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Missing Features from Apple’s Ecosystem

A still image of Bill Lumbergh from Office Space stating 'That would be great'

There are two parts to just about any piece of technology, the hardware and the software. Software is much easier to update than hardware. If a piece of hardware has a flaw, it may be possible to work around it, but often it is not. However, with software you can easily update it as time goes on.

I have been thinking about a variety of different features that Apple could add to its various operating systems, services, and products. This is the second of two articles. The first article focused on the issues that need fixing within Apple’s operating systems. This second article will consist of feature requests that would be good to see from Apple’s Ecosystem.

I have broken down the missing features by operating system, or device. So, let us get started with iOS and iPad OS


iOS/iPadOS

A mechanism for duplicating a Focus Mode

Sometimes we want to be able to take an existing focus mode and make slight modifications to it, and use it for another Focus Mode. However, right now there is no way to do this. Instead, you would have to create it from scratch and depending on how much has gone into the focus mode, this can become quite tedious.

A New Setting to disable request for reviews on a per-app basis

All apps are allowed to provide a prompt that will request that you write a review of their app. The manner in which is this done is standardized within iOS, but when it is prompted depends on the app.It would be nice to see an option that will disable prompting for a review from a specific app. There is a setting for disabling this altogether, but not for individual apps.

Yes, there is a limit to the number of prompts that the app will make, 3 per 12 months, but it often seems like some apps are able to get around this somehow.


Health and Fitness

Show upcoming medications on summary tab

Added in iOS 16 is the option to be able to schedule notifications for when you need to take your medications. Right now, if you take your medication before the time, you will have to navigate through the Health app to the medication in order to signify that you have taken it. It would be nice to have your upcoming medication right there on the summary tab so you can easily get to it to indicate you have taken the medication.

More Preciseness with "Goals" in Fitness.

Every month the Fitness app will provide you an opportunity to complete a monthly goal. The type of goal is dependent on your previous exercises and workout methods. Last month for my "goal" was to walk 2.3 miles" every day. However, , when in reality it was 2.32. In this particular case it was not a problem, but there may be instances where this slight difference can make the difference between hitting a goal and not hitting a goal. It is just an additional decimal point, and precision in this case is accurate.


HomePod

There are a number of items for the HomePod that I would like to see.

Ability to set speaking volume on HomePod from the Home app

Right now, there is no way to set the speaking volume of Siri on a HomePod within the Home app. You can set it via a voice command to the HomePod itself, but it would be beneficial to be able to set this within the Home app itself. Even if this has to be under an "Advanced Settings" screen, it could be very helpful. Furthermore, having a "default" volume for all HomePods when they are added would also be beneficial.

Furthermore, all voice settings should be adjustable via iOS. It is not accessible for everyone to have to use their voice to adjust some settings and instead, they should all be available via the Home app.

Ability to easily move Wi-Fi networks for a HomePod

In December of 2021 I moved to a new wireless network. I did have to keep my old network available for some older devices that cannot connect to the new one. You can read more about that in this post. Because my old network was still up, due to some older devices not being able to use WPA3, all of my HomePods were still connecting to it, instead of the new network.

If there was a way of being able to easily move a HomePod to use another network, it would have been much more convenient. Instead, I would had to reset all of my HomePods and set them up again. Granted, this did not take long for each single HomePod, but in aggregate it did take time, as well as additional time to setup a Stereo Pair for a couple of my HomePods. It could have all been taken care of easily if I could have just switched networks from wtihin the Home app.

Temporarily or permanently disabling handoff for a single HomePod

One thing that I have noticed is that the sensitivity of the HomePod, when it comes to handing off audio, is too sensitive. As an example, let us say you are listening something via headphones and you place that iPhone close to a HomePod, it will transfer the audio to the HomePod without any confirmation. This means that your audio will transfer without you really wanting it to do so. This is just a bad user experience and does not meet expectations.

One possible solution to this is to allow for adjusting the detection radius for a HomePod, for handoff. The current default is good, in most instances, but there are times when a smaller detection radius is needed and it would be useful to be able to adjust it, on a per HomePod basis.


Device Firmware Updates

There are three devices where you do not have much control over updates. These devices are AirPods, AirTags, and the HomePod. For the first two you have absolutely no control over when an update is applied. These devices just update whenever Apple deems it necessary to update. For a majority of individuals this is acceptable, but these updates can leave users experiencing issues and not receiving the bug fixes and feature enhancements that they want or need.

It would be a good addition to be able to either force an update for the AirPods and AirTags, or just request it install overnight. For the HomePod, it would be nice to have a "download only" option. Right now, the only option is "download and install".


HomeKit/Home App

With iOS 16.2 Apple attempted to upgrade the architecture of the Home app to support Matter, the smart home industry standard. This did not work for everybody, but beyond this, there is another feature that is missing.

Select which devices can be considered "Home Hubs"

Animated GIF of the scene in Office Space where Peter indicates he has eight bosses, and the reaction of Bob Slydell

In the movie "Office Space" there is a line that goes, "I have eight different bosses", that is how I feel about my "Home Hubs". Right now in my Home app it lists 9 different Home Hubs. 7 of these are HomePods and Apple TVs, and I have two others Phillips Hue Hub an another hub for another HomeKit item. I do not need 7 HomePod and Apple TV Home Hubs.

I would love to be able to indicate which ones of my devices should be identified a Home Hub. For instance, I have an original HomePod and an Apple TV HD, neither of these should ever be used as a Home Hub, because they are both older devices and slower to respond. These still work fine for what they are used for, but they should not be the primary devices for a Home Hub.

Similarly, let us say you have an Apple TV that you use at home in a secondary or tertiary room and you bring that Apple TV when you go on vacation, you likely do not want this to be the Home Hub for your devices.

Now, if there is only one or two devices, then this should not be an option. However, if there are multiple, like I have, then there should be no issue with excluding a device from being a Home hub.


Apple Watch

There are two specific Apple Watch features that I would like to see.

Standalone Setup Option

As of this writing, when you setup an Apple Watch you are required to pair it with an Apple Watch. I think it’s time that the Apple Watch be able to be setup on its own. During the setup, you could identify which iPhone to get your data from and where notification should be sent from, but it could be almost entirely standalone.

Notification of charged Apple Watch on devices using same iCloud account.

This one is just a personal request really. I am often charging my Apple Watch while using another device, like my MacBook Pro or my Mac Studio. What would be nice is to have a notification that my Apple Watch is charged on my Mac, particularly if the screen is off on my iPhone. This notification would not need to be sent if the Mac is not within say 6 to 10 feet, or 2 to 3 meters.


AirTags

Earlier I mentioned device firmware options, but I have another feature that I would like to have back.

Battery level indicator

Each AirTag comes with a battery and this battery will last about a year, or so. Prior to iOS 16, there was an option to see how much battery life was remaining for each individual AirTag, however that feature has been removed. In its place is a notification that a battery is low. While this notification is nice, it is temporary and if you tap on it, it does not indicate which device has a low battery.

I think the AirTag battery level indicator should return, or at the very least an estimate for how much longer the current battery will last. That way, someone can easily plan for replacing the battery in a timely manner before it completely stops working.


News

Apple News is a usable app, but there are two feature that I would like to see.

Groups

When you add a channel in Apple News, it gets added to the "Following" section. This makes sense. You can add a specific channel as a "Favorite", which has its own section. However, I would like see custom groups for channels you follow. This way, someone can organize the news in a manner which they see fit for them. This would need to allow a particular Channel or Topic to be added to multiple groups.

Disable "Sports"

Undoubtedly there is a significant portion of the world that pays attention to at least one sport. If you are in the United States, it is likely either Football or Baseball. If you are elsewhere it is likely Soccer or Cricket. However, there is a contingent of people who do not pay attention to sports at all. I am one of those people. It is not likely that you will see me actively choose to watch sports, because it is just not something I find entertaining or interesting.

Apple has begun getting into sports, with showing Football, Baseball, and now with the exclusivity to show all Major League Soccer games. Within Apple News you can follow individual teams, or entire sports. However, there is no way to turn this off, so while I am scrolling through my feed I see the sports information and the invitation to "Setup my teams", but I just want to disable this all together.

There is a "Block from Today" option, but that is not enough, because I truly have ZERO interest in following any sort of sports at all.


Notes

"Sync Now"

Notes is one of the apps that was introduced on the original iPhone. In the intervening 16 years, it has seen a significant set of improvements. With iOS 9 and Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan, you could synchronize Notes with iCloud, instead of with your mail server. One thing that seems to be missing from this is that synchronization happens randomly. Sometimes it is instantaneous, other times it is not.

It would be great to have a ’Sync Now’ button to force a synchronization of all of your Notes, so that you can update them faster than the automatic updates.


iCloud

An animated gif of Office Space where Bob Slydell is giving Peter a hypothetical situation about Stock Options

This one is just "strictly hypothetical", but it would be great to have the base storage of iCloud increase. Yes, I understand that the low amount is an incentive to get people to subscribe. I also understand that the base storage is an expense for Apple, because they need to have multiple backups, but with the increase of resolution on images, the 5GB of base storage is just not enough.

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Closing Thoughts

I am sure there are more items that I can come up with, but these are the items that outlined above are the ones that I have encountered within the last few months and are things that I think would be beneficial for not just me, but a lot of people who use Apple’s platforms.

Part of me hopes that Apple has a good selection of new features in this year’s operating systems. At the same time, I also hope that they decide fewer features is a better approach and instead they have another "Snow Leopard" year. For those unaware, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard was released in 2009 and at the time it appeared to be a "minor" release with very few user features. However, there were a ton of under the hood changes that would be fundamental for years to come. Even though there were few user features, there were a ton of bug fixes and changes. It is this latter term that people are referring to.

An animated gif of Office Space where Bill Lumbergh states 'That would be great'
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