iOS 5 features speculation

Steve Jobs will announce iOS 5 at WWDC 2011 on Monday. I’ve got no idea what’s coming with iOS 5. Not a clue. So, I’ve assembled a list of best guesses and long-shot wishes. Here’s some of what we might see. First, my best guesses.

New notification system

Trying to shoot a video here. Thanks, iPhone.

Notifications under iOS 4.x are disruptive. They commandeer the screen, taking over whatever you’re doing. Plus, you can only see one at a time. Conversely, Android employs an unobtrusive tray that holds your notifications until you choose to look at them. Apple is fully aware of its customers’ dissatisfaction with the way iOS handles notifications, and I expect it to change.

Cool Voice-Powered Search

You’ll remember that Apple purchased “mobile assistant” Siri last April. Siri was an iOS app that interpreted a user’s spoken, plain-English questions and returned its best guesses at accurate results. For example, you could ask Siri, “Where is the nearest Starbucks,” to which the app would display directions to the Starbucks nearest to your location on a map.

The iPhone and iPod touch [2. iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS plus third- and fourth-generation iPod touch.] can recognize a limited number of simple speech commands via Voice Control. I don’t use Voice Control, but would try again Siri’s technology gets integrated.

Lock Screen Widgets

Another darling feature of the Android world is lock screen widgets, or little utilities that provide tidbits of information at-a-glance while the phone’s screen is locked. iPhone jailbreakers have been enjoying this feature for a while, and I suspect Apple will let users customize their lock screens with version 5.

In the meantime, here’s an interesting concept video exploring how widgets could work beyond the lock screen. Specifically, the largely empty search screen would display widgets while retaining the search field at the top. Also, the user in the demo swipes left repeatedly, revealing page after page of widgets, much like one swipes through pages of apps to the right. I’m not sold on that implementation, but it’s not entirely illogical.

Apple-Hosted App Data Syncing

It seems like iOS should sync data from some third-party apps across devices. For example, my son plays Angry Birds on both my iPad and my iPhone. It would be great if progress made on one device shows up on the other. Or imagine setting up a new iPhone, downloading your favorite Twitter application and finding your account(s) information and preference settings in place and ready to go.

Now, the long shots.

Guest Mode

I’ve said this before, but it still hasn’t happened so I’ll reiterate. I occasionally give my iPhone to my kids. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to stop them from exiting Angry Birds and availing themselves to almost everything else the iPhone does. Yes, the parental controls settings offer some options, but all I want to do is tell the phone to ignore requests to exit a given app unless the user does [x], like triple-tap the Home Key, draw a Z on the screen, whatever. The last thing I need is for Jr. to launch Aliens on Netflix when I’m otherwise occupied.

Additionally, I’ll sometimes share my iPhone with curious adults. Again, there’s nothing stopping them from reading my email, tweeting to my Twitter account, etc.

Your Home Folder to Go

I’m hoping iCloud will let make the contents of one’s Mac’s Home Folder available to the iPhone. I can already hear Steve referring to “…your Home Folder in your pocket,” much like he did in 1997. Perhaps an iCloud app similar to Dropbox or SugarSync could pull it off.

An App Store Queue

It bugs me that the App Store on the iPhone boots me out whenever I download an app. If I mean to purchase two, or if I was going to do a little comparison shopping, I rarely go back into the store once that initial app is installed. Instead, I’ll start playing with it, get engrossed and forget about the other app I was going to research or buy. I’d like to maintain a queue of apps until I’m ready to initiate a batch download (even if the queue is Wi-Fi-only).

Finally, streaming access to my iTunes purchase history — both audio and video — would be fantastic.

Frankly, I’ll be thrilled just to get my initial guesses. I’ll find out soon enough.