Tasks, Not Apps

Facebook’s ChatHeads in action.

We’ve arrived at a point with iOS where we’re wondering… what’s next? All the low hanging fruits seem to have been adressed and we’re starting to wonder how we can evolve the current mobile operating systems to a whole new level. Where should iOS go next?

Facebook: People first

As much as I’d never want to use the Facebook Home homescreen, after using ChatHeads in the Facebook app, I have to say that it’s an extremely useful and practical feature. Everything from the delightful animations to the combination of email/SMS/IM confirms that it’s a step in the right direction.

It also reflects the reality that messaging is at the core of almost everything we do on our phones. The example they gave at the event was a situation that I often find myself in: I’m trying to find a place to eat with a couple of friends and we’re all pitching in with ideas and looking at reviews/recommendations at the same time. That use case currently requires a lot of double-tapping the home button and waiting for apps to bounce around. ChatHeads allow you to stay in you app, but also keep up with the conversation at the same time. A feature like that integrated to the OS would be killer and could open up the doors to a plethora of possibilities.

Tasks, not apps

If you look back, first there were “dumb” phones who were single-purpose devices. Then the iPhone came in and revolutionized the industry by being a multi-purpose device. They took the main function of the phone and demoted it to being an app amongst many other. Now, what we would need is the ability to multitask inside and around the apps.

We need to stop thinking of apps in terms of single-purpose silos. If we want to allow these devices to be used productively, we need to think in terms of tasks.

There’s no reason I should have to open the Weather app to quickly glance at the weather. Show it directly on the icon. Get a notification asking if I want to join an event? Allow me to answer directly without having to jump to the app. They should also open up the “share sheets” to third-parties, at the OS-level. There’s so many things you can do with, say a URL or a selected text. Integrate multiple services into the Contacts app: Find my Friends, Twitter updates, Facebook Statuses, Photos, etc. The list could go on and on…

We’re not done

There is so much more to be done than switching to a “flatter” design in iOS. I believe we’ll see some significant changes to the way the apps work and interact together. Exciting times!