Control Center is awesome, but it needs work

Control Center iOS 9

Introduced with iOS 7 back in 2013, Control Center gave iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users quick access to useful controls, toggles, and shortcuts for the first time. It has continued to receive tweaks and improvements since then, and while there’s no doubt it’s awesome in its current form, it still needs work.

In a recent post on Daring Fireball, John Gruber pointed to an article from Stephen Hackett titled “The Case Against Control Center.” Hackett argues that Control Center “just does way too many things,” and suggests it should be baked into the Notification Center in the same way that Android’s Quick Settings panel is.

“I couldn’t disagree more strenuously,” Gruber responds. “I think Notification Center and Today view could still use some improvement. But cramming Control Center into the same pull-down sheet would make things worse, not better. Putting the dynamic Notification Center at the top and the static Control Center at the bottom provides a consistent spatial familiarity.”

I definitely agree with Gruber on this. I like that Notification Center and Control Center are separate entities on iOS, and that its handy controls are just one swipe away wherever you are. Merging it with Notification Center just wouldn’t work on iOS as effectively as it does on Android.

Android’s better at displaying long lists of notifications. Instead of making them static boxes that can’t overlap like iOS does, it lays them on top of each other like a stack of cards when you have lots of them. You can then deal with them one-by-one, or expand the stack to view them all.

This means that even if you have 50 outstanding notifications, you don’t have to scroll through a painfully long list in the same way you do on iOS. What’s more, dismissing all 50 is as easy as tapping one button on Android, whereas iOS will only let you dismiss notifications a day at a time.

Putting Quick Settings inside the notification pane on Android works well, then, because it’s still easily accessible. Doing the same on iOS would make Notification Center even messier than it already is, and Control Center more difficult to get to when you have a lot of outstanding alerts.

I do agree that Control Center isn’t perfect, however. It contains shortcuts and toggles that are useful to the average iOS user, but unnecessary for some. I don’t think I’ve ever used the Do Not Disturb toggle (it’s scheduled to work automatically), or the Camera shortcut, for instance.

Some of these buttons are even more redundant now that we have 3D Touch. For example, the timer shortcut takes you into the timer section of the Clock app, but using a 3D Touch press on the Clock icon instead lets you instantly start a timer.

With that said, I’d like Apple to make Control Center customizable. It would be great if we could remove shortcuts and toggles we never use and replace them with more useful ones. It would be even better if Apple opened this up to third-party developers so they could offer their own shortcuts and toggles, too.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could replace the Do Not Disturb toggle with a Low Power Mode toggle? Or if you could swap the Calculator or Camera shortcuts with Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger — or any other app you use more frequently?

When Apple introduced Control Center, I was adamant it would become customizable at some point, but almost three years later it’s still locked down. Apple obviously does this for simplicity, but now that we’re so used to smartphones and indeed iOS, not everyone needs that simplicity. Not everyone wants Apple to decide what’s best for them.

What are your thoughts on Control Center? Should it become a part of the Notification Center, and should Apple make it customizable?