As we prepare for iOS 12, app creators reveal what they want to see from iOS 13 and beyond

It’s possible we’ll see the odd surprise before this September, but iOS 12’s feature set is now essentially complete. As Apple outlines on its website, the next revamp doubles down on performance and time management, and adds smaller features like custom Animoji, better notifications, and camera effects.

App and game creators have already told us how these things will improve your iPhone and iPad, but now they’ve set their sights on what they’d like to see next from Apple.

App to the future

Several long-standing issues remain unaddressed in iOS 12, which developers hope will change next year. Games designer Pascal Bestebroer reckons Apple should pay attention to its mothballed gaming services: “Game Center is in a sad state. I think many games players would enjoy polished, reliable leaderboards, achievements, player-vs-player challenges, tournaments and streaming-video.”

The stagnating remains of Game Center that lurk in Settings

For apps and games alike, Scanbot CEO Christoph Wagner hopes Apple will “support update pricing as well as real free trials for paid apps”, while PCalc creator James Thomson is hoping that Apple might finally let you swap out (rather than merely disable) built-in default apps. “That would allow someone to, say, put PCalc directly in Control Centre instead of Apple’s Calculator. But people have requested this for years, and I think it would have happened by now if it was ever going to!”

Do the splits

Iris Health founder Agisilaos Tsaraboulidis says he’d “love to see an update to the visual design of iOS”. PDF Viewer creator Peter Steinberger has similar thoughts, although primarily around “a new way to open apps” – in other words, the long-rumored redesigned Home screen that didn’t arrive with iOS 12.

Mostly, though, app creators want improvements to the utility of your devices, rather than Apple spending its time tweaking aesthetics. “There should be a convenient way for any app to be as flexible as Safari when it comes to tabs and Split View,” thinks Ulysses co-founder Max Seelemann.

Safari has its own in-app Split View. Developers want something similar available to them

Peter agrees: “This would make the iPad more powerful. One of the biggest feature requests for my app is being able to work on two documents side-by-side. This is challenging to implement in a third-party app, and so it really needs to be done at the system level. Your device needs to understand one app can have multiple ‘windows’, in a manner similar to on a Mac.”

Back to the Mac

Speaking of the Mac, that’s something that now has iOS app creators very excited, given Apple’s announcement that it will soon be easier to port iPad apps to macOS. (Apple has itself used its in-progress tech to create Mac versions of News, Home, Voice Memos and Stocks for macOS Mojave.) “This is obviously a good thing for the Mac, but I believe it could improve the situation for pro-level iOS apps as well,” mulls Just Press Record co-founder Gordon Murrison.

Voice Memos on Mac, ported from the iOS version

His reasoning is that creating professional iOS apps isn’t always easy to justify, but “if that effort results in an iOS app and a Mac app, more developers may consider building ‘larger’ apps for these platforms – which is healthy for the iOS and macOS ecosystems alike”.

Also in a pro-oriented space, Ben McCarthy – creator of camera app Obscura 2 – looks forward to the point iOS will seamlessly support external storage: “Being able to plug a hard drive into an iPhone or iPad would be a huge win for photographers, as it’s not always possible to rely on iCloud storage – especially when you’re shooting on location or travelling”.

And Sean Heber, software engineer at Twitterrific creators Iconfactory, is waiting for Apple to announce that you can create iOS apps on iOS devices: “There needs to be a serious effort to bring such tools to the iPad. It should be possible to develop apps entirely on iOS, from design and coding through to publishing them on the App Store.” He admits this might require “going back to the drawing board for some core aspects of iOS’s design”, but argues Apple should nonetheless take the plunge.

Blurred lines

The final item on our wish list concerns augmented reality. This has been a huge win for Apple, with iOS becoming the leading platform for enabling you to peer at and interact with virtual worlds through the ‘viewfinder’ of your device’s screen. With iOS 12, its capabilities expand to multiple surfaces and persistent AR worlds. Developer Dave Nott reckons Apple could go much further.

“Right now, I feel AR suffers from poor discoverability. People with iPhones and iPads need to know AR is a thing, go to the App Store, find a relevant app for whatever they want to do, and then download and use it,” he explains. “But what if AR functionality could exist in apps you already have, and be discoverable elsewhere on your device, perhaps with Siri suggesting experiences based on your habits, location, and even what the camera is looking at, if it’s in use?”

Airline apps make good use of AR – but rely on users knowing these apps and their AR functionality exist

By way of example, Dave says to imagine being in a restaurant. Your iPhone knows you’re there (through GPS), and offers the restaurant’s AR experience right from the lock screen, downloading relevant content as required. “You’d then be able to see items from the menu in AR”, or whatever else they’d cooked up for you!

It’s an interesting idea – a further shift towards merging the real and the virtual. And app creators have a pretty good track record of predicting where Apple might take iOS devices, and so we’ve high hopes at least some of these ideas will find their way to your iPhone and iPad in 2019. Keep reading our coverage for the latest insight into iOS, and here’s hoping at next year’s WWDC iOS 13 won’t be the ‘unlucky’ release for all those wanting great new features.