Small Screen, Big UI

I like the physical size of the iPhone 5. I can use it one-handed. It fits comfortably in the front pocket of my Levi’s. But what happens when Apple moves on to larger screens and designs the OS with them in mind?

This is TweetBot in landscape orientation while writing a tweet. I kind of like the way my avatar peers over the toolbar like Kilroy, but it makes it difficult to edit what you have typed. I’ve taken to editing in portrait mode. Maybe I’ll embrace a larger screen when my contract is up after all.

Interest Curve: iPhone

Continuing my rumination from yesterday, what is the interest curve of using an iPhone?

To answer that question, we first have to decide what scope we are plotting. Do we start with the announcement of the first iPhone? Talk about a hook! Or, do we scope down to somebody purchasing their first iPhone today? Even then, do we start with the ordering process or the unboxing? All of these experiences can be plotted as individual interest curves or as points within a larger interest curve. Such is the fractal nature of experiences.

For purposes of this post, I’ll select a much smaller scope—one that I can easily reference as I write this. What is the interest curve of turning on and unlocking an iPhone, as I do many times a day?

Let’s see if the process maps to the typical interest curve as depicted in Jesse Schell’s The Art of Game Design. At point A, I remove the phone from my pocket. The initial interest level is determined by my reason for doing so. If it’s due to a phone call, text message, or other notification that has asked for my attention, the initial interest level may be relatively high. The aural or tactile notification itself provides the hook. But let’s say I’m pulling out my phone simply because I’m standing around waiting for something with nothing to do. In that case, my interest level starts relatively low.

Now I press the button to turn it on. The screen lights up, and I’m immediately presented with visual notifications of everything I’ve missed since I last unlocked my phone. There may be email from a friend, a text from a family member, or a message from Instagram telling me that somebody liked my photo. Any one of these things may peek my interest, acting as the hook at B.

So, I decide to check out that email message. Since this is such a short interaction, points C, D, E, and F are all going to get rolled into the unlocking process. This is what is referred to as the rising action. I swipe the message to the left, and I’m presented with buttons for marking the message as read and deleting it. Oops, that’s not what I meant to do. Maybe that puts as at point C. Then I swipe to the right and am presented with the pin code keypad—not so interesting (D). But, I still appreciate the convenience of Touch ID. I press my finger to the button and voilà, I’m staring at the email message at point G, the climax of the interaction. Of course, if we were analyzing a larger scope, seeing the email might only be point C.

It seems there is some value to using the interest curve as a tool for evaluating interaction.

In the Details: Punctuation

The new QuickType feature in iOS 8 has made keyboard behavior a bit more complex, but Apple is, as usual, paying attention to the details. Here are some microinteractions you will see while typing.

  1. After selecting one of the suggested words, a following space will be added.
  2. If you then press the spacebar anyway, the extra space will be ignored.
  3. If you have added a suggested word and then double-tap the spacebar to add a period, the space after the suggested word will be removed and the period added.
  4. If you have added a suggested word and then use the keyboard to add punctuation, the space after the suggested word will be removed.

It is not yet smart enough to automatically insert commas, nor will it add a question mark at the end of a question, rather than a period.

In the Details: in

I took a brief look at Health after updating to iOS 8. I’m afraid I’m unimpressed with what I saw. Apple seems to have foregone their typical level of care and intuitiveness. For example, after choosing to enter my height, I was presented with this screen:

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Notice how it simply says Add Data, rather than reminding me what exactly I’m here to enter. The label for the field in which I’m to enter my height is cryptically labeled “in”. I saw it and thought, “in what?” Worse yet, I have to calculate my height, converting from a combination of feet and inches to just inches, in my head.

I also had to enter my birth date, even though I know that piece of information is available elsewhere. This just doesn’t feel like an Apple experience.

In the Details: Not Enough

Apple made a change to the Shift key in iOS 7 that, while subtle, was just enough to cause confusion. In the previous version, when the key was “depressed”, the icon had an outer glow effect.

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This effect made it obvious that the button was enabled, because it was obviously different from every other button on the screen. In iOS 7, the only visual change is that the icon fills in.

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While this certainly distinguishes the two states, it is not enough to tell you what state is represented. You don’t see the two states at the same time, as I’ve shown them here, so the comparison between them isn’t as important as their relationship to the rest of the buttons on the screen. And while the microphone and delete icons are outlines in iOS 7 (notice that they are filled in iOS 6), that is too subtle a cue. I have, many times, pressed the Shift key to enter a capital only to realize that it was already enabled.

Not Helpful

So, I was driving to a venue I’d never been to before, and I had asked Siri to plot a route for me, which she did very nicely, even though I thought for sure she wouldn’t understand the Italianish name of the restaurant. As I was driving, I was listening to a podcast, as usual. The podcast ended, so I turned on my iPhone to select a new one. Usually, I just play through all the episodes I haven’t listened to and wouldn’t have to select one while driving, but I was behind on Mac OS Ken, so I had specifically selected that podcast. After the iPhone scanned my thumbprint, it looked like this:

To select a different podcast, I needed to tap the Episodes “button” in the top-left corner. Yes, the one that is almost completely covered by the turn-by-turn directions. It was difficult to hit while driving, and tapping the directions takes you to the Maps app, which I did the first time I tried to hit it.

Come on, Apple. I expect better of you.

Road Test

When I started my car this morning, the Check Engine light came on. Usually, that would provoke a little curse, but this time, I got excited. I picked up my phone and saw a notification saying that my Check Engine light is on. Yes! Automatic was working as promised. So, I launched the app and tapped the little engine icon.

Okay, good enough for now. I pressed the Clear Engine Light button and the app stepped me through a short process in which I turned off the engine, turned on the power, and then restarted the engine. The light was off and hasn’t come back.

So far, I’ve found Automatic to be everything it promised to be. Hopefully, I won’t have the opportunity to test the emergency calling feature.

5s

Following my 2-year contract cycle, I upgraded from an iPhone 4s to an iPhone 5s several days ago. I’ve always considered the iPhone to be the perfect size and have had no interest in the Android “phablets”. I want a phone that comfortably fits in the front pocket of my jeans. I was a little concerned that the extra length of the 5s would be a problem while sitting with it in my pocket, but I honestly haven’t really noticed a difference. There are two things, however, that I have noticed.

One is an inconvenience I was expecting. I have quite a collection of cables and peripherals with the old dock connector. The new phone, of course, only came with a single cable. I need to replace the speaker dock I use every morning to listen to podcasts while I’m shaving, showering, and so forth. I need a cable to carry with me in my bag so that I can leave one plugged into my iMac. I now run a cable from the phone’s headphone jack to my car’s Aux port, rather than plugging the phone into the port specifically for it. The dash controls no longer interface with it.

The other inconvenience I wasn’t expecting. All of the apps I have on my phone have to be signed into again. I tried to start playing Ender’s Game in my Audible app while I was driving home today, only to discover that the file wasn’t on my phone (apparently that wasn’t included in the backup from my old phone), and it wouldn’t let me download it until I signed in. I couldn’t do that while I was driving. Every time I launch one of my apps for the first time on the new phone, I have to go through the onerous sign-in process. Thank goodness for 1password! I wouldn’t be able to log into anything without it, but it’s still a tedious process.

  1. Switch out to the springboard.
  2. Launch 1password.
  3. Enter password.
  4. Search for login.
  5. Copy password and make mental note of user name.
  6. Switch back to app.
  7. Paste the password.

I know, they’re trivial, first-world problems. I love the the fingerprint scanner, but I’m impatient for it to work with everything.

In the Details: Flashlight

I received my Automatic Link today and just got it set up. I was impressed with the Automatic iPhone app, which made the process a snap. I especially liked one little microinteraction in particular.

You see the flashlight button? It turns on the iPhone’s light so that you can use it to find the port under the dashboard where you have to plug in the Link. That was a brilliant inclusion.