Is iPhone ease-of-use really scalable?

12 Jul 2007 - 3:01pm
7 years ago
6 replies
1460 reads
Morten Hjerde
2007

Hi all
Apple has used several methods to make the iPhone easy to use. It is highly
likely that future versions of the iPhone will have more features that this
first version.
What do you guys think will happen to the ease of use?

The strategies Apple has used are:

-Less features.
Apple has severely limited the features compared to the competition. The
iPhone is designed for primary use cases only. Either you call someone or
you don't. No fancy video calls, no VOIP calls, no PTT (Press-to-talk), no
cut and paste, no SIM management, etc, etc, the list goes on.

-Better visibility.
The iPhone UI does not use menus. All functions are visible on the screen
(except gestures; the gestures are invisible and you have to learn them from
demonstration or the manual). Softkey based phones mostly uses a system
where you have the "content" visible on the screen and the "actions"
available on the softkeys. As soon as you get more that 2 possible
"actions", you label one of the softkeys "options" and pop up a menu with
the rest of the actions.

-Direct manipulation.
You tap right there on the screen with your finger. There is no indirect
manipulation via softkeys. This means a single touch to call someone. On a
softkey phone you may have to scroll to the phone number and move your thumb
over to the green call key. Or you scroll to the number, select "options" to
bring up the menu, scroll and click "Voicecall" from the menu. Direct
manipulation is very powerful and probably the primary reason that people
find the iPhone easy to use.

-Outside assistance.
The iPhone offloads tasks to iTunes (this is correct, right?). This is OK
for the US market where Apple can expect practically 100% of their potential
customers to have a PC. This is not the case in other parts of the world.
The main issue would be sideloading the iPod. Building iTunes into the phone
could probably be done, but it's no easy task. (All? other phones are
designed to work standalone.)

I am not going to guess what direction the iPhone will go, but it is very
likely that Apple will add features to the phone. Where are these features
going to go? Apple has several alternatives:

-Add more buttons.
It won't take long before the iPhone run out of screen real estate. You
can't make the buttons too small or people with sausage fingers will miss
them. Then, you will have to scroll the screen or spread functions over
several screens.

-Add menus.
Its possible that Apple will start using a tap and hold gesture to bring up
a menu. Not an entirely bad solution, but you sacrifice some
discoverability.

-Add more gestures.
The iPhone has a limited number of initial gestures. Gestures have to be
system wide. You can't add gestures for individual features. New gestures
are comparatively hard to teach users and you are probably going to need
redundancy. If you add a new gesture for "clear" (for example shake the
phone) it is probably only going to work as a shortcut for the existing
clear commands. Hmmm, "edit" would probably be a better example here.

-Add hardware buttons.
Expensive, and it goes against Apples stated philosophy. (But I would not
rule out a hardware key for the camera shutter. Especially if Apple decides
to make a cameraphone variant of the iPhone.)

-Some other wild and wonderful way.
There may be other possibilities lurking somewhere in Cosmos and waiting to
be discovered. Until then, the iPhone will gain features and loose some of
its ease of use.

See comparison of contacts in iPhone and N95
here.<http://sender11.typepad.com/photos/img/n96vsiphonecontacts.png>

Will future iPhone owners walk around with big grins on their faces, like
the current iPhone owners do?

--
Morten Hjerde
http://sender11.typepad.com

Comments

12 Jul 2007 - 10:34pm
Dave Malouf
2005

The answer to this question I find to be in the answer to other apple
products. OS X & iPod.
Both have scaled up on various levels and still enjoy the ability of
following their mandate of simple elegance (I guess this is
arguable.)

Now OS X seems to be reaching some growing pains from what I hear
from early Leopard users, but the iPod has add lots of features (as
has iTunes) with very little if any impact on its scalability.

I think the iPhone has a very very long way to go before scale of the
types you are mentioning above get in the way.

I have noticed that Apple is very specific about its growth of
product lines and while there is definitely functional growth it is
not done in the hodge podge method that keeps people wishing they had
less.

I think this is one of the biggest selling points.

Further, since the phone is 100% virtual interfaces, it is like any
OS and can be completely revised without changing the hardware as
features are added, new use cases are addressed, etc. This affords
them the ability to create new interaction paradigms as scale
changes.

-- dave

ps. I do really like the question though!

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13 Jul 2007 - 6:35am
.pauric
2006

David: "since the phone is 100% virtual interfaces, it is like any OS
and can be completely revised without changing the hardware as
features are added"

While not arguing that current phone formats now look outdated. In
what way is a traditional phone UI fundamentally fixed due to the
physical buttons?

Put it another why, could the Palm look like a phone? it has 5
buttons, where's the cut off?

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13 Jul 2007 - 11:54am
Morten Hjerde
2007

In a sense phone UI's has come full cycle with the iPhone. The very first
mobile phones had a hardware key/button for every function in the phone. Now
the iPhone has a button for each function.
MApping each function to a key/button was not scalable back then. Its easier
when the buttons are virtual, but the physical size limits the number, which
is both good and bad I guess.

Morten

On 7/13/07, pauric <radiorental at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> David: "since the phone is 100% virtual interfaces, it is like any OS
> and can be completely revised without changing the hardware as
> features are added"
>
> While not arguing that current phone formats now look outdated. In
> what way is a traditional phone UI fundamentally fixed due to the
> physical buttons?
>
> Put it another why, could the Palm look like a phone? it has 5
> buttons, where's the cut off?
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=18208
>
>
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--
Morten Hjerde
http://sender11.typepad.com

13 Jul 2007 - 12:54pm
.pauric
2006

Morten "The very first mobile phones had a hardware key/button for
every function in the phone."

I follow the thinking that its been a progression from zero display
all buttons to zero buttons and all display. The argument that
because the old was bad, therefore the polar opposite iPhone is the
ideal solution for phone design, is a weak proposition to say the
least.

I do not agree that the UI, gesture method, applications or anything
else within the phone's OS are intrinsically bound by the physical
buttons.

Lets not forget the iPhone is a media and communication device and as
such the wide range of functions suits not being tied to a particular
button layout.

Should a focused communications device follow the same thinking?
e.g. http://www.helio.com/#device_demo_ocean

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13 Jul 2007 - 3:57pm
Morten Hjerde
2007

On 7/13/07, pauric <radiorental at gmail.com> wrote:
>
>
> I follow the thinking that its been a progression from zero display
> all buttons to zero buttons and all display. The argument that
> because the old was bad, therefore the polar opposite iPhone is the
> ideal solution for phone design, is a weak proposition to say the
> least.

What I meant to say was that there has been a progression from direct
manipulation (all buttons, no display) - to indirect manipulation via
context switching, menus, indirect manipulation and softkeys - to the
iPhone direct manipulation, all display and all virtual buttons. The iPhone
is not a polar opposite to the first phones, its a return with a twist.

The problems that plagued the first phones may eventually plague the iPhone
(but not for a long time says David Malouf and he may be right - provided
Apple sticks to the Feature Phone segment and does not attempt to develop
the iPhone into a plattform device, aka a Smartphone).

--
Morten Hjerde
http://sender11.typepad.com

13 Jul 2007 - 4:26pm
.pauric
2006

ahhhh, now I see, thanks for the explanation.

I'm somewhat stuck at the low level interaction layer, I dont tend
to think too much in the BA mobile application positioning space
(this is a 'smart phone' that is a 'feature phone')

I agree with David in that there's little concern for scalability,
within reason. I helped a colleague 'swtich' today. I setup
sharing to give him some freeware apps. He was blown away at how
simple it was... his comment "what just took 20 seconds would have
taken 15 minutes on windows", he grinned from ear to ear and shuck
his head in amazment when I showed him how to delete an unwanted
application. It took restraint to not keep saying 'and.. boom!'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8L39UwOS-Y

Apple will surely apply this same knack for cutting out the
unnecessary configuration crap from the UI. Thus freeing up space
for 'nothing but the apps' (tm)

Take care and have a great weekend - p

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