I’ve been an iPhone user since the iPhone 3G went on sale in Canada. I love my iPhone, but I also love to hate it.
Years ago I started feeling that iOS is showing its age: Features and UX design decisions that were made when the OS and it’s ecosystem were brand new just didn’t make sense anymore.
I wrote down a list of feature requests for iOS in 2011, intending to write a blog post. While I was taking my time (if you can call three year “taking your time”), I watched two major releases of iOS (6, 7) come and go, but not a single item from the original list had been addressed! At this point I no longer consider them feature requests, but rather flaws in iOS. And just what are those flaws? Read on.
1. Lack of User Profiles and Childproofing
I think the premise of “a phone belongs to one person and therefore used by one person”, was a good one when the original iPhone was released. It allowed Apple to keep the OS clean and simple. Sure, there was that one time you traveled abroad with someone and had to share the phone because you only had one data connection, but that was the exception rather than the rule.
That premise broke down with the release of the iPad. Most people buy iPads to be shared by the entire family. That raises some interesting dilemmas such as “do I add my email account to the iPad where the kids can read/delete/hack my email?”, “which of the family Apple/App Store IDs to we put on the iPad” and “who’s Facebook account should the iPad be linked to?”. This makes the iPad a device full of compromises.
Around 2012, it was made public that Apple is aware of this shortcoming. Now at 2014, we’re still waiting for them to do something about it.
Related to user profiles is the issue of childproofing. If you have a young child, you know how dangerous it can be to hand them your phone without supervision. Escape from their favorite app or movie is just a click of the home button away. From there, the amount of damage they can do is endless.
Apple did try to address that problem by introducing the Guided Access feature in iOS 6, but I found this feature to be very un-Apple like in its complexity. It’s buried so deep in the phone settings, it takes a map to find it. I personally locked myself out of my phone the first time I tried to use it, and have never tried again.
User profiles should include access restrictions built into each profile (e.g. can’t delete apps without the password) to solve this problem in a cleaner way.
2. App Management is Atrocious
My phone currently has apps spread over 12 springboard pages (and yes, I do use folders). Having owned an iOS device since 2008, I’ve accumulated lot of apps. Many of these apps are games that I’d like to banish into the kids’ user profiles (if we had profiles), but that would still leave me with over half a dozen pages. I put my most used apps on pages 1 and 2, but have totally given up on trying to find the icons for anything else. I use spotlight for that.
The problem with spotlight is that it’s only good for launching apps. What if you want to delete an app or move an app to a different page? There’s no easy way to do that. This is totally broken.
Another part of the problem is that trying to arrange apps on the phone is impossibly difficult. Dragging an icon across pages is neither easy nor intuitive. I know many long-time iOS users who can’t manage this feat.
What about doing it on the desktop? I’d be willing to accept the tradeoff of having to plug my phone in once in a while in order to do bulk rearrangements. iTunes has always had a rudimentary reordering interface, but as in most things iTunes, this feature gets a big fat F: Instead of showing us all our home pages at once and allowing us to easily drag and drop apps between them, the default drag action is to move an entire page! Who does that!? To move an app you need to double click the page first, then drag the app of the page until it hides and finally drag it on to your destination. Stupid stupid stupid.
Last, but not least, is the problem of uninstall hell. Let me explain by way of an example: You download Angry Birds Free and play it for a couple of days. You play it on your phone and your iPad. Eventually you decide to buy the full version so you no longer need Angry Birds Free. You delete it from your phone.
A few days later you do a sync with your computer and surprise! Angry Birds Free is back! You see, it was still in the app library on your computer. Undeterred, you delete it from your iTunes library and sync again.
A couple of week go by and you notice that Angry Bird Free is on your phone again. A few WTF’s later you realize that you never deleted the app from your iPad. You synchronized the iPad with the computer and then the computer with the phone and it found its way back.
In our household we have two iPads, two iPhone and two iPod touches. I’ve given up on uninstalling.
Apple wants us to have lots and lots of apps. It helps with with platform lock-in. It’s all fine by me, but they need to step up and make app/homepage management easier to do.
Part 2 continues with discussion of Apple’s handling of their own Support Communities, and chronic bugs that never seem to get fixed.