit?
  • Home button gesture— Home plus slide right: next track.
  • Home button gesture— Home plus slide left: previous track.
  • Home button gesture— Home plus tap: play/pause.

SMS

  • Multiple recipients. (Available as of the iPhone 1.1.3 firmware release.)
  • Save/email SMS conversations.

Camera/Photos

  • Option to make the entire surface the button for taking pictures.
  • Option to take picture upon press instead of release.
  • Way to create albums/events and place photos in them.
  • Ability to create, manage a .Mac gallery from iPhone itself, including syncing of new pictures down to iPhone.
  • Rate photos.
  • Tag photos.
  • Support for Flickr— Apple is a Yahoo! partner for this device after all. Better yet… define an API that can be implemented for any service.
  • .Mac web galleries should be listed here and viewed here rather than in Safari. I want to be able to use the same gestures to navigate photos: sliding my fingers on pictures, etc., and you can’t achieve that in Safari web apps. At least, not yet.

YouTube

  • Login support; view bookmarked/my videos; create bookmarks.
  • Comment support.
  • Save YouTube videos to iPhone, for fast viewing offline.

Safari

  • Upload file support which would offer selection of files drawn from: photo library, email attachments, MP3 files such as voice recordings, files stored when used as a mountable drive (which is another request; see “General” list above).
  • Ability to save files to iPhone when configured to allow use as a mountable drive; files would be stored in portion of iPhone dedicated to data storage.
  • Ability to customize viewport size/scaling for a given bookmark/domain.
  • Flash support with ability to enable/disable on a domain basis.
  • Pressing and holding the forward and back buttons for a second or so will show the history in that direction.
  • Support for richtext editing in web-based applications.
  • Save / prefill form support. I would love to run 1Password on my iPhone.
  • A semi-transparent keyboard overlay; one that is controllable with respect to layout via JavaScript or HTML input field hints. I.e., keyboard for entering a URL, or e-mail address.
  • Enable/disable JavaScript on a domain basis.
  • Option to hide toolbar at the bottom. It could be raised through holding down the Home button. Ie, push and hold Home button raises toolbar, tap forward/backward/bookmark/windows button.
  • Home button gesture— Home plus tap link, opens link in new window. Either that, or tap and hold on link shows menu when gives you the option to open in a new window.
  • Window button shows a button that lets you save that window as a web archive for offline viewing.
  • Bonjour support would display a list of web sites discovered by Bonjour under your Bookmarks list. Just like it does in Safari.

New Application Ideas

  • Twitterific for iPhone. The web-based Twitter clients are nice, but I want an app that sits on my iPhone’s home screen that shows an indicator when new messages are there. And I don’t want it just over SMS.
  • Colloquy for iPhone.
  • Skype for iPhone. Voice-over-IP, please! This is forward thinking, and I hope the most forward-thinking computer company would embrace it.
  • Some kind of drawing app? Bitmap and vector drawing seems obvious for a device with a touch interface. Is the screen sensitive enough to allow for drawing on with a stylus for finer precision?
  • “Mobile Numbers” app; simple spreadsheet creation and/or support for viewing Numbers documents.
  • “Mobile Keynote” app; for playback alone. Would be super with the video-out support.
  • App for tracking expenses. Could also use “Mobile Numbers”.
  • App for tracking time at work.
  • App for doing product lookups based on barcode picture— think Cue Cat and Delicious Library; and support for those Japanese square barcodes that are used for all kinds of things.
  • iChat or AdiumX for iPhone; persisting network connections even as you use other applications.
  • Translation widget. This would mostly require clipboard functionality.
  • Movies widget… maybe with links to Fandango for easy purchases. moviesapp.com is a pretty good alternative until then.
  • Web clip widgets. Or, sync these from your Mac. (1.1.3 firmware now lets you place web clips on the home screen)
  • Dictionary and Wikipedia widget.
  • NetNewsWire or better UI for the mobile Google Reader on iPhone.
  • Flight tracker widget. This one stores data for the last flight viewed so it can continue to work in plane mode.
  • Some games for crying out loud! Soduku; Tetris, were you otate gesture to turn pieces, down gesture to drop it; PacMan, where you press on edges of display to control; and DOOM of course. DOOM is, after all, the Turing test for whether a device is a gaming platform.
  • Terminal app, with secure shell support.

Updates

  • iPhone 1.1.3 firmware release:
    • adds faux-GPS location for Google Maps (using cell and WiFi positioning).
    • adds web-clip feature and customizable home screen.
    • adds support for multi-recipient SMS messaging.
  • iPhone 1.1.2 firmware release:
    • adds international keyboards.
  • iPhone 1.1.1 firmware release:
    • adds iTunes WiFi Music Store support.
    • adds ‘double-tap’ support for ‘Home’ button to surface iPod/Phone features, depending on configuration.
    • adds TV-out support.

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8 Comments

Jamie Phelps said:

Brad, an addition you could make to the calculator section is support for RPN. Now that I have become accustomed to stacking calculators that use RPN, I can't be bothered with infix notation.

Also worth noting that Craig has released MobileTwitterrific.

Pascal Author Profile Page said:

"pressing the Home button plus the Wake button for a few seconds will trigger a shutdown action"

actually this is just triggered by holding down the wake button. if you hold down both buttons long enough, it will force reset your iphone.

also, holding down just the home button for several seconds will (usually) force quit the current app, so using the home button the create combo actions probably won't work as you've described.

Brad Author Profile Page said:

@Pascal-- yep, you're right. I'm not sure why I thought you had to use both keys for that.

As for the force quit function, I am aware of that and even mentioned it specifically. That function would have to change of course. I suggested an alternative around the 10th paragraph.

mark said:

Excellent list. This should be the iPhone roadmap to a "better product"!

--
free-iphone-apple.blogspot.com

Bob said:

I hate to inform you, but excluding the phone specific features you mentioned, 75% of the features you are requesting already exist on my PocketPC, plus I have a vast amount more features, like a programmable remote control program. And I bought it in 2001.
I just wish someone would make a PocketPC that would work with Sim chips to be programmed for any phone company.

Brad Author Profile Page said:

@Bob: To be sure, many of these concepts are not new ideas. iPhone is a 1.0 product, and has plenty of areas to innovate. But you must admit, for a 1.0 product, Apple has gotten a number of things right: calling, voice mail, rich web and email experience, and finally a decent phone that can play music and take pictures. I wouldn't trade it for a hundred PocketPCs.

iPhone can also serve as a remote control to my Mac mini using Remote Buddy, which works without any hacks. (It would require an infrared transmitter to function as a general-purpose remote control.)

Siops said:

I would like the ability to be able to cancel a text message in case you realize you're sending a message to the wrong person

Dan said:

Sending and recieving picture messages anyone?

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This article was published on September 8, 2007 3:39 PM.

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