iOS needs animated icons

Published: September 2, 2012

At some point this month, Apple is supposed to unveil a new iPhone. That's the word on the street, anyway. With it, we'll see the launch of iOS 6, the newest and shiniest version of Apple's mobile operating system to date. As expected there are plenty of new additions to the platform, but it's still not to everyone's liking quite yet. (Not that it ever will be.) I've asked you in the past how you would change iOS, and all of you had some great ideas.

But, as I stared at a discarded box for an iPhone 4S, I realized that in my eyes, the thing that Apple needs more than anything else is so shockingly simple, I have no idea how it hasn't happened yet.

If you have an iPhone, I want you to pull it out. Or, hey, if you have an iPad or iPod Touch, go ahead and get those right next to you. If you don't have an iOS-based device, no worries, it isn't essential for the test at the end (there isn't a test at the end).

Now, if you've got that iOS device in front of you, I want you to find the Calendar application. The stock one, not one that you may have downloaded on your own. Found it? Okay, see how it tells you the date? Yep, it's accurate. It's the day of the month, right there, without having to dig into the application to find it. The information is on the icon.

Moving on, go ahead and look at the icon for the Weather app. Again, the stock version. The blue one with the sun on it, and a nice 73 degrees shown off. Now, that's the same temperature all the time, for everyone who owns an iOS-based device. So, while it would be great for it to be sunny and 73 degrees more often than not, that icon is effectively *lying to you* *all the time.*

That's all iOS needs. Like I said, it's that simple.

And yes, it is taking a cue from Microsoft's Windows Phone. But, I don't want widgets in iOS, and I think some of the additions that some designers have come up with in the past may be just too over-the-top for the average user. They're cool, yes, but I don't think it flows well with iOS a whole.

In a new addition like that, it needs to be subtle. It needs to be helpful, but it also needs to not be in your face.

Apple would need to make it different, though. For one, they wouldn't want to get into an argument with Microsoft about patents and things like that, I imagine. So, using interactive or real-time, location-aware icons would have to be changed in some way or another. I think it's a pretty easy fix:

Animations. If you've seen Windows Phone in action, then you know that the platforms Live Tiles and Hubs are populated by all sorts of animations, but if it's a Live Tile that needs to give you some kind of information, it will do that. You've got a text message? That particular Live Tile will show you a cool animation of a face, and then show you a nice number of how many unread texts you have.

Drop the number from iOS. Truthfully, even when it comes to email, I don't necessarily want to see how many of something I have waiting for me. It's simply enough that I know something is waiting for me. So, instead of giving me some animation followed by a number, iOS could just focus on a slick, smooth animation.

So, for the Weather icon (this is the exception), you have the *correct* temperature on the bottom of the icon, but then the sun would change into clouds, or a moon, depending on the situation. Simple.

Third-party developers would need to get in in the fun, too, though. It would be pretty neat in my eyes if, say, Tweetbot had a smooth animation of the horn-for-a-beak animating like it was making a sound or something.

Or the standard Mail client? When you get a new message, the envelope is no longer closed, but open. (Or maybe this could be switched around.)

Something like this could give iOS a nice visual flair right after unlocking the screen, and considering iOS has looked practically the same since its release in 2007, I think any kind of visual flair would do some good.

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