How iOS 11 could change the iPhone – CNET


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The iPhone improves every year in two ways: through a big hardware launch every September that also comes with a software refresh.

Everyone knows that a new iPhone debuts every fall. But three months earlier, Apple's annual WWDC developers conference gives an early preview of changes that are arguably just as important to iPhone owners: a peek at the next version of iOS.

On Monday, we'll get our first look at iOS 11. And considering that it's the iPhone's tenth anniversary, it's safe to say that expectations are high. What will Apple dream up to match the rumored overhauls in the iPhone 8 hardware? After polling my CNET colleagues, here are our best guesses… and what we want to see after iOS 10.

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Time to listen up.

Siri, Siri, Siri

A more intelligent assistant could make us more likely to use Siri, which is something that doesn't happen consistently. Siri has problems understanding, doing as well as remembering certain things, and the assistant needs to be a lot less screen-dependent. That will help the iPhone, the iPad and even AirPods. And, if Apple launches a Siri-powered alternative to the Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers, it'll be necessary to upgrade Siri anyway. (Better Siri on the Apple Watch would be appreciated, too).

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Time to add some more features to that dock.

Improve the front interface

The app-and-folder-and-four-icon-dock design of what we see on the iPhone has stayed the same for years, and really isn't much different from the original iPhone in 2007. Apple could re-think how apps are presented and organized, which would help our hundreds of scattered apps on our phones right now. That also goes for the lock screen, which shows widgets but isn't enough of a live dashboard for getting essential info at-a-glance.

Multi-user modes and logins

There needs to be a kid-friendly mode for iOS: on the iPad it's an overdue must, and on the iPhone it would be a huge help to let kids browse safely — and play Pokemon Go without having access to mom and dad's emails or Facebook. Also great would be guest modes, family modes and school-use modes. Android has it, Chromebooks have it, Windows has it and even Amazon's Fire OS has it. Apple's iOS sorta-kinda already has these things too, but they're buried in accessibility options or for school administrators only. Come on already, Apple: Put these features front and center, then make them easy to use.

Re-do the dock

Only four apps? And why aren't there quick-access ways to find other bits of information or frequently-used files at a touch? The dock's basic design seems due for a change.

More animated, live icons

"Clock" is still the only animated icon on iOS. WTF? At least put the live temperature on the weather app. Or figure out some other indication besides the red "unread messages" flag. Lots of missed opportunities here.

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Control Center could use more customization and control.

Re-think notifications

iOS 10's notifications feel chunky and stick to the top of the phone longer than they feel welcome. Sometimes they're even hard to swipe away. A better way of managing and presenting notifications is in order, considering how ever-present they've become in everyday phone use.

Be a little more proactive

Google Now and Assistant services push suggestions and can intuitive reminders without necessarily adding them in. Putting too much of that in iOS could be a mistake, but iOS needs more system-wide awareness along with suggestive smarts.

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Make these work better together.

Add a dash of AR and AI

Maybe, rephrase that as "have the iPhone camera do more clever things." Like Google Lens or Samsung's promised Bixby features, Apple's own machine learning could combine with the camera to recognize or process what the iPhone sees. That could involve AR, or be of assistive use for accessibility purposes. Or, maybe the camera could help "remember" what it sees as appointments, notes or web links.

Build a better connection to the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch's one app to sync and manage notifications as well as watch faces means it's not always easy to send music to the watch, or pick things you'd like to pop up on your wrist later. Maybe Apple could re-consider a more seamless relationship.

Make the iPad feel like its own thing

Apple should make use of their tablet's extra screen space. Fit more apps on-screen, improve split-screen modes and treat the iPad more like a Macbook alternative versus being just a large iPhone. For more on that, read this.

John Falcone, Jessica Dolcourt and Jason Parker contributed to this story.

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