Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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iOS 17: Apple didn’t add the one feature I’ve been waiting for


Multiwindow on Galaxy S23 Ultra (on left) and multiwindow with popup window on Oppo Find X6 Pro (on right).
Multiwindow on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (left) and multiwindow with pop-up window on the Oppo Find X6 Pro (right). Prakhar Khann/Digital Trends

I’m a big-screen phone advocate. While I like the comfort of holding a compact phone (such as the Samsung Galaxy S23 with a 6.1-inch display), I prefer using devices like the Galaxy S23 Ultra, Oppo Find X6 Pro, Xiaomi 13 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Most of these phones allow me to make the most of their big screen with the feature set available for productivity – but not iOS. I was hoping that would change with iOS 17 … but it didn’t. And it’s as if iPhone’s own operating system is limiting it.

True multitasking on iPhones remains a dream

iPhone 14 Pro Max display.
Prakhar Khann/Digital Trends

Since shifting to the iPhone in 2021, the one thing that I’ve missed the most is simple productivity. With Android, you get features like pop-up windows, multiwindow, and configuring new emails simultaneously while looking at previous conversations in Gmail. None of that is available on iOS. This has been a major hindrance for me in being productive on my phone while I’m traveling or performing researching for work. As I recently mentioned in my iPhone 15 Pro Max wishlist story, multitasking on iPhones is on top of my list of requested features from Apple.

Let’s start with pop-up window support — aka being able to run an app in a small window over something else. It’s available on Samsung, Oppo, Xiaomi, Realme, and Vivo devices. As a freelancer working for publications that pay in a different currency, there are a number of occasions when I need to have the calculator app at my fingertips while I’m reading an email.

Multiwindow with popup window on Oppo Find X6 Pro.
Prakhar Khann/Digital Trends

It’s so much easier on Android to calculate and get things done within seconds, while on the iPhone, I have to jump between apps. It can be done, but isn’t as natural; it introduces friction into the user experience. And this is just one instance where I find it extremely useful.

The same story goes for multiwindow support. Most Android phones allow you to run two apps on your phone. It’s available from the smallest to the biggest displays available on Android smartphones. The feature comes in handy when I’m researching for a story.

Galaxy S23 Ultra multiwindow.
Prakhar Khanna/Digital Trends

For instance, if I’m on Chrome and find a link that would be helpful to the story I’m working on, I can note down the points on Google Keep simultaneously. I like to scroll Twitter at the bottom while I’m watching a YouTube video on 1/3 of the display. There are occasions when I find myself raising invoices from my phone while running Google Sheets at the bottom and Docs at the top. And this is not a flagship feature. I can perform these tasks on budget Android phones as well.

In comparison, iOS has picture-in-picture support to have a video player on top of another app, but it’s not the same. It isn’t as intuitive as interacting with two apps at the same time. It’s a pity that iPhones, despite having the most powerful processors on any smartphone for years, still aren’t able to do basic multitasking.

Sports scores for an NBA game displayed in an iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Apple is trying to do something different with Dynamic Island. While I’ve had my doubts about it, the feature has immensely improved. I love that I can see the ETA for my food or Uber at a glance. But unlike multiwindow and pop-up windows, it doesn’t allow me to be in two apps simultaneously and perform tasks in them. It’s a good addition, but Apple isn’t there yet for productivity on iPhones.

Then there are limitations like not being able to type a new email while glancing over the previous conversation in Gmail. It’s a very specific use case and might not be useful to many, but as someone who is in contact with editors for pitches, it’s an important feature for me. Android lets me type a new email while looking at the previous conversations for context or copy and pasting text.

Apple, please make my iPhone more useful

Oppo Find X6 Pro, iPhone 14 Pro Max and Galaxy S23 Ultra diplays.
From left, the Oppo Find X6 Pro, iPhone 14 Pro Max, and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Prakhar Khann/Digital Trends

I hope someday Apple will give me the multitasking features I’ve been wishing for since iOS 15. The processors are more than capable of handling multiple apps running simultaneously. It’s the one feature I wish iPhones would borrow from Android, and I’m pretty sure it’ll be appreciated by many.

But as of now, it’s as if iPhones are not built to be used for productivity. At least, that’s how it is for me. But I’m hopeful that maybe things will change with iOS 18.

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