iPhone 14 is coming this fall and iOS 16 is coming with it. So, new design, new 48 megapixel-binned camera, new iHole punch — all the new hardware aside — we’re at a crossroads when it comes to the software. It’s time for Apple to give us nerds what we really need — a god mode. Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up!
When Steve Jobs single act of willed the iPhone into existence, the iPad too for that matter, he saw it as a way to make computing even more accessible to the mainstream. People who always felt traditional computers, even Macs, were too… confusing and intimidating. He saw it as a way to liberate us from generations of comp-sci tyranny. As much as moving computing from the command line to the mouse and pointer to multitouch, from the institutions to the home… to the pocket. And to do that, he and his living auteur to engineering translator, Scott Forestall, kept everything super direct and super simple. I mean, the original iPhone didn’t just ship without a terminal or finder, it shipped without developer frameworks, without apps.
The idea being that the iPhone as a limited, managed app console was far more valuable to more people, than as just another open computing device. The way a Nintendo Switch or PS5 is more valuable to gamers who don’t want to have to deal with the overhead of a full on PC.
Because, there was already macOS, already have Windows and Android and all the Nix’es for us nerds, but nothing at all for the far more massive mainstream market.
And even, over the years, when iOS got things like folders and apps and even background APIs, they were still obsessed with keeping things simple, so simple AirDrop didn’t even get approved until after the much nerdier Craig Federighi took over the reins with iOS 7. Only then did the gates open even enough for a Files app, Extensibility, Shortcuts… any form of more advanced functionality at all to slip through.
But that created a real problem, a real tension, not just inside Apple but among users, between people who legit believed iOS 6 was as far as the iPhone should ever have gone, like that was it, feature complete, fini, done. And those who felt… who feel… like even iOS 15 still isn’t far enough. Compounded now by years of Pro versions of the hardware… But next to nothing at all when it comes to Pro versions of the software that runs on it, not really.
I mean, not a decade and a half in, not with Apple providing some background access but not all, some default apps but not all, some filesystem features but not all, some multi-windowing but not all, some reader app exceptions but not all. So, we’re left with kinda… Shrodinger’s operating system. Too complex for the mainstream market it was originally visionaried for, still too limited for the nerds who comprise maybe 10% of the customer base but make up 90% of the noise on Twitter and YouTube. You know, like me.
So, I’m going to break the first law. Not nothing unreal exists. Not don’t talk about fight club. Not never start a land war in Asia or never screw over your partner. The first law of feature requests — don’t state a solution you think you want but a problem you have, because there could be a better solution to it you just haven’t thought of. I’m going to break that rule… because I think I have a solution that’ll kinda neatly sidestep several more years of being trapped in some quantum state somewhere between capability and complexity. And that solution is
God mode. But also, easy mode.
Picture this: Setup buddy, the first run process we all go through every time we start up a new iOS device, which is emblematic of all of this — because it just keeps getting longer and more complicated, to the point that most people just want to tap, tap, tap their way right through it, but it’s also nowhere nearly detailed or flexible enough for a power user who wants things just exactly the way they want it.
So, instead, start everyone off with a switch set right in the middle for the way that iOS is now, but then ask us how sophisticated we are, and how sophisticated we want our iPhone experience to be. Do it right out the gate. Fade in from Apple boot logo.
If you’re new, not tech savvy, or just have zero patience for spending time managing a device that’s meant to be saving you time, you can slide it left for Easy Mode. Safe Mode. And then, skidoosh, you get something fairly close to how the iPhone worked back in the day. Including limited gestures, less layers, more obvious affordances, built-in apps as default, simplified Settings, completely uncluttered Camera app, and a completely locked down security model. Steve Jobs’ original vision, restored!
But if you’re a power user, a nerd, and have a ton of time on your hands, you can slide it right for God Mode. Expert Mode. And then, Shazam, you get something much closer to how the Mac. Including full Home Screen customization, more Finder-like Files, default app selection for all app types, top-and-bottom multi-windowing for apps, multi-stream audio, Pro camera with all the still and video bells and whistles, and yeah, Gatekeeper so we can download and run signed apps straight from the web. Basically, iPhone as a pretty full-on open computing platform.
Make it hard. Grueling even. Put up all sorts of scary modal warnings. I’m talking worse than what Apple had planned for those Dutch dating apps scary. Force us to enter the Konami code. Sideways. Twice. Whatever.
And to stop evil individuals and institutions from trying to take advantage of people, not naming any names, Phishers and Facebook Onova Spyware, maybe it takes a full restore to flip modes. Just a big enough pain in the ass that no one can or will do it on a call or when waiting to take a test.
Sure, it might take the pressure off from tech illiterate legislators who want to regulate Apple down to being just another PC vendor, and really annoy the super problematic, kinda cringy toxic Coalition CEOs that just want to break the App Store for their own benefit. And it might even resolve some of the long-running philosophical disagreements and conflicting incentives within Apple. But it’s really not about any of them. It’s about us. About a user base of over a billion iPhone users that really do range from that massive mainstream majority to that passionate power-nerd base, and giving everyone… maybe not exactly everything we want, but way more of what we increasingly need.