Earlier this month I mocked up what a refined version of iOS 11’s lock screen could look like, and that got my creative juices flowing, so I decided to tackle iOS’s white whale: the home screen. The home screen is certainly more advanced than it was in 2007 in the first iteration of iPhone OS, but it has not grown at the same rate as the rest of the platform. This has caused significant fatigue from some users, especially those in the tech press, and Apple is overdue to make some serious changes to this basic UI.
Here’s my take.
1. Freely place app icons wherever you want
The fact that my iPhone 7 Plus requires apps to be placed as high on the home screen as possible is insane. I have to fill up the top few rows with apps just so that I can get the apps I really want easy access within my thumb’s reach.
This is nuts, and it needs to be fixed. Even if Apple does nothing else on this list, they should allow this.
2. Bring complications from the Apple Watch to the iPhone
When Apple released the Apple Watch in 2015 I figured it was only a matter of time before they brought complications to iOS as well. It’s been 2 years and there has been no movement in this space, but I hold out hope.
In this mockup, complications would be configured just how they are on the Apple Watch, and you would be able to choose between having 3 small complications, or one large (wide) complication on the top of your home screen. In this example, I have complications for:
These all have realtime data that’s relevant to me, and this would go a long way to making the home screen more than just a simple app launcher.
3. Widgets are liberated from the Today View, and come to the home screen
Android has had this forever, and I don’t use them much on my Android phones. However a big part of that is that the widgets on Android are generally pretty shitty, and are god-awful ugly. Meanwhile, I think Apple has done a good job of making a widget system in iOS 10 that looks very nice, and gives developers a lot of freedom in the way they present data to users.
Bringing widgets to the home screen would certainly be a controversial move for the company, and Android fanboys will rightly claim they have had this for years, but it’s the easiest way for Apple to create a more informational home screen in ways app badges simply never can.
4. Richer notification badges
This is a carry over from my lock screen concept, but I think it’s high time Apple addresses the badge they put on app icons.
This mockup has 2 apps with notifications, Snapchat and Slack. Slack is a messaging app with multiple ways people can get in touch with you. This person has 4 @ mentions, and 2 direct messages in the app. This would show as a simple “6” badge on iOS today.
Snapchat shows I have a new snap from Mike, and it’s a photo. If it was a video, Snapchat could use the video camera emoji, and they could also dynamically just use numbers if more than one person has messaged you.
It’s not a lot of space, so you couldn’t get too descriptive, but developers are creative, and this might get more people to turn on notification badges.
5. Reinventing Siri
Siri is in need of a major UI overhaul, and this could be just the kick she needs. In lieu of an app drawer button like Android has today, I would stick a Siri icon in the middle of your dock. This is not a regular app, and tapping it would bring up a nearly full screen window that has everything Siri can do for you.
Siri App Suggestions
Siri already has this when you pull down on the home screen. She will guess what apps you probably want to use, and she actually does a pretty good job.
My Siri Update
This is where Siri would present location/time-based information for me. In this situation, Lisa, Frank, and Stephanie are nearby and I can start iMessaging them with just a tap from this screen. Additionally, I have a flight coming up and Siri is reminding me of the time.
A new Siri interface
Finally, we have a new interface for interacting with Siri directly. This will keep a log of the questions I have asked so I can reference them later, and it also adds the ability to type in queries instead of speaking them. This would help a lot with people who can’t seem to get Siri to understand them.
This version of Siri is designed around speed. Gone are the snarky comments and flowery language. Now she gives you your answer in as few words as possible.
You likely noticed the green bubbles sticking out from Siri’s responses. These are situations where Siri can present additional functionality or information about your request. I asked how old Samuel L. Jackson was, and Siri presents me with “Learn more” because she found his Wikipedia article and I could jump to that if I wanted more info. The “My store” option next to the grocery store request would open the Reminders app and show my grocery list. I could also set what my grocery store is so that Siri could bring up the reminders at the right time.
6. Bring some Siri to the home screen
In addition to allowing apps to have widgets on the home screen, I would add a Siri widget that has 100% dynamically generated information based on your location, time of day, nearby friends, and apps with recent notifications.
At this size, the widget can display 4 things, and Siri has selected the 4 things I most likely would want to use right now. Again, my flight is here, but I also have my Starbucks barcode since I’m at a Starbucks.
It also noticed I have 3 apps with a significant number of notifications. None of these apps are on my home screen, so Siri presents them to me here so I don’t forget about them.
And finally, Siri also knows that 3 people in my contacts list are within AirDrop distance, and shows me them. This of course is a privacy thing, so it would behave similarly to AirDrop today, where you can set yourself to off, available to contacts only, or to everyone.
I would expect and hope that Apple has a more dramatic change planned for the home screen down the line, but given what they have now, everything I have mentioned feels like a natural evolution of what they have already done. I don’t imagine this is exactly what Apple has in the labs right now, but I do really hope they are on a similar page. The iOS home screen needs to grow up.