iOS 5 and potentially an iPhone 5 is right around the corner (hopefully within the next 90 days).  As a developer, we get the latest software weeks to months before the general public but have strict non-disclosure about the features.  Some let the cat out of the bag, but here at JAMB Innovations we take those NDAs seriously.  Since we don’t have any beta software yet, now is a great opportunity to dream and discuss what features we want to see in iOS 5.

Home Screen Overhaul

The home screen should be the iPhone’s gateway, not just the lock on the outside gate.  All of the Apple apps should integrate with this screen.  You should be able to pick and choose what info you want to see.  Want stock quotes?  Today’s weather?  Upcoming iCal events or alarms?  Latest email?

Let’s be honest, the large clock is just a waste of space.  I don’t think anyone would be upset with a smaller time and date display in exchange for a feature on the home screen.  There’s prime real estate living under there, and I’m willing to sacrifice my home screen picture to know just by looking at my phone’s screen whether I have an important business email, or just a coupon from a retailer.  I want to be able to push the wake button and see that it’s 50º out, I have 14 unread emails, 2 SMS, 1 MMS, and learn that AAPL is up 10 points.  I want to be able to push on that button and go to any of those apps if needed.

Application Overhaul

Our iOS Apps are great, but they’re truly ancient.  Many of the apps haven’t been touched since 2007 with the original iPhone debut.  Here’s what I’d love to see in order of importance:

iCal. Apple open your eyes and ears!  The iPhone is the ONLY Apple device without week view.  BRING US WEEK VIEW!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reported this to Apple via their feedback page http://apple.com/feedback.  The iPhone is one of the only smartphones without a week view in its calendar.  Android, Blackberry, and Palm have it – even my old Palm Treo had it!  So Apple, bring us week view, along with a UI that supports landscape to view our calendars the same way we do on our Macs, iPads, and Mobile Me.

Phone. Many often forget that long five letter word after the “i”.  At the end of the day the device is a phone, and it should be the best phone on the market.  Groundbreaking features like Visual Voicemail are now available on any other device.  The favorites section is less than intuitive, and the recent call section is just hopeless.  I want to break down the i”Phone” into where it should be in 2011:

Favorites – Let’s see some pictures/icons/faces!  I don’t want to have to use a table scroller all my life.  Our apps don’t use tables because they’re so mundane.  Let’s also add the ability to put a contact on our home screen as a speed dial.  I don’t know about you, but my favorites get bogged down by each person’s cell, home, and facetime numbers.  There has to be a more streamlined way to contact someone.

Recents – Now I have nothing to hide, but other people do.  I still can’t understand how you can’t clear one solitary missed call.  Apple needs to add the swipe to delete a single entry on the recent call list.  We also need to be able to sort the calls by All, Missed, Outgoing, and Incoming.

Contacts – Apple, can I add a group on my phone?!?!  How about fast sorting by first name, last name, or sort out businesses?  We need a little bit more than just scrolling all the way down through over 500 contacts.  How about being able to categorize businesses without groups, so that I can just search my restaurants?  How about being able to categorize my contacts so I just see the physicians – or even better just the ER physicians?  Help us out!

Ringtones – This is probably one of my biggest pet peeves.  You should be able to create a ringtone for a group of people – for instance all of your work friends are the same ringtone.  The device should also give you the ability to assign a ringtone for “unknown/blocked” callers, as well as a different one for anyone that is not one of your contacts.  Basically, when the phone rings I want to know if it’s one of 3 types of people: someone I know, someone that is calling me for the first time, or possibly an unsolicited call.

While we are on the subject of ringtones, I want more from iTunes.  Sure for $0.99 I can customize a song into a ringtone, but what if I want to change it?  Give users the ability to purchase the ringtone feature on a particular song then crop and re-crop to our hearts desire.  Let us do the same with SMS, MMS, and voicemail tones.

Keypad – Users should be able to assign speed dial numbers for when you are on the keypad.  This is a basic feature of pre-smartphone era devices and I’m perplexed as to how it didn’t make it to the smartest gadgets in the world.

SMS. With millions of iPhones, none of us know which is which since we all have the same exact text message tone.  I have no idea why Apple didn’t at least include all of the tones available on the Mac.  For future iPhones to succeed, I need to not only be able to distinguish a SMS from an email, but I need to distinguish that between someone else’s text or email.  Let the users create their own tones too!

Weather. I’m all for the mentality of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” but the weather app is also miles behind the rest.  Considering the other options of The Weather Channel and Weather Bug, it’s a shame that the beautifully done weather app only supports a handful of locations, and a handful of features.  Give us an intuitive radar, or the ability to view 10-20 cities.  With over 400,000 Apps, many of the weather apps are miles above Apple’s version.  Apple’s Apps should set the bar for app standards, and this one falls feet below where it belongs.

Clock. Just like Weather the clock has so many App competitors, it just devalues what the clock app has to offer.  Spruce it up, create more of an alarm clock atmosphere, and give us some nice sounds to wake up to (or fall asleep to).

iChat. The app that is missing has always been iChat.  iChat for the iPhone could be the successor to the concept of Blackberry Messenger (BBM).  This would allow universal chats from Mobile Me, GMail accounts, Jabber, etc to any client.  Link iChat with the AppleID or Mobile Me account and make it the BBM killer.  Let that account text non-iPhone users through Google Talk, AIM, or Jabber.  Integrate it with Facetime.  That would make one killer app.

Notification Overhaul

One of the biggest complaints of iOS is the ancient system of notifying us that something is going on.  The big blue box just isn’t doing it for anyone anymore.  This goes hand in hand with my home screen overhaul.  For many of us, an email is just as important, if not more than a SMS.  I’d love to know a little bit about my email when I hear that sound.  Will this do something for power consumption?  Sure, but you’re the most revolutionary product company – figure out a solution.  Allow me to make emails from my boss pop up on the home screen while new blog posts and twitter account information stays behind the scenes.  Improve your product by empowering the user – give us some choice.

Also give us choices in recognizing those messages.  I want to be able to customize the ring and vibration for every message or notification on my device.  I should be able to know, without taking the phone out of my pocket that I have an email, voicemail, SMS, or MMS.

Profiles

Much like ringtones, there are different times in a day when different notifications are important to me.  An email while I’m sleeping isn’t that important, but a SMS can be.  I should be able to silence the email noise while asleep, but keep the SMS one live.  When I get to work, I want my phone to vibrate only.  When I’m out and about, it can vibrate for email, but ring for SMS.  In my car I want my ringer the loudest, the email off, and the SMS off. My 10 year old Nextel phone could do this so there’s no reason the iPhone cannot.

The biggest problem that I have with the lack of profiles is that developers do not have access to the tools necessary to make our own “profile” app.  Although many developers know how to use these tools, these private codes guarantee a rejection from Apple.  This is why we could only see an app of this caliber by Apple, while others mimic this feature by “jailbreaking” their phone

Summary

iOS5 is rumored to be an overhaul of the operating system.  Although we will all adapt to change, it is my hope that these changes empower the user to make their iPhone experience different from everyone else’s.  Very few know what iOS5 will bring to the table, but I fear that an iPhone 5 will be what the iPad 2 is to the original iPad – a snappier, streamlined model.  I hope that iOS5 will offer a better way to connect with my apps from the home screen, especially the built in Apple apps as they have remained visually the same since 2007.

At this time I cannot envision that groundbreaking new hardware feature that will leave me standing in line on launch day.  Like every new iPhone release, I think it is the software that will be the game-changer, and hopefully something that will support all iPhone 4s.