iOS 5 features we're crossing our fingers for

iOS 4.3 is imminent, but we're already fantasising about what's in store for iOS 5. Here's what we'll be badgering Steve Jobs about at the pub this weekend.

Flora Graham
6 min read

Update: Read our iOS 5 complete guide to see all the features that were announced after this article was published. 

We're expecting to see iOS 4.3 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch burst out like the unexpected addition to a delightful delivery of quadruplets at this week's Apple event. But, other than the addition of tethering over Wi-Fi, we're not expecting to be blown away with nuclear feature-bombs.

Instead, we're looking forward to iOS 5 for the features that we've been craving since Android taught us that there's life after Apple. Here's hoping that somewhere, somehow, Steve and the JobsMob are listening.

Game Center

Currently, Game Center feels like Ping for games. Which is to say: rubbish. It's supposed to bring games and friends together, like Xbox Live for your iPhone. Sounds like a treat, but it's not easy enough to find your friends.

Currently, you can only find friends in Game Center by looking them up one at a time by email or username. Wouldn't it be great if it connected with your Facebook and Twitter account? Or at least connected to your address book to find your friends, with permission.


AirPrint could have been so beautiful. Print to any printer networked to a computer on the same wireless network? Yes, please. After all, several apps offer the same feature already, and Apple is oh-so-good at perfecting other people's ideas so you can't remember it didn't invent them in the first place.

That's what we were promised, but that's not what we got. When AirPrint launched in November, it only included the ability to print to certain e-print enabled HP printers. Which we don't have, and we're pretty sure you don't either. 

Perhaps problems with printing were what caused the iOS update to bump up against its November deadline, with the networked printer option missing. Perhaps it's in cahoots with HP in a bid to get us to invest in new printers. Either way, it hasn't been fixed and it's still rubbish.

We know Apple has $51bn burning a hole in its pocket. We suggest buying one of the companies that makes the excellent wireless print apps in the App Store, naming it AirPrint and letting us get on with using our dead trees.

Syncing with multiple computers

Syncing mobile devices is hard. If you've ever used Samsung Kies, Nokia Ovi Sync or Microsoft ActiveSync, you know it's a minefield of duplicate entries, unrecognised drivers and accidental deletions. But at least they try.

Apple has certainly nailed syncing with iTunes, generally doing an excellent job of sorting out the problems and making it pretty effortless. It's also thrown in the ability to buy and sync apps, music and videos, which is handy. Sure, iTunes is a horrifically slow mess when it runs on Windows, but in terms of syncing, it does a fantastic job.

But -- and this is a but the size of an elephant's backside -- you can only sync your iPhone, iPod or iPad with one computer. Home or work -- you must choose. And God forbid you want to share something on a mate's computer.

Of course, you can sync plenty of stuff wirelessly from the cloud -- like your contacts and calendars from Google, for example. But for some things, such as podcasts, photos and updates, it's iTunes or no tunes.  

You can't even transfer your files from your phone if you want to change the computer you sync to, with a few exceptions. It's a logistical nightmare that smacks of Apple's control freakery, and it has to stop.

Wireless syncing

While we're at it, we want to be able to sync over Wi-Fi when we're on the same network as our computer, rather than having to track down an official Apple cable. We'd settle for our iThing working with a normal USB port, but we know that's not going to happen. So how about ditching the cable altogether?

If Apple's worried about draining the battery with endless, unwanted syncing, copy Windows Phone 7. Phones with Microsoft's OS will only start syncing when they're plugged in, so you won't wake up to a dead phone because it's been working the Wi-Fi transferring files all night. 


Sometimes we just want to grab and go -- that's when mounting the iPod, iPad or iPod touch as a flash drive would be ever so useful. We paid a fortune for those gigabytes, and we want to use them.

If we could choose to use our iStuff as mobile hard drives, we could forget USB sticks and DVDs. We have our mobile devices with us all the time anyway. 

You could argue this goes against Apple's super-simple to use ethos. But if it's too complicated or geeky for Apple's target market, then -- like tethering -- they never have to turn the feature on.

We suspect it's another example of Apple trying to contain the iTunes music bounty without resorting to DRM, but that ship has sailed. Even if file storage has to be implemented as a locked-down app linked to iTunes, we'll take it over the current total lack of flash-drive fun.


Then there's the other kind of Flash -- the video, game and animation tool that rules the Web is programma non grata in Cupertino. Apple says, with plenty of justification, Flash sucks memory, processor and battery and leaves your gadgets for dead like an Adobe-owned vampire. 

To this we reply, Android has done it, and done it well. We've been using Flash on Android 2.2 Froyo for months, and we love it. It's not perfect, since there are plenty of Flash-heavy websites that just aren't designed to work well on a mobile's small touchscreen. But at least even those sites are now accessible, anywhere and any time. Best of all, you can turn it off or set it to run Flash on command, rather than by default. 

With all the angry water that's run under the bridge between Apple and Adobe, we're sure it's too late for Flash to ever come to Apple products. But that doesn't stop us from wanting it -- or switching to Android.

Lock-screen widgets

We've got the major things off our chests, so how about some stuff that could actually happen? Here's a simple one that will make us happy -- live widgets on the iPhone, iPod and iPad's lock screen. Upcoming appointments and active alarms would be our choice, since they're especially handy for those of us who use the iPhone as our bedside alarm clock.

Apple's apparently been experimenting with a gesture-based unlock screen in one of its internal apps recently, so it's possible that we could be seeing some changes in the lock screen soon. 

FM radio

The rumour is that deep inside the iPhone and iPod, there's a hidden secret. An FM radio receiver lies dormant, except for receiving Nike+ signals, ready to awaken when we need it most.

Rise, FM radio! Emerge from your slumber to deliver us from music-free podcasts and gappy streaming Internet radio! We don't care that the FM spectrum is about to be sacrificed to the wonders of DAB -- we live for the now, and the now is a country-wide, free and efficient source of tunage and chat.

Over to you

We could go on -- how about Facebook and Twitter integration for the address book, or the ability to sync your photos with the cloud automatically? But we want to hear from you. Let us know in the comments what you'd like to see in iOS 5, and we'll do our best to get the message to Apple by carving it into each and every review sample it lends us.

Update: Originally published in November, we updated this article on 28 February ahead of Apple's 2 March iPad 2 event.