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Improving the PS4 Interface

I'm very much enjoying my PS4. It's a sleek, elegant box that cranks out graphics not terribly worse than those produced by my massive gaming PC. The controller fits my hands like it was molded to them, and I'll never get tired of the way those triggers stack as you pull them harder. The interface is spartan, but it's functional; I can start games and apps, tweak settings, and download apps easily enough. It also annoys the hell out of me.

I'll give Sony the benefit of the doubt. They needed a user interface that was simple, no-frills, and stable. They wanted to make sure that the early adopters would be able to use their shiny new consoles with minimal flailing. And they knew that the interface would likely be overhauled within a year of the PS4's release. There's an update coming in the next few weeks that will add new features: brightness settings for the DualShock 4 LEDs, the ability to save videos and screenshots to USB drives, and the removal of HDCP copy protection from gameplay video signals.

This is a promising move from Sony, but they have a long way to go. A next generation console should write new rules instead of embracing convention. There are plenty of features that could be tweaked and added. Here are my suggestions:

1. Guide functionality from the PS button.

Right now, reading messages or notifications requires pressing the PS button to reveal the main PS4 menu, then navigating through multiple menus. Just to reply to an incoming message, you must use the sticks and buttons to advance through more than 5 steps. Why not add a context-sensitive quick menu that pops up with a quick press of the PS4 button? The Xbox 360 has had guide functionality for years. I'd love to see the PS4 brought to parity in this respect.

2. Full text message popovers and quick party joining.

Don't make me navigate menus to read messages, Sony. Just give us the option to see message popovers with full text. And let me use one button press to quickly reply. Also, if someone sends me a party invite, let me accept or decline it with one press (or touchpad gesture).

3. Hitting Share should not pull you out of the game.

Give us more options for the Share button. Yes, there are two different settings for Share button behavior, which is better than nothing. But I don't always want the streaming or instant sharing options to appear whenever I simply want to save a video for later use. Perhaps pressing and holding the Share button could display an action wheel with sharing and streaming settings, while a simple press or two would share screenshots and videos without stopping the action.

4. Don't require a sign-in when waking the controller, especially when media is playing.

The PS4 Netflix app is great. It's the best interface I've seen for browsing and watching the huge catalog of movies and TV. But when I wake the controller to pause or rewind, whatever I'm viewing comes to a screeching halt as my PS4 asks me who's using the controller. Really? Why don't you just assume that it's still me using that controller? If it's just media being played back, why do you even care?

For that matter, Sony, why can't I use my Playstation camera to play and pause video with voice commands?

5. Main list of games and apps should be easily filterable and sortable.

I don't have many PS4 games. Most of the launch titles do not interest me, and there hasn't exactly been a plethora of must-play titles. The main timeline of games and apps on my PS4 is not heavily populated, but it will be within a year. What's minimalist and easy to understand today will be inconvenient and time-consuming in less than 12 months. Give us the ability to hide items, create lists of favorites, and filter apps and games easily.

6. Use the touchpad for gestures and other controls.

You've built an amazing piece of technology into all of your controllers, Sony. Please use it to its full potential. I want to be able to accept or decline a party invite with a simple swipe up or down. Let me reply to a message with a swipe to the left. Let me swap between open apps with a double tap. In short, give us more options. You don't need to have them on by default, but many of us shortcut addicts would greatly appreciate some streamlining.

I probably have enough other items to write another list of this size, but these are my main bullet points for the moment. Let me know in the comments what interface improvements you would like to see.