iOS 8 goes a long way toward making iOS devices more useful for more types of tasks, but there is still a lot of low hanging fruit that can be picked. Here are a few things I hope we see demoed at the next WWDC.
Now that iOS supports extensions, why not use that mechanism to add support for a new type of extension: search extensions. Developers would simply have to add an additional target to their projects, the same way they do with iOS 8 extensions. The new target would contain all the necessary logic to search for the search term that is passed in as an argument, and would post its results back to the operating system which would integrate them into Spotlight's search results.
One thing that's still missing is a method of allowing developers to integrate their Siri with their own apps. When I'm listening to the Sirius/XM app with my phone in my pocket and my headphones on I'd like to be able to tell Siri to change the channel. In the health related app I'm writing (which so far has helped me lose 38 pounds and reduce my blood pressure by 20%) I'd like to be able to ask Siri to tell me my step count or calories or pulse. I'd like to be able to ask Siri to tell Reeder to read me the latest headlines.
Siri extensions would fit right in to Apple's latest philosophy regarding app extensions. Again, the developer would provide a new target in their Xcode project. This time they'd also have to provide some information in their info.plist to explain to the system what sorts of queries their app can understand. I picture an array of arrays, like:
So, for example, for the app I'm writing I may have:
Siri would use its magic to understand that these things can be stated in many ways "what's my pulse?" "get me my pulse" "tell me my pulse" and that certain actions require more information "who would you like to send the email?" The app would then receive a query mapped to this dictionary and would have to respond appropriately by filling a data structure (similar to the current activity view controllers) with appropriate text, images, or the like, including a textual narration which Siri would read. Obviously this is just a start - Siri can respond to more than just simple verb-noun pairs, and over time Apple could beef it up, but even this much would be a huge gain for users and developers.
Better "Hey Siri"
iOS 8 adds "hey, Siri" support that allows you to trigger Siri verbally whenever your device is plugged in. There are at least two reasons for the plug-in requirement. First, continuously monitoring and processing speech takes power, and would impact battery life. Second, if you are plugged in, it's far less likely that you'll be in a situation where Joe says "hey siri" to his phone and Mary's phone mistakenly responds; in most cases people aren't interacting with their phones near each other while plugged in (many exceptions to this of course).
The solution to the first problem is better hardware, and I continue to wonder if iPhone 6, thanks to improvements in the chipset might already support unplugged Hey Siri. Presumably if it did then Apple would have said so.
The second issue is more difficult and is quite real, in my experience. I listen to the news in my car on my way to work, and Syria has been a hot topic lately. I charge my iPhone in the car, and frequently Siri responds to the news. (That's a whole other problem).
End the Shift Key Madness
This one is coming for sure. Launching external apps is not a great solution and there's no easy way to create an integrated navigation route - "take the train to this stop, then walk two blocks to over here, then get on the ferry to here..."
There's been a lot of chatter about this coming in iOS 8, and it's very likely to come in time for iOS 9. The groundwork is largely laid - iOS 8 supplies "traits" which enable an app to adapt its interface based on the relative size and orientation of the display. For example, a developer can now fairly easily design a hierarchical list that expands into two panes (one for headings and the other for details) when the display is "wide" and collapses to a single in-place list when the display is "narrow."
So, for example, it is easy to imagine iOS allowing two simultaneous apps to be in the foreground, each occupying half of a horizontally-oriented iPad screen, and each app behaving like it is operating on a vertically-oriented screen. Or one app taking ⅔ of the screen and another, in "iPhone" display mode, taking the other ⅓.
Apple will have to work out a ton of user-interface issues, but I'm sure they're working on it.
Multi-user SupportAt the very least it would be nice if I could hand my iPad to my daughter and have it automatically be in "kid mode" (either because I switched it manually, or because she typed her own passcode or used her own finger on Touch ID).
Preferable would be a more general ability to have multiple user accounts, particularly on iPad. iPads, unlike iPhones, are frequently shared among different members of a household. Allowing each to have a separate account prevents Safari histories and bookmarks from getting commingled, allows everyone to have their own collection of apps, etc.