As you know if you follow me being productive using technology is a subject that I am passionate about and through my website and my writing at The Loop Magazine I've shared my thoughts quite a lot. I feel that Apple are relying on third parties to cover off productivity across their platforms, which isn't a bad thing to do for power users but I really feel that with a few tweaks to their standard apps would reap a lot of benefit to users like myself that are somewhere in between.
So at the time of writing it's Feb '15 and iOS 8.1.3 has been out for around five months and I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the improvements since iOS 7 or if my workflow has changed since the introduction of the new OS.
I am also going to be forward thinking given we are only four months away from WWDC and iOS 9 so I've written up a few thoughts on any improvements or focus I'd like to see.
I am going to break this post up by app/function that I use, followed up by improvements I would like to see in iOS 9.
I'm a big fan of Notes.app, it's easy to use and the UI although not massively changed since iOS 7 (rich text and ability to add images) makes it one of the quickest ways I have found to take quick notes on the go.
Where it falls down is when you have a large list of notes (I have over 50 currently). Yes you can pull down from the notes view to search your notes but I would like to see Apple adding simple tagging. What I mean by this is when you are taking a note you can simply swipe to the right (or add via a '+' button) then type in a few tags. So for example I write a shopping list, I can add the tags 'list' and 'household'.
In terms of changes between iOS 7 and iOS 8, well there isn't a lot visually but I have found that sync appears to work better between my iPad and iPhone. This is obviously a backend change which doesn't directly relate to the UI but anything Apple does to bolster iCloud is welcome. The other change worth mentioning is the addition of being able to add photo's to your notes, which to be honest I totally forgot about and am having to retrain myself that I can add these.
I have a love/hate relationship with Reminders. I love the OS integration but in iOS 7 it was almost at the point of being unusable for anything other than a simple list for me. The app took a massive UI improvement in Yosemite and the update on iOS (especially on iPad) gave me a good user experience.
From a UI perspective the changes were minimal but from a reliability and new feature set change it was a nice step up from iOS 7. The issues that I experienced on a daily basis on iOS 7 were now gone. The main two were random app crashes and adding new items to the 'Scheduled' view, in which it would add random times or make it a daily reminder rather than the one off you intended.
As far as new features goes my three favourites were continuity, widget support and interactive notifications. Being able to pick up from my iPad or Mac is a great feature to have and I've found I use it more than I was expecting. For example I'm in the scheduled list view on my Mac when I decide to take a walk away from the laptop and pickup my iPad. I can pick up where I left off right from my iPad on the same list and carry on.
Widget support allows me to quick see (from any device I have) what items I have on my list for today via Notification Centre. I can tick them off the list directly from the widget if (hopefully) I've done it or just dismiss the view by swiping the Today view away.
Lastly interactive notifications has been a real time saver. Being able to display 'Get bread' on the lock screen has always been possible but now I can be shown a notification on my lock screen (or as a dialog if I'm using the device) and simply swipe to complete or mark as complete. It sounds like a small thing but this one feature alone has kept me using Reminders as my main to do app.
There are two key improvements that I would like to see from the reminders app in iOS 9. The first being a UI overhaul that brings it more into line with the new gesture controls that Apple have brought in with iOS 7. So if you think of Notes.app where you can swipe left to get from a note to the note list view, think of reminders being a pane on the left that shows your list view you click on a list to be shown all of the items in that list. Swiping left brings you back to your list view. The second improvement I would like to see is a view that allows me to create a 'Today' list, it isn't bound by time e.g. in the current app to add a reminder that you want to do today you need to add a date and time. What I want is to be able to add a free form 'Today' list that shows up in the Widget and combines it with anything else that is scheduled for today.
Mail took a nice step up from iOS 7 in adding new gestures to support quick actions on mails and calendar invites being recognised but I've found Mail to be buggy in iOS 8. The main ones that really slowed me down (and a reason I now use the iOS Outlook app) is the badge count being incorrect and bringing me mail I've already dealt with. These two are related and I'm unsure if this is related to the server settings or a bug within iOS at the moment but I have raised with Apple on their bug reporting tool.
For iOS 9 I don't see a lot from a usability perspective but would like to see some focus on the backend as I have experienced the badge count issue with iCloud as well as using it for Gmail.
iOS 8 is a nice update but I don't feel Apple have focussed enough on their core apps (notes and reminders) to give me confidence they have the resources to do this or inclination given the vast array of third party app support. As big as Apple are they don't have an unlimited supply of developers, who I believe focus on both iOS and Mac.
Working in a FTSE 100 in a client environment I am familiar with resource management, setting client expectations and product roadmaps and although 'Producivity' isn't as sexy as Swift or Metal I would like Apple to take a step back and take a stance on this. If productivity isn't as important that's fine, I can get on and get used to some third party apps but I feel I am an outlier here, somewhere between a regular and power user that would like a bit of focus to nail a few change requests (you must have some graduate developers, right?) that shouldn't take more than 30 man days to implement.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed for iOS 9 and looking forward to June where we should be getting our first glimpse of it.
I hope you have enjoyed this post and please share your experiences of being productive using iOS and where you would like to see Apple focus their efforts in iOS 9.