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Three white iPhone 5S handsets displaying iOS 7If recent traditions hold, Apple will unveil the features of iOS 8 as a part of its keynote session at the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco during the first week of June.

We don’t know much about what’s coming in this year’s presentation, thanks to Apple’s culture of secrecy, but here are the biggest improvements I’d like to see in the next version of the operating system for iPhone and iPad.

iPad Multitasking and better support for inter-app communication

When I’m out on the go and don’t want to lug around my 15-inch MacBook Pro, I turn to my iPad as a way to get work done at a moment’s notice. That makes for a nice, lightweight setup, but anyone who has tried to do work on iOS for an extended period can tell you that Apple’s insistence on only showing one app at a time can be a hindrance to getting work done.

That’s why I was so excited to see a rumor pop up earlier this month that said Apple plans to include side-by-side multitasking for iPad users in the next revision of iOS. Here’s hoping it’s true.

Mobile payments

HT5883_03-ios_7_1-touch_id-fingerprint_purchase-004-enOne of the great hassles in retail is handling a payment transaction. When we buy something, we have to do a whole dance — handling a wallet or purse, whatever we’re buying, and a receipt. It’s cumbersome and time-consuming, and one of my least favorite parts of buying things.

Apple could fix that. I’d love to use Touch ID to pay for my lunch, or bypass the line to pick up a new novel by paying for it using my iPhone. I could drop the wallet dance, and just grab what I need and go.

What’s more, it’s definitely within the realm of possibility. In the past, Tim Cook has hinted at letting iPhone users make payments outside of the iTunes and App Store using their device, and iOS 8 may provide an opportunity for Apple to unveil that capability.

navigation_heroTransit directions for Apple Maps

While Apple Maps has mostly grown out of its innacurate phase, it’s still missing transit directions. That may not seem like such a big deal for people who use their car to get around all the time, but it’s a gaping hole for people like me who rely on trains and busses to get around.

While I’m fine using Google Maps, I can’t get transit directions through Siri. If I’m in a rush, I don’t want to spend 2 minutes punching my destination into Google Maps. I’d much rather ask Siri to get me transit directions there, and have the turn-by-turn information played into my headphones.

Siri for third-party apps

It’s high time Apple let third-party developers hook their applications up to Siri. Now that the virtual assistant has matured past its extremely buggy phase, it makes sense for Apple to let developers have limited access to Siri to let users take actions in third-party apps, hands-free.

There are already some glimmers of this on the horizon. Apple updated its Podcasts app last week to add Siri support. Users can now tell Siri to play podcasts, even though the app doesn’t come pre-installed on iOS devices, like the other apps she can interact with.

What’s more, Apple is facing increased competition in this space. Third-party APIs were one of the features that impressed me about Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant for Windows Phone. Google Now could certainly offer something similar, especially based on how well Android handles inter-app communication. If Apple wants to keep up in the virtual assistant arms race, this is a capability it needs to add.

Improved notifications

notification-center-ios7Apple introduced the ability to respond directly to notifications in OS X, and adding similar capabilities to iOS would certainly be nice. For example, It would be great if we could just respond to someone’s text message without even having to open the Messages app, though it’s unclear whether Apple has any plans to offer that.

More realistic than that is an overhaul of how Notification Center handles missed messages. Apple tried to create a place to look for notifications that didn’t show up on a user’s screen in the form of Notification Center’s “Missed” tab, but the implementation of the feature just fell short. Often, I either can’t find the notification that I know I missed on the list of missed notifications, or notifications that I have seen clog it up.

I hope the folks in Cupertino can ditch the “Missed” tab entirely, and try to improve the main list of notifications so that it’s easy for people to find recent messages they may have lost in the shuffle.

Healthbook

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac has reported extensively on the existence of Healthbook, a new app for iOS 8 that will let users track certain health characteristics. It’s not clear how the app will work, but Gurman has reported that it can track steps, sleep, nutrition, blood sugar levels, respiratory rate, blood pressure and more.

It could be the precursor to some sort of Apple wearable, or just a sign that the company is looking to move further into the fitness space. Either way, Healthbook should give users a better way to keep track of their well-being, and it will be interesting to see how Apple handles that push.

IMG_0073A better Newsstand (or no Newsstand)

When Apple introduced Newsstand with its announcement of the iPhone 4S, it was supposed to be a boon to publishers. Instead, it’s turned out to be a prison. Glenn Fleishman, the Editor of The Magazine, pointed out in an interview with GeekWire last year that much of what made Newsstand special at launch is gone. The new icon makes it easy for people to stick Newsstand inside a folder and forget about it.

It would be great if Apple could provide publishers with a better way of reaching their readers, who chose to install Newsstand apps in the first place. At the very least, Apple could offer developers a way to get their apps out of Newsstand and on to users’ home screens.

So, there you have it: my wishlist for iOS 8. Did I miss a feature you desperately need? Let us know in the comments.

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