Apple’s big Worldwide Developers Conference keynote kicks off in just over ten hours, and the company itself may have let slip a major piece of news. As spotted by developer Steve Troughton-Smith, the iOS App Store currently has a placeholder listing for an Apple-developed app called Files. The listing doesn’t have many details, but the app apparently requires the as-yet unannounced iOS 11 and its icon is unmistakably that of a macOS-style folder.
The obvious reading here is that Apple is overhauling iOS’s approach to file management. Ever since the original iPhone was released in 2007, Apple’s mobile devices have abstracted away files wherever possible, leaving the handling of documents to individual apps and cloud services.
The current iCloud Drive app gives some semblance of a file structure, but the files themselves have to be stored on iCloud, whereas Android allows for traditional on-device file management and integration with various cloud storage providers. Apple is widely expected to make improvements to iPad productivity in particular this year, and iOS file management is certainly an area with room for improvement.
We’ll have to wait a little longer for the WWDC keynote to find out exactly how far Apple plans to go. But it might not necessarily be a huge philosophical reversal for the company — Steve Jobs told Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher in 2005 that “eventually, the file system management is just going to be an app for pros and consumers aren’t going need to use it.”