6 Tweaks I Hope to See at WWDC 2018

Apple's announcement image for WWDC 2018The weather is heating up, the pollen has finally settled down and I’m getting excited for Apple’s new operating systems. The technology giant unveils most of their new software features at their annual World Wide Developer Conference or WWDC.

This year, at WWDC 2018, there have been rumors that Apple will be primarily releasing refinements to their systems rather than flashy new features. I’m pretty excited by that prospect as the iOS 11 cycle and MacOS High Sierra have been pretty rough. Assuming that this rumor holds true, I’ve assembled a list of a few tiny tweaks and refinements I think Apple could make this year to improve their computing platforms.

Improved Contact Syncing

The contacts app got a visual overhaul in iOS 7 to match the new all-white color scheme and flat design. Short of a couple of other visual tweaks it hasn’t been touched since and it shows. Syncing contacts across multiple accounts or devices is a trainwreck, especially from iOS to MacOS.

I constantly have problems applying photos to contacts. They randomly crop themselves after I’ve saved the contact card and sometimes they don’t appear outside on other devices. Syncing text fields and a single image for each contact doesn’t seem like it should be this hard.

Universal Swipe Gestures in Mail

The Mail app added swipe gestures for messages in then inbox a while ago. However, the actions those swipes initiate are set individually by mail account for some unexplained reason.

They’re also different from device to device. Swiping right on a gmail message on iPhone deletes the message, on iPad it marks the message as unread and on Mac it archives it.

Now, I may have my settings configured wrong. That’s kind of my whole point though. These gestures are only productive and elegant when they’re the same in every instance of the app.

iPad Keyboard Shortcuts for Multitasking

At last year’s WWDC, Apple unveiled a whole new multitasking system for the iPad. They demoed this in ads for the iPad Pro throughout 2017, often with a Smart Keyboard attached. The only problem is the new multitasking falls apart as soon as you try to use that keyboard.

It’s been well documented that when you have two apps open and using the keyboard iOS makes it nearly impossible to tell which app you’re typing in. I’m as bothered by this as the rest of the Apple community, but it’s the lack of keyboard shortcuts that really jams my butterfly switches.

You can alt-tab between apps, but this shortcut swaps the whole app frame most of the time and pulls up an app in pop-over some of the time. If you have two apps open there’s no way to swap out one of them with the keyboard. This all seems like an oversight that would be easy to fix in iOS 12 with a couple of new shortcuts.

Denser home screen on iPad

As iOS devices have gotten bigger the home screen has stayed exactly the same. Federico Viticci mocked up a denser home screen for larger iPad displays in his iOS concept video for MacStories last year. I love the way his team rendered this layout and I really hope we see something like it soon. The current tiny home screens are just insulting to these beautiful devices.

Record Label links in Apple Music

I’ve been talking about this one for a while now. I really would like to see pages for all of the record labels represented on Apple Music. At the bottom of each album page it lists the copyright date and the label. While these links may not be useful for the huge labels like Warner Music Group, it would be awesome for smaller indie labels.

Boutique labels headed by curators like Peanut Butter Wolf (Stones Throw), Ian MacKaye (Dischord) and James Murphy (DFA) release a consistent flow of releases from artists I’d never otherwise hear about. I’d love to be able to view their entire catalog on a page in the app.

Icon Consistency for Mail, Contacts and Calendar

This last one is mostly just a gripe from my inner designer. Now that we’re more than a decade into iOS it is high time the mobile operating system had icon parity with MacOS. It frustrates me every time I open a core app like Mail, Calendar or Messages that the icons on Mac are different from those on iOS.

The worst part is that some shared apps, like Photos and Safari, have the same (or similar) icon on both platforms. I’m not saying that MacOS should be filled with the rounded rectangle icons of an iOS home screen, but it should at least use the same iconography. It’s so odd that Mail on Mac is a stamp and Mail on iOS is an envelope.

I’m always excited for new features at every WWDC and I expect we may get a couple this year. However, I really hope Apple addresses these and a few other simple fixes this year. It would make the whole ecosystem look and feel more polished and I think that’s been lacking in the last few release cycles.