The June 2 WWDC keynote—and presumably, the first public showcase and beta of iOS 8—is fast approaching. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been seeing some iOS 8 “feature lists," for lack of a better term, circulating around the internet. Jonathan Mosen from Mosen Consulting even put together a "Top 10 Accessibility Wish List" for iOS 8, which is definitely worth a read if you have not done so already. (After this article was published, I became aware of a few more accessibility wish lists. You can find links to the other round-ups at the bottom of this article, under the heading "More Accessibility Wish Lists".)
Naturally, everyone has their own unique perspective on what features and improvements they would like to see in the next big release of any software. With that in mind, I thought it’d be fun to detail my hopes and dreams for iOS 8, both in terms of accessibility and in general:
1. More VoiceOver Voices
It seems that with every major iOS update, Apple makes improvements to the text-to-speech engine used by VoiceOver. iOS 7 allows users to download more than one Enhanced Quality voice to their device—space permitting, of course—so it seems only logical that the natural progression in iOS 8 would be to allow for voice gender selection—similar to the Siri implementation. While it would be great to see the Siri voices (or better yet, NeoSpeech James) available in iOS 8, I think it is far more likely that the Nuance range of voices would be used because of the vast multilingual support. On another note, here’s hoping Apple adds Hebrew support, as I’ve read that that is another area where improvements could be made. (And for the record, I would totally use Eloquence if Apple ever added it.)
2. Better Battery Life
Starting with iOS 7.1, I began experiencing a higher-than-normal amount of battery drain on my iPhone 5S. I believe I have tried everything out there, up to and including having the device replaced by Apple and setting up the device as new (without restoring from a backup), with no luck. While iOS 7.1.1 is said to have improved battery life for some users, I am not one of them.
3. A Fix for the VoiceOver Navigation Issues in Safari
Ever since iOS 6, navigating websites using Safari has been somewhat challenging for VoiceOver users. In particular, navigating by headings is inconsistent, and focus randomly jumps to different locations on the page for no particular reason. This has no doubt been a very difficult bug for Apple to fix—or, by my logic, it would have been done already. So here’s hoping iOS 8 brings with it the Safari fixes many users have been hoping for.
4. Touch ID Refinements
When I first heard about how one could use Touch ID to make App Store and iTunes purchases, I was really, really excited. However, in order to use Touch ID for iTunes purchases, one must also have a passcode enabled on their device. I have never used a passcode on my phone, mainly because I do not store sensitive information on my devices; I have Find My iPhone enabled; and because entering a passcode each and every time I want to unlock my screen is just too time-consuming for me. Of course, my outlook would be totally different if I needed the additional security features...but I don’t. With that said, I would like to see Touch ID be usable for App Store and iTunes purchases without needing a passcode to unlock the device. Unless there is an element to this process that I am forgetting about, ones’ iTunes account would be just as secure as if the device had a passcode...because a recognized fingerprint from Touch ID would still be required to make any purchases.
5. More Control over the Alarm Clock
I use the built-in clock app on my iPhone to wake me up every morning, with the alarms set for Monday through Friday. To ensure that I do not oversleep, I set a couple alarms in the hopes that I will be awake when the first one rings and not need the others. Once I am actually out of bed, I tell Siri to turn off all of my alarms so I do not have unnecessary alarms ringing at later times during the morning. The problem is that I must remember to turn the alarms back on manually every night. It would be great to see a “Turn off my alarms for today” feature, where the alarm could be silenced for that day only but not for any days in the future.
6. True archiving of text messages
Before I got my iPhone, I used Windows Mobile with Mobile Speak. One of the great features of that device—yes, Windows Mobile actually did have some nice features—was the ability to actually archive text messages in a specific folder. Unless there is something really obvious I am missing—which, I admit, is entirely possible—there is no way to archive text messages...other than to keep the conversation thread in the message list. While this is certainly a workable solution, ones’ message list can very quickly become cluttered if they have messages from several different contacts that they wish to save.
7. A Choice of Data Sources in the Weather App
I consider myself to be somewhat of a weather enthusiast, and I have very particular needs in a weather app. In the United States, weather forecasts are provided to the public both by for-profit weather companies and by the National Weather Service (NWS). The National Weather Service has offices across the country which are tasked with forecasting the weather for a specific local area; in my experience, the NWS forecasts are the most accurate available in the U.S. As Apple’s iOS is very much a global product, it is totally understandable that Apple needs to use a source that can provide weather data around the world. With that said, though, I would love it if iOS 8 included NWS weather data—or, at the very least, a selection of weather information providers from which to choose. I know it’s a long shot, but I did say that part of this article represented my “dreams” for iOS 8...
8. A Return of the Classic iOS Notification Sounds
With the iOS 7 redesign, Apple introduced a set of new tones and sounds for notifications. Yes, I know that the legacy iOS sounds were sort of preserved in iOS 7. I say “sort of,” because they were “remixed”, for lack of a better term, and they simply do not sound the same. In particular, the Tri-tone—the three-note ascending tone that played for new text messages in iOS 6 and which still signifies new Voicemails in iOS 7—has been reworked, with a higher-frequency tone (playing the same notes) added on. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, go into Settings> Sounds> New Voicemail, listen to the default tone, and then listen to this video of the original Tri-tone on YouTube. Maybe I’m just a die-hard, but when compared to the "remastered" classic sounds, I far prefer the originals that were a part of iOS since day one.
Regardless of whether iOS 8 contains all 8 of the features and changes I describe in this list—or none of them at all—it will no doubt be a welcome update with many new features and improvements. Be sure to stay tuned to the AppleVis website, as well as our Twitter feed, as we’ll be covering the WWDC keynote on June 2.
So, what features and changes would you like to see in iOS 8? Sound off in the comments!
More Accessibility Wish Lists
Below are links to some more accessibility wish lists, for both iOS 8 and Mac OS X: