With only one week for Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2011), its awesome dev parties and a possible keynote delivered by Steve Jobs, it's still unclear what will be the announcement that will steal the show. Reports about the production of next iPhone and iPad indicate that Apple will wait longer than usual to introduce them to the public this year.
Everything suggests that the key ingredient will be software: we know Lion is coming this summer and it's not unreasonable to see its gold version next week. But since this year's WWDC promises to give us "a preview of the future of iOS", what are your expectations? After much speculation I've made my own list of desirable features that won't make it to iOS 5.
The third major version of iOS introduced push notifications as we know them today. Announced in 2008, it took Apple a year to understand how to make a reliable backend while giving developers enough freedom. Having a peek at Cydia's repository is enough to see alternative options to deliver information in a better way. Will Apple bother to change the current system? Highly unlikely.
After years ignoring apps like Growl on Mac OS, I don't see Scott Forstall convincing everyone that iOS should be different. Despite the rumours of Apple acquiring the maker of notifications app Boxcar, integrating a similar functionality on iOS is going to take more than former Palm engineer Rich Dellinger to fix the notifications system.
Apple+Bing Maps app
Cupertino has focused in hiring experts and acquiring startups Poly9 and Placebase to revamp the default Maps app in iOS. It seems that the efforts of the new Navigation Software engineers weren't enough to ditch the Google-powered app in this release. According to a recent report by 9to5Google, iOS 5 would continue to use Google Maps.
I prefer to think that all that investment has to do with Apple's wider plans and that could be related with the controversial collection of location data from iPhone owners to build "an improved traffic service in the next couple of years". I don't discard a check-in service similar to Foursquare or Gowalla from Apple, I just don't think its ready for prime time now.
Support for legacy devices
After the infamous $20 upgrade for the original iPod Touch owners, the worst thing that can happen is that iOS 5 leaves iPhone 3G and 3GS users behind. Considering that we won't see a new iPhone model this summer, the ever-growing list of legacy devices could leave many of us out. The fact that Apple makes almost impossible to downgrade via iTunes, installing an update on older devices can be a real nightmare. Developers have spotted 3GS's being tested running the new operating system, but it doesn't mean that it will be finally supported.
A proper Game Center
It's no secret that Game Center is no Xbox Live. Despite the quick adoption by game developers, I find surprising the fact that only a handful of games take advantage of its multiplayer capabilities. The Game Center app could be improved in so many ways that it would take a whole rant post to discuss them all. Unfortunately, if developers are not finding the service compelling enough, I don't see Apple making any substantial change for iOS 5, although changes could come later in the year once a newer devices are released.
iPod playback over the cloud
This one is so obvious that it hurts to think about it. At this point it's fair to admit that the mysterious iCloud service will have to do with music. Apple wouldn't be negotiating with labels for nothing. With apps like Pandora and Spotify in Europe streaming music to your device, a similar service for the iPod app would make a lot of sense. The problem I see is integrating a music service over the cloud with iTunes purchasing and selling devices built for storing hours of music. There will be a music related announcement at WWDC, but I'm guessing it will be around Lion and not iOS, and it will be limited to the US market in the first months.