New iOS. Lock Screen. Notifications. Not cool.
I did the iOS 10 update a few weeks ago and it caused me to reflect.
I got a used Powerbook G4 about 10 years ago because I was so tired of my Windows experience. I had been in engineering school and in the industry for years using PCs and was thoroughly familiar with them, the operating systems, the hardware, the chips & RAM and assembly language, software for firmware for hardware. Everything. Now I was trying to start a business. I couldn’t keep track of anything, the maintenance task seemed like it was taking up more than half my time, and there were errors in every bit of software I was using . They would slow me down at every turn.
Getting to work with the “new” Mac was awesome! I would even go so far as to say delightful. Everything was different so it took some getting used to, but every time something didn’t work I would discover there was something I didn’t understand about how it worked and IT was working perfectly. So I learned, it made sense, and we continued on. It was so refreshing. Not too long after I started working with the Mac I found myself saying “I love my Mac”. Never would have expected that! A computer is a tool. Not a Porsche! But there it was. My expression of appreciation for this machine was spontaneous and genuine. Shortly after that I got an iPhone 3, then an iPhone 3g, and so on. It has really been what I hoped was the beginning of a personal tech world that really worked for everyone, and really made sense.
I am an electrical and computer engineer by training and spent 8 years in industry as a design engineer before spending the last 15 years as an entrepreneur and consultant. I have done a lot of research. I care about people and a good, healthy, working society a great deal. I think technology is taking us to the right place.
But I don’t think this latest iPhone iOS update “iOS 10” is in line with this theme.
Nothing against elderly people as my 92 year-old grandfather is one of them whose mental and physical state I have the utmost compassion for, but Johnny Ive must be getting senile. Rounded corner smaller-than-screen bubbles for everything? That’s the new cool design gimmick? I can’t believe I can get fewer notifications on my screen at once, I have to take more steps to get anything done in any of the newly designed areas like “Notifications”, and it seems every newly designed item is less intuitive, not more.
I’m not going to do a feature-by-feature rundown of what I like and don’t like about the new iOS. There are some things that are great! Photos now has what iPhoto had years ago, so that’s good. I’m sure there are other things that will be good, like iCloud copy & paste but I haven’t used them yet. There is really one main point I want to make. What gave me the initial joy—and I mean that, true joy—of using a mac and later the early iPhones was the elegance and intuitive-ness of their operation. They did what I wanted to get done and they usually did so with stunning visual appeal and surprising elegance. Even when the user interface seemed overly simplistic, a better understanding and further experience would reveal a complexity and utility that none of us had ever experienced before on a computer or device. Now, we have big emojis, ghost writing, and videos in Messages, and a cluttered, confounding set of lock-screen opportunities to help us use that iMessage loop video, and fewer notifications in their very own bubbles. Johnny Ive, I really don’t get how this is progress! Maybe someone can explain it to me.
I guess as an engineer I should really know better and know what effort goes into making all parts even function, let alone look good. In this case, I just couldn’t set over the concern and criticisms I have of some of the new features. My grandfather is probably not going to find it as easy to use his iPad or iPhone and he probably won’t be writing a letter to the editor like this one. So I did.
You know what I do love about all this though? All this just works! To my mind, that’s a huge blessing to all the world. But can we just bring back the coolness factor of borderless messages and notifications that make use of this little screen?