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iOS 12: Geeky features iOS needs

If June is for Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), then May is for stories speculating about what will be announced at WWDC. My favorite genre of these stories is the iOS feature wish list, which Macworld has been publishing since… well, since before it was even called iOS.

Yes, this is going to be one of those stories, but with a twist. Rather than providing feature requests of the crowd-pleasing variety, instead I’m going to advocate for some nerdy features that won’t be used by more than a fraction of iPhone and iPad users. Despite that, they’re still important—at least to me.

Get smarter with files

iOS used to pretend that files didn’t exist, but a few years ago Apple gave up the pretense and introduced the iCloud Drive app, replaced in iOS 11 by the Files app. That’s a step in the right direction, but there’s more to be done.

ios files appApple

While files has an “On my iPhone/iPad” listing, its primary purpose is to connect with cloud-storage providers. That’s great, but some of us keep our files on networked file servers, especially if we’re working in offices. Support for SMB servers would sure be swell.

And of course, there’s the concept of external storage, which iOS also basically ignores, except in the case of attaching a camera or SD card via an adapter. In that case, iOS does see the contents of an external storage device—but only the photos and video files. Perhaps it’s time to allow the Files app to see the entire contents of any attached storage device, so I can copy audio files from my external audio recorded to my audio editing app, or Microsoft Office from my co-worker’s thumb drive to my iPad’s PowerPoint app?

Yes, you could transfer those files via cloud services—but if you’re in a slow or metered connectivity environment, you’re out of luck. iPhones and iPads have the power, the apps, and the file interface—so it’s time to be able to see files on external devices.

Commit to automation

Most people aren’t going to go much past the default settings for the system and apps, and that’s fine. But one of the things that makes a platform rich is the ability for motivated people to customize their experience and make their devices do exactly what they need.

apple workflow ios appApple


On iOS, automation has been limited to third-party apps like Workflow (which was purchased by Apple), which are powerful but limited by what iOS allows them to do. I’d like to see Apple roll out a unified automation platform, not just for iOS, but also for macOS, with access to features that allow users to control apps and exchange information between them, creating a much richer experience.

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