4 iPhone features I'd like to improve in iPhone 5

The Apple [AAPL] iPhone isn’t perfect. There’s a range of low-level features which don’t appear to have made it into iOS 6, some of which could make the best-selling single smartphone variety even more popular. Here’s just four little features I think the iPhone lacks, even as the iPhone 5 queues get set to begin next month.

[ABOVE: Here's the obligatory iPhone 5 components video clip.]

Power-saver mode

I’ve written about the various steps you can take to tweak a little more battery life out of your iPhone when you need your phone to be a phone more than you need all its other features. The thing no list of power-saving tips can divert attention from is that taking all these steps is tedious and time-consuming. Does it really need to be so?

Of course it doesn’t.

Surely there’s someone on Scott Forstall’s growing iOS software development team who can go through all the background processes your iPhone does (Location sensing, WiFi network detecting, Bluetooth device scanning etc) and find some simple way to switch these things off, or at least down to an absolute minimum in order to reduce battery drain.

I’m sure there’ll be critics complaining that they didn’t buy a smartphone in order to end up using something which is only a phone, but for those times when you need to scrape more standby time from your device and aren’t planning to play Angry Birds, surely it would be a nice touch to have a single button command inside, say, Settings, which would enable you to switch off every extraneous action in order that your phone will work longer as a phone. This could be useful for example when you’re awaiting vehicle recovery services by the side of a road; sat in a tent at a music festival or on your way to the mountain climber’s base camp.

Sometimes keeping tabs on all the things those apps are doing in the background becomes a task in itself. A single button to switch across to low power mode without requiring any manual changes to app or device settings would surely be a good thing.

Burst mode

To be fair the iPhone 4S I’m using is one of the best digital cameras I’ve ever owned in terms of its lack of shutter lag. It’s head and shoulders above the digital cameras I was reviewing in the early 2000’s for this. Indeed, digital camera technology has moved so far along that it’s inevitable that digital cameras will go the way of printers. I can even imagine them being sold at low prices with printers, with now merged printer and camera firms hoping to yield some form of business from ink sales. However, this doesn’t mean the iPhone’s camera shouldn’t support some form of Burst Mode when taking images.

I’ve spent the weekend attempting to capture some images of some of my favorite bands, and while the pictures I did keep are OK, your timing needs to be spot on if you want to capture that defining moment when taking live shots. Burst mode would be a massive improvement if deployed.

I’d also like to note that of the gigs I do go to (and I go to as many gigs as I can), I’m in no doubt at all that the majority of the phones I see held up to capture still images and video are made by Apple.

Hopefully the much-discussed Facebook integration within iOS 6 will extend to the Camera app on the iPhone, finally enabling easy sharing of newly-caught images with your Facebook account.

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[ABOVE: Message font sizes need to be bigger.]

Stupid tiny text message text

I’ve lost track now of the number of heartfelt, important occasionally life-changing text messages I’ve sent when I’m out and about while -- such is my vanity -- not wearing my spectacles. As you can see from my truly horrible profile picture on this blog, I rarely photograph well and so I’m foolishly reluctant to wander the world wearing my specs. 

Sure, this endearing habit for denial may be potentially nothing more than an age crisis informing death anxiety thing, but one thing that I do regret is the number of times when sending a text that I’ve failed to see auto-correct mischievously alter what I’ve been trying to write in order to insert something irrelevant or, occasionally, shocking. I’m making light of this, but the fact I can’t zoom into the text on SMS messages, or even change the font size..it’s just, oh I'll say it -- it's annoying.

Why can’t I do this? It’s just text, right? I can zoom into Safari and other apps with text. All I want -- it’s pretty simple -- is to be able to read the message using pinch and zoom. Is this really too much to ask?

The fact you can’t do this yet is just stupid. 

I’m not disputing Apple’s focus on usability for its devices. It’s streets ahead of Google’s Android in that regard. After all, a little known story that better-sighted media outlets don’t appear to have got their heads around at the moment is that Apple is working with top manufacturers to introduce Made for iPhone hearing aids.

UPDATE: I've been looking for this for so long. I'm thrilled to have learned it can be done, to an extent -- thanks commenters. "You can increase the text size in Calendar, Contacts, Mail, Messages, and Notes in Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Large Text in iOS 5." There's one caveat -- text entry remains small, perhaps that can be repaired, too? In any case, I'd like to simply be able to tap and zoom.

iTunes app happiness

This one is really simple: Why can’t the artist, album and song information of whatever music I’m playing on my device at the time be made available as the top item within the Notifications drop-down box? Surely that’s not such a challenging thing to implement?

So, that’s four tiny usability improvements I’d like to see in the future iPhone. Obviously there’s many, many more implementations it would be nice to see inside the device. What other features are on your list? Let me know in comments below.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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