UPDATE: If you would prefer to listen to some of the reasoning behind these ideas, my latest episode of The BirchTree Podcast has some additional reflection on these ideas.
As much as Apple has left their home screen largely unchanged since its inception in 2007, the lock screen has proven to be much more of a playground for Apple’s UI designers. The lock screen has added features over the years, and is now a place where you can see and act on notifications, access Control Center, take a photo or record a video, and view interactive widgets. None of this came at once, with each new year bringing at least some small change to how this essential part of iOS operates.
iOS 11 will all but surely be revealed at WWDC in June this year, and I would expect something to change on the lock screen there. So before Apple shows us what we’re getting in iOS 11, I decided to design my own new lock screen for iOS.
All changes are based on things I think Apple can actually accomplish this year. This is not one of those mockups that suggest Apple should just throw everything out and start over. Let’s take a look!
Starting at the top we have a simple addition, the weather. How neither Apple nor Google has added this as an option at the OS level is bizarre. One function I would wager everyone with a smartphone does is check the weather, and making the current temperature and conditions visible right on the lock screen just makes sense.
Thinking longer term, Apple could even translate the idea of “complications” over to the iPhone and iPad. Complications are great on the Apple Watch, as they give users quick, glanceable information to their most important apps. Weather is a universal need, and is something Apple could easily add, but third parties could surely get use out of this too.
Next up are notifications. The biggest change here is that iOS 11 will bundle each app’s notifications together, so they are more manageable. iOS 10’s strictly chronological list of notifications makes no sense to me. This solution is very similar to what Android has had for about a year now and helps make triaging your notifications much easier.
In the above screenshot I currently have 3 messages that have come in. One is from Matt (I hear that guy’s cool), and 2 more from Michael. By bundling those notifications together, I can see all my messages at once without scrolling through everything that has come in since I last looked at my phone. I could either swipe this off the screen to clear all notifications, or I could press into (3D Touch) the notification to have each message broken apart and reply or clear them as I see fit. This solves the issue with Android’s implementation of this feature where bundled notification can’t be unbundled and managed one at a time.
You’ll also notice that there is a location marker next to Matt’s message. That would be an optional feature for people you have added to Find My Friends so you can see where they are messaging you from. Obviously this could be turned off or only shown after the user authenticates with Touch ID.
The second notification on this page is for Fantastical, and is a persistent notification that I have set to stay on my lock screen until I clear it. This would be done using Apple’s new smart notifications that I also hope Apple brings to iOS 11.
“Smart notifications” are notifications that are triggered by your location, time, and activity. In this example, Fantastical presents this alert to me because it knows I have an appointment at 11 AM and I don’t want to miss it. Theoretically this could also have access to Apple Maps’ transit information and would calculate travel times based on my current location and change its display when it knew I needed to leave.
And no smart notification system is complete without the ability to edit how they behave, or to just turn the damn things off, so swiping from the edge of the screen on notifications would bring up a settings icon that would let you configure this app or service’s ability to display notifications.
I talked about the potential for more apps like this in a piece last week, so check that out if you want to read more about this idea.
So here is where we get into potentially controversial ground. I think Apple should have certain third party apps accessible straight from the home screen. These could either be user-selected in their system settings, or they could be intelligently selected. Siri has it’s own app suggestions right now, and it works alright, and it is certainly possible Apple could pick these apps for you if they felt confident enough. For the sake of this mockup, let’s say this user selected Spotify, Snapchat, and Tweetbot as their 3 most used and important apps. They use one of these apps over half of the time when they unlock their phone, so why not just cut to the chase?
This would be made even better with an iPhone 8/Pro/whatever that is rumored to be able to either authenticate with either your face and would not require you to use Touch ID before letting you launch the app. Even better, what if Apple was able to embed a fingerprint sensor into the screen right below these icons so you would authenticate just by tapping on them? Apple has been working on making this work for years and this would be a practical use of that new tech.
You’re probably wondering what’s going on with the notification markers on Snapchat and Tweetbot. I’m open to other ideas, but I like the idea of more powerful notification markers. This may not scale to the home screen were space is at more of a premium, but the lock screen is rich with space, and could be a good place to test users’ reaction to this change.
Snapchat’s marker is effectively the same as what we have today, simply telling you how many alerts you have. Tweetbot is taking advantage of this new feature to a further extent and is able to break down your alerts better than before. So while iOS 10 would show this as “6” and you’d have to launch the app to see what’s in there, this feature would let it show you that you have 4 new mentions and 2 direct messages.
At this size, apps would have 10-12 characters they could use to display whatever they want. Tweetbot displays your latest communications, while calendar apps could show the time of your next event, podcast apps could show the remaining time in the current episode, and app developers would find countless interesting things to do here.
And because of course they would, you can press into any of these lock screen apps to reveal their widgets.
The iOS lock screen is not a mess, and it is not in dire need of fixing like some other parts of iOS, but I think Apple has a chance to make marked changes that push it forward. The lock screen is something that you interact with 100% of the time you use your phone, so anything they can do to make it more pleasant, more helpful, and overall smarter can go a long way to make people love their phones more.
In the ideal world, you would be able to raise your phone and the screen would illuminate with exactly what you need to see at that moment. We’re still quite a ways off from that being the case, but little things Apple can do today can get them closed to that goal. They don’t have to do everything I listed today, but I at the very least hope it is along the same lines as what they have brewing over there in Cupertino. We’ll see in June.