Redesigning the iOS App Switcher: Mission Control

iOS 4 and "Multitasking"

Back two years ago in 2010, Apple introduced iOS 4 with one of its main features being multitasking. Many have been waiting, maybe even since the iPhone was announced. Anyway, we didn't get true multitasking. Two apps don't run at the same time (and still don't) and you can't have two apps on screen at the same time. Instead, what happens when you press the home button while an app is open, it enters the "suspended" state. If you want to read more on how multitasking works, click here.

Many were really unhappy that instead of true multitasking, we merely got an app switcher. And they called that crap too.

The App Switcher

The app switcher was Apple's solution to multitasking, to be able to relaunch recently used apps, not while running in background, but while in the suspended state. It wasn't an amazing innovation, more of a "yeah, there you go" addition.

Here's what the app switcher looks like:

It takes up only 188 pixels of the whole screen, and renders the remaining area of the screen useless. You can't even see the status bar! It's not a good solution.

Mission Control

Meanwhile on the Mac, also in 2010, Apple (along with OS X Lion) introduced Mission Control, the successor to Exposé. Mission Control displays all currently open windows and shows a preview of them. It doesn't waste any screen real estate, and it just works.

Apple, since OS X Lion, has been bringing iOS features back to the Mac. It has been constantly improving the Mac and making the experience with OS X and iOS almost entirely system. So why not bring Mission Control to iOS?

Concept: Mission Control on iPhone

Nothing is perfect. Stephen Hawking even said,

It is all right to make mistakes; nothing is perfect because with perfection, we would not exist.

Not one product on the market right now is perfect. But we can always make things better. Improve. We can take the best features of two different products and make something completely better. What if we take Mission Control from OS X to iOS?

This is my concept of Mission Control on the iPhone. It shows a screenshot of the app when it was last open, and shows the status bar. It shows the same amount of apps, four, and takes up the whole screen. You can swipe left and right between pages of recently used apps, and you don't have to hold down on a screenshot to close the apps.

Mission Control is triggered by pressing the home button down twice and shrinks the app down to the size of the screenshot if triggered in an active app (no animation). However, when triggered from the home screen, it slides up and keeps the status bar visible (animation above).

As you may have noticed earlier, there's a spotlight icon on the bottom of Mission Control. That's because when you swipe right on Mission Control, you reveal Spotlight. But it's not just Spotlight on that page. Also there are completely customisable Quick Settings, a feature the community has been asking for for a while. Below that are the standard music controls.

You can "toss away" (inspired by Android Jelly Bean) recently used apps if you want to do so by swiping them up or down.

Another feature is Safari pages can be selected directly from Mission Control. Pinch to return to normal mode.

Mission Control on iPad

Mission Control may be more suited for iPad, and it fits nine apps, three more than before.

On YouTube

Here's a video I've created on YouTube to sum up the concept.

What do you think? Post your comments below!

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Screenshot layout inspired by Sentry