How Would You Improve the iPhone?

It’s holiday season and there you are on Santa’s lap. You decide that this year, you’re gonna ask Santa to improve the thing in your life that matters most—your phone. What would you ask Santa for? It can either be a new feature you’d love to have, or a fix for something about your phone that annoys you.

DT8 - Feature (post)This thread is for iPhone users. Android users, go here.

Tim’s Answer: I have four requests—

1) Allow me to keep texts “as new.” I’m not an immediate text message responder—I treat non-urgent texts more like email. But since I often open a text right when it comes in just to glance at it, I then completely forget it exists later and never respond, like a dick. Then I discover the left-hanging text like two weeks later and have to write something like “Re: penguin video from last week- haha” which is a bad experience for me and a bad experience for the recipient. And this is all because Apple decided not to let me keep texts as new, or flag them, or anything that can remind me what I need to respond to later. This same complaint goes for iPhone voicemail. Speaking of which—

2) Make voicemail suck less. The advent of visual voicemail with the first iPhone was a game changer. As new iPhones came out, not much changed about visual voicemail until iOS 7 in 2013, when they decided to spice things up by making it much worse. They made the delete and speaker buttons tiny, hard-to-tap words and my deleted voicemail sometimes just come back from the dead. Instead of innovating on how to make visual voicemail worse, they should have figured out how to let me email a voicemail to someone.

3) Let me go much dimmer than the current minimum brightness. In a pitch black bedroom, or on a dark plane or bus, the iPhone’s minimum brightness is all up in everyone’s grill.

4) Let me take standard definition videos, not just HD. When people’s iPhones fill up, stored videos are often the reason why. And what else would you expect when you can only take huge, HD videos on the phone? 95% of the videos I take have no reason to be HD, and I’d rather take videos in SD, taking up about 1/10 the space per video minute, and then have HD as an option the rare time I might need it. Kind of think Apple keeps it like this on purpose to push more people to buy one of the larger-capacity phones.

  • roger_orange

    Longer battery life.

    My HTC One isn’t as cool as most of its competitors. I often get irritated while using it. More often than not, this forces me to chuckle and reflect on Louis CK’s lectures about technological miracles, my own laziness vis-a-vis learning shortcuts, etc.

    The only thing that really surprises me is that I’m still recharging so often.

  • Jason Crystal

    Let me charge the phone wirelessly. There are already wireless charging pads out there, but they require you to encase your phone in a 3rd party bulky device. It’d be great if there were surfaces on which you could simply place your phone. The charging cable is the last vestige of needing to do anything with wires, now that syncing, updating, audio, and video can all be done without plugging in.

    • Gokhan Arslan

      Nikola Tesla agrees.

    • Vinay Kapadia

      Android has that.

      • Caio Vianna Lima Netto

        And windows phone … for about 2 years …
        don’t worry, iCopy will always copy with a 2~3 years delay

      • M.B.

        Roughly translated:

        “lulz look at all these apple fanboy nubz, why they dont use android omg lolz its so obviously superior xD Xd XD xD”

        amiright? 😉

    • DeeDee Massey

      A company called WiTricity is developing short-range wireless electricity for practical applications such as recharging stations.

      http://witricity.com/news/witricity-charging-system-for-the-iphone-55s/

  • roger_orange

    I think voice mail is going to get even more archaic. That’s one reason I run an artsy website devoted to it.

    http://weirddeermedia.com/

  • Tim Urban

    Wait I thought of one more—it’s impossible to tell if the keyboard shift key is pressed or not because it looks normal both ways.

    • Artyom Karapetov

      Replace the default keyboard with Switfkey or Swype. Problem Solved.

  • AJ MacFarland

    Someone generously gave me an iPhone6 just as they came available, and I immediately gave it to my wife, a lover of things technological. I stay with my old and sturdy Nokia flip phone. But, if I were to make changes, there are a number of things I would consider:
    1. Mold it in black plastic. Preferably, Bakelite.
    2. Add a rotary dial, easily visible in full daylight.
    3. Make it sturdy enough to slam down on the table when I want to hang up angrily.
    4. 6Plus is already too big for pockets, so make it even bigger and heavier. Larger batteries = longer usage time. A whole new industry will grow from the need for special iBackpacks to carry it around.
    5. Connect the earpiece with a thick, spirally black cord that untangles easily.
    6. Emboss a logo of a little bell around the apple and stamp it “Western Electric” somewhere obvious.
    I’m sure there are other neo-Luddites out there who can think of more enhancements…

    • middleclassgenx

      #3 HAHA haHA

    • Artyom Karapetov

      You should write a letter to Samsung/Sony to produce this phone, would really love to see it in real life xD

  • Hey Tim, there’s a trick to get your screen dimmer than the normal minimum. See the LifeHacker link below. It uses some accessibility settings to toggle on/off a “Low Light” filter to your screen whenever you triple-click the home button. Takes a minute or two to set it up for the first time, but once you set it up, it’s super easy. I use it all the time at night.

    http://lifehacker.com/toggle-your-iphones-brightness-with-a-home-button-trip-1651329242

    • REK981

      I did this! Thanks for sharing!!

  • Gokhan Arslan

    Water resistance.

    Most of the days or nights I spend at home I binge-watch some TV shows. I move my iPhone around the whole house, while I do my chores. Cooking? iPhone goesto the kitchen. Laundry? iPhone follows. Showering? iPhone hesitates.

    Since I don’t want to take a 20 minutes pause I wrap my phone with a transparant plastic bags (those in which you put a sandwich) and only then I feel safe. Then I pray at night that the ghost of Steve Jobs don’t haunt me in my sleep for this.

  • Carol T

    The obvious one…longer battery life. Also, something too make it easier to read the screen in bright sunlight. If the Kindle can do it, so can the phone manufactures.

  • Michael

    Auto rotate video so that even if we hold the phone up and down, it shoots in landscape. Just give us a toggle if we want the opposite.

  • Joris Vleminckx

    Edit phone numbers, missing since the first Iphone!

  • Steven A Smith

    Oh god, the shift key since iOS 7. I have no idea which one means caps lock and which one does not. Upsetting.

    • Intelshwets

      Many many more upvotes to you. I hope someone from Apple comes around here and gets to this comment and realized how useless their Shift key has now become.

  • John Matthew

    I’m an android user. I don’t like to see any changes made to iOS. I would like to see iFans suffer.
    Your request no.4 is rather lame, when the whole world is switching over to 1440p smartphones and 4K televisions.
    Get a 128 gig iPhone.

    • Vinay Kapadia

      I’m with you, brother.

    • Caio Vianna Lima Netto

      Or you could just tell iFans to migrate to Android and have everything =D

  • DeeDee Massey

    My ideas don’t come completely for free. I’d add an app to it where I could submit improvement suggestions straight to the R&D teams and get paid a consultant fee for them via huge discounts on my phone bill.

  • Bill

    Have them made in factories that don’t beat slow workers, house them in prison-like conditions, and require them to sign waivers stating that if they commit suicide, the factory is not liable.

  • 1) NEED NEED NEED more innovation in the battery space. If my smartphone could last 2 days versus the standard one day + some change, that extra day alone would permanently change the way I use my phone. Trading off between enjoying my phone’s features and saving battery in case I need to make an emergency phone call when I’m out at night is a trade off I extremely dislike. I’d gladly switch to a lesser app eco system (e.g. Window Phone) if they could achieve battery excellence. In the meanwhile, walking around with a portable battery charger has what I’ve settled on.

    2) Native blue light dimming. Apps like fl.ux on the Mac have changed the way I approach my nighttime workflow (more freedom to use the computer without worrying as much about messing up my sleep cycle). Android has a mediocre paid solution, and iPhone has no solution. The ability to remove blue light from my phone as I use it in the night would allow me to use my phone more freely at night without fearing degraded sleep quality.

    3) 100% agreed with Tim about marking texts as unread. Why isn’t that a thing yet? It existed in Android for a hot second, but the update to Android Kit Kat ruined the third party app’s functionality.

    4) Disable the cell service along with disabling data. Maybe this is already a thing? But many health apps rely on you sleeping with your phone (e.g. Sleep Cycle), and although you can turn off cell data, I can’t seem to find a way to turn off the standard cell service. I’m fine with my personal phone no longer being a phone while I’m sleeping, if it will allow me to keep it near my head at night to track health data without broadcasting as much. Not a high priority, but it popped into my head while I was ranting here.

    • Sven

      Wouldn’t this cell service disabling be Airplane mode?

      • Ha, I knew I was missing something totally obvious. Thanks, Sven!

    • Brian Gottfried

      Just a note: there is an app on the Google Play marketplace called Twilight that works similarly to F.lux. I don’t find it as effective as F.lux (though that might just be because my phone is closer to my eyes than my monitor) but it definitely makes a difference. No connection to the app other than the fact that I’m a fan.

  • Jack Lunge

    Move the power button somewhere else. Its previous location on top of the phone was fine, but its new location could hardly be worse. With it directly opposed from the volume buttons it’s easy to confuse them and the natural squeezing motion I want to make to press one has me press the other almost every time. It’s not huge but I see bad sloppy ergonomics coming from a company that’s supposed to be design conscious.

  • Aaron Barbee

    I want to be able to ADD words / phrases to the dictionary, not just wait for it to learn. Yeah, sometimes it figures out what I’m trying to say. But if rather have it KNOW what I want based upon my personal, custom dictionary.

    Word and Outlook let me add things to the dictionary, why not my iPhone? 🙂

    • Richard

      It’s possible to trick the iPhone into learning the words. Add the full word as as a shortcut that results in the full word again 🙂

      Settings>General>keyboards and then short commands (or whatever it says on a English setting iPhone)!

  • marisheba

    Maybe we need a separate thread for jailbroken iphones 🙂 Mine is jailbroken for one reason: f.lux. https://justgetflux.com/

    It’s a simple free app for your phone or computer that addresses item three on Tim’s list. It knows what time zone you’re in, and dims your screen at sunset, and brings it back up at sunrise. It also filters out circadian rhythm-busting blue light so your screens don’t keep you jacked up at night. It does this all automatically, and to your specifications. It’s awesome, and can be a bit of a game changer for insomniacs.

    But apple, being the control freak jerkbots that they are, won’t allow f.lux into the app store because it messes with mojo they’ve decided they don’t want messed with. Hence, jailbreak. Which, it turns out, leads to a whole other slew of perks as well.

    One thing I wish for: that all of the timer functions would show up in your lockscreen so that it was easy to check on them while they’re going with a simple button press, instead of having to fully unlock the phone. (And also an easy toggle option to keep the phone from locking while the timer/stopwatch/whatever is on).

  • gatorallin

    lower the prices….

  • Innocent Bystander

    This goes for iPhone and Android (so I guess I’ll need to post it in both places):
    The thing that annoys me the most is the users. Stop acting like yours is so much better than theirs. People act like their iPhone or Android is some kind of massive statement about their life. It’s a cell phone, people. Get over it.

    • M.B.

      Couldn’t agree more. Working at an IT company, people often feel the need to joke about me using an iPhone. I mean, seriously??? People don’t have much else to worry about I guess 🙂

  • Amanda E.

    So assuming Santa is all-powerful and I can ask for absolutely anything regardless of how ridiculous or impossible it is, I would ask for one thing and one thing only: infinite battery life.

    • Jason Crystal

      That’ll come in particularly handy when you live forever.

  • Richard

    I could do with some more ram or cache memory in safari.

    I hate it when I’m writing a comment on >insert random Internet forum<, and then I have to check something on another open tab andthe site has to reload itself when I return and all I previously wrote is gone 🙁

  • Artyom Karapetov

    I’m currently an Android 4.4 user (Xperia Z1, and yes still didn’t get Lollipop!). What kept me from getting an iPhone is the screen size and limited customization options, though now Apple improved on both, though IMO it’s still miles from Android.

    So, Apple, you’re on the right path. Want me to buy your phone? Here’s what you should do:

    1. Give root file access. I want to be access my phone’s storage without the need to jailbreak.

    2. Big one: get rid of the app-infested screen. Heck, you can’t even see your wallpaper thorough that army of icons. Make an app drawer and a separate homescreen – yes, just like Android. Why put your unused apps in “Junk” folders on your homescreen when you can nicely store them in the app drawer (fully searchable and accessible, just not on the homescreen!)

    3. Make iOS more customizable. I know icon packs and homescreen replacement launchers wouldn’t appear on an iPhone until around 2020 (i.e without jailbreak), but can you make it possible to at least add widgets on your homescreen?
    The notification panel widgets are a major breakthrough, and addition of custom keyboards is great. I know they’re all about perfecting rather than diving into the unknown seas of innovation (that’s what Google’s for, most of the time), though Apple’s still too slow to implement new features (Continuity is awesome though).

    4. Finally, quit the B.S. You are a company, not a temple. And Jobs is not Jesus.

    Overall I love the iPhone in (almost) every way, but these are the features that are keeping me from switching. Fix at least two of these and you have my dollars.

    • AJ

      You obviously should just get an Android phone. Are you serious right now? The vast majority of iPhone users don’t care about such pedantic, technical features.

      • Artyom Karapetov

        You shouldn’t overlook the fact that Apple is slowly looking more and more like Android, and all these features would eventually become “normal” (except, maybe, #4 lol). I also recall that the “vast majority of iPhone users” didn’t care about having bigger screens, or widgets for that matter 🙂

        • Jamison Meyer

          i actually hate the larger screen when i had to sell my 4s a few months ago and upgrade i chose not to upgrade all the way to a 6, why? because i didn’t want a tablet I wanted a phone. Honestly even the 5s is too big in my opinion I prefer my screen smaller so it fits better in my hand and my pocket. If I want to watch movies and such on a big screen I’ll use my laptop

          • Artyom Karapetov

            They don’t care what you want, its what the majority wants.

  • Ben

    Unlock all the crap!

    As an amateur developer and engineering student, I’d like to more easily be able to develop apps on my phone without everything being put under lock and key by Apple. My next phone will be an Android because of this.

    • BigDaddyDK

      Already on my way to Android. This is one reason why. Just waiting for it to arrive in the mail.

  • Ropes

    Are you trying to crowdsource ideas for “the next killer app”? Who posted this question, and why did Tim accept it?
    Is this what a monetized WBW looks like?
    Urgh.

  • Kaaraan

    On android phones, some of them do have an option for snoozing your notifications (not exactly an “as new” option, but it’s the closest I can think of). You can get an app for your 3rd request which lets you dim your brightness much lower than the minimum, and my oneplus one (android) has settings which let me choose not only the quality of video I want to shoot, but also the format I want to shoot it in (e.g. mpeg 4, avi, and a few others). Might be worth having a look into.

  • Zach

    How about an iPhone that doesn’t have internet access, a keyboard, or a camera? Having less than 5k of memory would be nice too. And at time of posting, 42 comments

  • Asdo

    Make it not bend

  • kathy

    I just want to be able to block “unknown” callers, like I could on the android. I know how to block callers with numbers that show up but I want to refuse all anonymous calls. For some reason, I get a lot of them.

  • Pam Collins

    Sometimes I feel like the only person in the world who has never owned a cell phone.

  • DrSuess

    I want it to come with a time machine function, so we can go back to 1985 and be rid of the damn things!

    First, understand that I am not some Luddite… I’m actually a technology teacher. But, honestly, having lived portions of my adult life in both the pre-cell phone AND the cell phone eras. I’m about 99% sure that the conveniences gained are not balanced by the the privacies lost.

    We could actually leave work. I mean leave. work. behind. gone. incommunicado until tomorrow. We didn’t have the “I need to check my email for the quick shot of serotonin I get if there’s a message,” twitch. I think we had better problem solving skills. When we were kids and got separated from Mom and Dad in a crowded and bust shopping mall, we couldn’t just send a text and instantly get back. We had to thing about where to go, who to ask for help. I’m pretty sure we were better talkers.

    Don’t get me wrong…. there are many time when Google maps has got me somewhere, I’d have never found on my own, looked at my phone and told it, “I love you forever.” Yes… quick texts have saved huge drives and misunderstandings. Many other examples.

    But, there was a freedom in grabbing your watch, wallet and keys and heading out for the day totally out of touch with everything and anyone. A different kind of freedom than kids have today. I’m not sure anyone under about 35 can even imagine what I’m talking about.

    • rresaff

      I keep the phone off when I want quiet time (but on me, since the days of pay phones are certainly gone.) I’m horrendously difficult to get a hold of. Even when it’s on I screen calls and texts like the gatekeeper for royalty. If it’s not important, it’s not important. When I’m on vacation so is the phone. I’ll turn it on once every day or two in case close family unexpectedly dies, but no other contact gets a response until I’m back at home or work. No one really cares, a lot of chatter is for groups, not individuals. I also put my foot down for phones during group meals or activities, most people appreciate the break and the others just don’t come out with me anymore (no loss, they were on the phone anyway.)
      I can’t see current teenagers taking that approach, so I understand your generational communication concern, but kids learn from parents and other adults, so lets act how we want them to act.

    • Pepperice

      It’s not really that difficult, it’s still possible to leave your phone at home. And kids young enough to get lost in a crowd are generally too young to have phones, too, so…

      • DrSuess

        First… I’m not talking about me. I handle things fine. I’m talking about the larger societal implications.

        If you are a North American with a job with ANY level of responsibility; supervisory, managerial, anything professional that requires a 4-year degree…. being (nearly) instantly available to either your superiors or the people who report to you is no longer an option, it’s an expectation. This includes evening and weekends. Most people in these career categories are unable to un-plug due to external factors, not their ability to manage their lives.

        And with today’s teens…. I’ve seen 2 of them in the same elevator text each other to make sure they knew where each other was! Again, in the larger picture…. a HUGE majority of late elementary school age kids have phones due to worried parents and pure peer pressure. My generation was baby-sat by the TV. Today’s kids are baby-sat by an I-Pad. Many don’y know what it’s like to be un-connected.

        I’m sorry, but I have a sneaking suspicion you are covered in that “people under 35 won’t have any idea what I’m talking about” category.

    • Heather

      I had an iphone once. I came back from Australia and realised I ought to get a new sim card…. Then I thought about it…. and thought about it some more… and decided I wouldn’t get one. I wouldn’t even get a mobile phone even. I’ve been bugged a few times by my parents, missed one impromptu social event because of it, and recently arranged meeting with someone who seemed literally terrified at the idea of meeting someone without an instantaneous way to get in touch if I didn’t happen to be there, but to be honest, I don’t really feel like getting one. Is there a law against not having a mobile phone? Tremendous social pressure, and that seems to do it for most people, but you know what, I don’t want to be connected all the time. I usually check my e-mails very regularly so it’s not like I’m not contactable.

    • George Kirby

      I couldn’t agree more. I’m a British student and I’m very rare in not having a smartphone, and not having my phone on all the time. If I go for a bike ride or something, I often deliberately leave my phone behind for that feeling of real freedom.

      I get so angry when people have their phone out when I’m trying to have a conversation with them, or at the meal-table. I can’t understand their desire/need to be in touch with as many people as possible all the time.

    • DrSuess
  • Gabe

    1. Mark texts as unread
    2. Stop marketing storage as 16GB, etc when in reality it’s only 13.3 (or whatever) because of all your default programs. Either call it a 13GB phone or make it 19+ so we have 16 remaining to use. (I understand this is unrealistic, it’s just always really annoys me every time I run out of space).

  • Daniel

    I would ask Santa to make iPhones cure cancer. The fact that they don’t already is total horseshit.

  • Jamison Meyer

    allow you to select a song as “up next” like you can on iTunes on a home computer. I hate it when I want to listen to a song on a different playlist but I want to finish my current song and have to sit there staring at my phone trying to time it so I change songs without having to hear the extra 5 seconds of another song

  • Adam

    In the realm of realistic things I want, I want to be able to open and control all apps with Siri so that I can do more things hands-free while driving. That’s really the only big thing I haven’t heard.

    I could come up with just about anything I could unrealistically want: infinite storage and battery life, control the phone with just my thoughts, have it make me a sandwich, print out real $100 bills… But at that point we’re really just talking about having a magic genie with unlimited wishes.

    Side Note:
    Not sure why Apple and Android users have this strong desire to defend their smartphone choice by bashing the alternate, but as soon as I saw this topic I knew that half the posts would be “Apple can’t do but Android can.” I’m sure the Android forum is exactly the same.

  • wobster109

    Apple maps is decent. I much prefer it to Google maps, which likes to tell me to turn a quarter of a mile before the turn. It is very hard to change lanes in busy traffic! However Apple maps doesn’t like to avoid tolls. I’d appreciate if Apple maps learned to avoid tolls.

  • Leah

    Be able to leave FaceTime voicemail…or would it be “videomail” in this case?

  • Leila

    I would ask for the phone to be easier to learn how to use for people new to smartphones, and for the brightness to be able to go down lower than it currently does.

  • Vikram Kalra

    Make it taste like something (like Thanksgiving dinner). Or have it packed with a scented aerosol (my favorite would be Thanksgiving dinner).

  • tmoney

    I want a way to read Wait But Why posts! An app, the ability to download them, something simple and easy and effective for those long periods of time when I have no internet access… Which I’ll admit doesn’t happen that often, but when it does happen it feels like forever. Once I took screen shots of an entire WBW article… That was a little crazy.

    • Jorrit Praamstra

      You could use pocket (www.getpocket.com) for that, works pretty well, the only annoying thing is that images are not always displayed correctly. You can also automatically download all new WBW articles to pocket via ifttt.com. Just redirect new posts in the rss feed to pocket. 🙂

    • Sooty Mangabey

      You may like pocket https://getpocket.com/

      • Sooty Mangabey

        Ah yes, I see somebody else beat me to it 😀

    • Intelshwets

      Or use Feedly to read the whole blog.

    • Sam

      In the menu you bookmark links from, there is an “add to reading list” button. It saves the page to be read at a later time- no internet connection required.

  • Gregg

    Ugh, the way this topic is presented highlights the perpetual myopic view of the iPhone. The iPhone is basically a few models of one phone. Android, on the other hand, is an operating system used on a huge number of phones.

    Sending Android users to another thread is like saying, “How would you improve Philadelphia? This thread is for Philadelphia, all other cities go to this other thread.” Crazy, right?

    • WAKAWAKA

      quite frankly that is how it would be in real life. Philly has issues man

  • wobster109

    I’d also like a harder alarm clock setting. It’s too easy for me to bash my alarm silent while still asleep. So instead I want it to present me with a puzzle and refuse to turn off until I solve it.

    • Kathrina

      I think there are apps for that

  • BigDaddyDK

    Make it possible to delete the obnoxious integrated apps (Game Center, Stocks, etc.) without having to jailbreak the device. Let me choose something besides Safari as the default browser to open links from email, SMS, etc. Add a setting to disallow icons from being moved.

  • JB

    Give me an equalizer I can customize. All the preset ones suck.

  • Heather

    I’d make it beep at people to tell them they’ve been using it for x amount of minutes.
    I’d als give it sensors in bed in the phone that can detect friends (or potential friends) who might want to interact with the phone user, and if detected, would beep at the user and tell them to get off the bludy phone and interact with the real world!

  • Sooty Mangabey

    Make it less easy to inadvertently pull up the “record your voice” function on the phone when I’m typing a note in “Notes”

  • Holly Ferguson

    I’d like to select all the emails at once to delete the entire group instead of marking them individually.

  • Kathrina

    Give iphone front facing speakers

  • Azalea

    The skip song and max volume icons are side by side so when a song comes on that I don’t want to hear, I get to hear it at top volume. It infuriates me!

  • RJ

    The ambient light sensor is a start, but I would implement something like the jailbreak app “f.lux” to adjust the screen’s white balance to match the room’s color temperature/time of day. Blue light (sunlight) at night subliminally keeps you awake, messes up your sleep schedule. A change like this enabled by default would possibly improve teen sleep and productivity around the world. No more late-night texting binges!

    • Bednesti

      This. I can’t live without f.lux on my computers, and I’d give my arm to be able to have something similar on my iPhone.

  • Jim Mataczynski

    drown the SOB.I want my Blackberry back.

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