Three Wished for Features to Make the iPhone Even Better

by Chris Howard Sep 09, 2009

The iPhone is a brilliant device but could, undoubtedly, still be improved upon. Wouldn't it be nice if you could control un-mute it at scheduled times, input data with a stylus, and have it provide multiple word choices as you write?  


1. Software API Controlled Volume

Your shiny new iPhone comes with what at first glance appears to be a great idea: a switch to quickly and easily mute the phone. However, physical switches are the only way to control the iPhone's volume. Anyone who's used any other type of mobile phone will have software based ways such as profiles (for different usage modes, like meetings, outdoors, silent) and scheduled muting/un-muting.

That last is a "must have" for the iPhone. Hands up anyone who's missed a call or message on their iPhone because they forgot to un-mute it? I imagine there's quite a few hands waving. My iPhone sits beside my bed every night, so I mute it so as not to be woken by any calendar alarms, SMSes or calls. However, even after a year, I still forget to un-mute it each morning. Wouldn't I love an app that automatically un-muted it at a scheduled time.

Same with meetings, movies or anywhere else you mute your phone for a known time frame.

How hard would it be for Apple to build in the ability to schedule muting of sound? Or provide APIs so developers could?


2. Stylus Input and Handwriting Recognition

Name the fastest form of notation known to mankind... handwriting, of course. No matter how many different to-do list apps you might try, you'll probably find yourself thinking it would be easier on paper. I know I do, and I've read other bloggers express the the same sentiment.

Developers on the iPhone, though, are hampered because there are only two input methods: keyboard and voice. Voice control is not overly viable at the moment although one day could be the primary method of control. The touch interface does allow using your finger to write in some apps, but it is cumbersome. A stylus would make it so much easier and more efficient. But Apple deliberately disabled that ability on the iPhone's touch screen

Even though handwriting is cumbersome with your finger, some apps use it anyway and demonstrate the potential of a stylus and handwriting recognition. 

The extraordinary app, WritePad, provides excellent handwriting recognition—and without any predefined keystrokes like the Palm's use.  It even recognises cursive writing—even mine! (WritePad is free but comes in four other pay-for variations with extra features and uses.)

But it is a little slowish to interpret (although that wouldn't be a problem if handwriting recognition was built-into the iPhone's OS)  And with fingers you can't write small, so even on the landscape screen, you are limited to a word or two at a time. It might do developers well to checkout Gee Whiz To Do (aka Use Your Handwriting) which allows writing across multiple screens. (And I might add, Gee Whiz To Do is my current list-making app of choice because you make notes using handwriting.)

The chances of the iPhone ever getting stylus input from Apple are pretty slim.

But adding stylus input and handwriting recognition would help broaden the iPhone's reach and usability, as would the next item in my list. 


3. Improved Predictive Text and Auto-Correction

Apple's implementation of predictive text on the iPhone is flawed because of its auto-correction. It was a major problem for non-English speaking countries, so Apple had to add the option to turn it off. 

The problem is, when it's turned off, you don't get prompted for the spelling alternative at all. 

If Apple wants to see how to do it, it should again look at the WritePad app. It also has a keyboard mode in which it ditches the iPhone's built in predictive text and auto-correct and replaces it with its own, which doesn't auto-correct but still prompts for alternative spelling.

However, it prompts with several possible options for the word you might be typing. You can then click on a word to select it. Having used something similar on a Palm several years ago, I have found it greatly speeds up input. 


If nothing else, it'd be nice if when the iPhone's auto-correct was turned off, you could still have the option to be prompted with the suggested correct spelling.


What this is really about is options. We don't all operate the same way. Wouldn't it be good if Apple added these options too—even if you personally might not use them? Here's hoping.


  • A stylus? A STYLUS? Are we going back to 1999?

    Dude, I think your Apple observations are almost always completely off the mark, absurdly so. But you are entertaining, I’ll give you that.

    insertclevernamehere had this to say on Sep 09, 2009 Posts: 8
  • Just because you don’t want it… Take off the Appley blinkers!

    Tell me something, do people still use pen and paper? That’s so last century!

    If there’s still a use for pen and paper, then a stylus still has a use. I never said it had to replace finger-touch, merely additional.

    Apple once said, “Think different”. Unfortunately, too many Apple fans can’t think different to Apple. If Apple doesn’t do it, it’s not right, eh?

    And when someone dares to think different to Apple, their ideas are called “absurd”. smile

    For years Apple has refused to put an FM radio in an iPod. I guess anyone who called for it would be told it was an absurd idea. Oh, until today. smile Apple’s done it now so it’s not absurd anymore.

    Apple fans don’t just need to learn to think different, they need to learn to think for themselves.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Sep 09, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • I would love to see a stylus on the iPhone. It’ll make entering chinese a lot easier for me as I’m not too good with pinyin or wubihua. There is handwriting support, but writing chinese characters with a finger tends to be messy and inaccurate. My friend has one of the nokia touchscreen phones with a stylus and I love using it whenever I travel to hong kong or china, it makes writing SMS a breeze.

    The auto-correction is another issue that, quite frankly, I’m surprised apple hasn’t addressed yet.

    makken had this to say on Sep 12, 2009 Posts: 21
  • I think from the all the things you’ve suggested above the first one “Software API Controlled Volume” got little interest the rest they’re nonsense. People tend to use cellphones without typing the whole letters in the word/s we’re actually making our own spellings to make the entry short. And Stylus Input and Handwriting Recognition is I think not that much important especially nowadays we’re more in a high tech world so maybe it’s better to say to develop a voice activated phone. Right? GAR Labs

    chesterfoster had this to say on Aug 21, 2011 Posts: 27
  • Indeed, Apple could offer a paving stone with “Apple Slab” stamped on it and probably sell a few hundred thousand—or more. java programmer

    Jake Kear had this to say on Sep 08, 2011 Posts: 6
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