I like my iPhone 13 Pro quite a lot, but it helped me to realize why I love Android. The number of problems I faced when switching to an iPhone really drove the point home to me, and there have been several issues with iOS over the years — some of which are completely nonsensical. While Apple prides itself on creating the phone that just works, there are some elements of that experience that are downright confusing. iOS 16 is just around the corner, and it’s almost certain it won’t fix all of the iPhone’s problems.
Here’s the thing though: the number of issues Apple has in iOS can technically all be fixed in iOS 16. It’s just that they almost certainly will not be. Terrible notifications, slow animations, and an inflexible home screen all frustrate me to no end, but there’s more to it than that. iOS as an operating system “just works”, but that mantra is flawed when it comes to several aspects. There’s a lot that we’re hoping to see in iOS 16, but we’re almost guaranteed not to get much of it at all.
Problems with iOS
Notifications need a major overhaul
Notifications are probably the most universally understood problem of iOS, and there are several reasons why. They feel like an afterthought when using an iPhone, and there’s a lot of work needed to make them significantly better. iOS 15 introduced “summaries”, which went a long way towards helping the situation, but they’re in no way a solution.
When comparing iOS notifications to Android, it’s really no comparison. On Android, from a notification, you can open the app, long press to change the notification’s priority, dismiss it by swiping in either direction or expand it to get additional contextual-based interactions. You can respond to messages, send pre-defined actions, and a whole lot more. iOS has the basic functionality of opening the notification or being able to swipe it away to the left, but try to swipe it to the right and you’ll have a problem. Some apps do allow you to hold down on a notification and get additional functionality, but those tend to just extend into opening the app in a particular way.
There are other problems with notifications on iOS too, including being able to clear all of your notifications away. It can be done by tapping on the ‘x’ button in the notifications center and tapping it again, but that doesn’t always show up, and it doesn’t clear your most recent notifications either. Notifications work on iPhones, but there are a lot of problems and things that need polishing, and it seems to be a rather universal experience. The notifications system in iOS needs a major overhaul.
To be clear, rumors suggest that there is going to be an overhaul of the notification system with iOS 16. As a result, this may be one of the few issues that Apple actually does do something about. Here’s hoping for the best.
Siri is ten years out of date
The craziest thing about Siri to me is how outdated it has become. I remember when it launched with the iPhone 4s how insanely ahead of the competition it felt. You could talk to a virtual assistant and ask it anything, from genuinely useful queries to silly questions such as “Siri, what’s the meaning of life”. Now, whenever I use Siri, it feels like I’m using the same software from ten years ago. It’s just faster.
Siri is Apple’s long-time voice assistant, and it’s also incredibly useless for any complicated task. The Google Assistant simply fares a whole lot better, and a large part of that is thanks to the context that Google Assistant actually understands. For example, I asked Siri what the weather was like in Dublin. I then asked when is it expected to rain, and it told me that it was raining in my hometown right now. In context, I asked Google the same, and it understood that I was asking about rain in Dublin still. It’s the little things like this that show just how far behind Siri actually is.
Those aren’t the only problems though. If you ask Siri a question that would be Google-able, say, when the Bob’s Burgers movie will be released, you’ll be presented with a list of links to go through and select from. I asked Google the same question, and was told “In the United States of America, the Bob’s Burgers movie came out last Friday”. It’s the little things, but a virtual assistant should assist. If I’m asking an assistant to find a date for me, I don’t want to sift through a bunch of links to find the answer like some kind of animal. I could have just Googled it myself at that point.
So yeah, currently, Siri still sucks.
The home screen is too restrictive
The home screen is one of the least egregious issues that I have with iOS, and that’s because it’s both really good, and really annoying. On the one hand, it’s simplistic and it works, and it’s a pretty good launcher all things considered. It’s smooth, the widgets are good (though took a LONG TIME to actually release), and it’s feature-packed. On the other hand, there are still quite a few issues. For starters, the fact it’s not possible to have blank spaces anywhere on the home screen is incredibly annoying. It’s just not possible to take a more artistic approach to the home screen without resorting to workarounds.
As well, widgets themselves are incredibly limited. As we noted in our wishlist, there are no interactive widgets. You can’t use the Music widget to pause/play/skip, for example. This makes them so limiting — especially since the legacy widgets support controlling an app or getting info without launching the actual app. Rumors suggest some changes to widgets in iOS 16, but none say that we’ll get proper interactivity.
There is no universal back gesture
Here’s a curious omission on iOS that you might not have necessarily realized: there is no universal back gesture. While every app generally has a way to swipe from left to right to go back, it’s up to the app how it wants to incorporate back gestures. Some apps will only let you swipe back at the top, others require you to press a back button at the top left.
As a result, a lot of apps tend to have it slightly different, and pretty much no app allows you to swipe from right to left to go back, something that’s way more convenient when holding the phone in your right hand. On Android, this isn’t the case, as a swipe on the right or the left is handled by the system and sent as an input to the app to say that you want to go back.
Animations are too slow
iOS has some extremely slow animations, to the point that I feel like they slow down my phone. Closing apps, opening apps, animations within apps… all of it feels so slow. The Apple Bionic A15 can handle all of it no question, yet it’s frustrating to use my iPhone when I want to jump between different applications quickly. It’s a smaller gripe, but one that can sometimes get on my nerves. You can enable “Reduce motion” in the accessibility settings, but I didn’t really find that it increased the speed I could do things on my phone.
It’s still not really possible to sideload apps
It would be amiss to talk about problems with iOS without mentioning sideloading. It’s possible to do through the likes of AltStore, but it’s not an easy process. To use emulators and other unapproved apps on your smartphone, you’ll need to install and configure AltStore… you can’t just download an IPA file (the iPhone equivalent of an APK) and install it. I never realized how much I appreciated that freedom until I was faced with a lengthy and annoying process just to play Pokemon on my phone. I don’t think this will ever be changed, but I’d love it so much if it was.
Typing should be easier
Given that smartphones are smartphones, typing is one of the most important things we do on our phones. As a result, it should probably be the most frictionless experience of the entire ordeal, but on iPhones, I can’t really say that it is.
One of the most irksome parts of typing is when something is autocorrected by a letter, and to fix it, you can’t just tap into the center of the word to change it. You either need to backspace through the word or tap to the end of it, then hold on to the space bar and drag. It’s such a weird way to make minor edits and can take way too long.
As well, and this is more of a personal preference, but I hate that I can type a message and the last letter is auto-corrected in between me hitting enter, and the message actually being sent.
What to expect in iOS 16 and when
iOS 16 is expected to arrive at this year’s Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), and we’ve already heard a lot of rumors of what to expect thanks to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. Gurman purports that Apple will finally introduce support for lock screen widgets — through a new wallpaper format — and bring in an always-on display on upcoming iPhone 14 Pro models. Furthermore, he states that he believes that Apple will support social network-like features in the Messages app.
WWDC is only a week away, so we don’t have long to wait until we find out what’s new and what isn’t. While iOS has a lot of issues, I think that it’s still a good operating system, and improvements and changes are good for the entire smartphone ecosystem.
We’re excited, are you?