Normally, I think that simpler is better. I enjoy simple things and not just necessarily things like the smell of cut grass, an ice cold beer at a friends BBQ, the first snowfall of winter or reading a book. After all, Occam was on to something (the law of succinctness is a principle which generally recommends selecting the competing hypothesis that makes the fewest new assumptions, when the hypotheses are equal in other respects). Simple is good – less moving parts, less things to break.
I also enjoy simple software and hardware interfaces. Things that I can just pick up and know instantly how to use without reading an instruction manual. Something so simple that Grandma could use it. Apple products always have incredibly simple, unified interfaces: “One Interface to rule them all, One Interface to find them, One Interface to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.” Simple people living in a simple world. However, simple does NOT imply intuitive.
Ever since the dawn of the electronics age, electronics have had buttons or some sort of interface that had something you could push, pull, or manipulate in some other fashion. Now, there are rumors that iPad2 and iPhone5 will not have home buttons. In Johnathan Geller’s post:
“We just got some pretty wild information … while it’s hard to believe at first, it does make sense. … The iPad will be losing the home button. … Instead of button taps, you will use new multitouch gestures to navigate to the home screen and … launch the app switcher.
We’re told that this change will make its way over to the iPhone as well. … Apple employees are already testing iPads and iPhones with no home buttons on the Apple campus. … Steve Jobs didn’t want any physical buttons on the original iPhone … it looks like he may soon get his wish.”
So what will be replacing the home button? In iOS 4.3, which was seeded to developers yesterday, there are new gestures that be done with four or five fingers. This is particularly a stretch since previous iOS releases supported UIGestureRecognizer to simplify recognizing things like taps, pinch-in and pinch-out. You could customize the number of fingers needed to perform the gesture and this is simply an extension of existing functionality. In iOS 4.3, a four or five finger pinch brings you to the home screen, a swipe up or down reveals the multi-tasking bar and a swipe left or right allows switching between apps.
I am going to do what a devoted Applephite would never do and disagree with what Steve wants. I think that this is a bad decision because, unlike Steve, regular users actually like buttons! They like the tactile feel of pushing something, the affirmative “click” that something was done or something will happen. Consider some software that would process information for whole minutes at a time without providing feedback in the form of a spinner or a progress bar. Most users would get fed up and try to quit the application. Without the feedback, user’s may not know what to do. While these gestures may be fine for people who have been around technology their whole life (think GenY and younger), there are a lot of users who would have problems picking up the device and straight away being able to use it. I would even go so far to say that they may never discover some of the features without reading the manual or browsing forums for tips. Apple has always pride themselves, on simple AND intuitive, easy to use software. I don’t think regular users are ready for this.
To make my point even clearer, there are still people I know with iOS 4.2 that don’t know that double-tapping the home button brings up the task bar. They literally have over 75 applications “running” and if it weren’t for me, they would have continued on into their own blissful world, not knowing of that functionality. And that’s WITH a button. These gestures should be included in the software in addition so user’s can have their choice of methods of how they want to interact with the device.
Usability aside, how would we perform operations such as recovering crashed phones?
Personally, I would rather see support for a 4G network and WiFi-less FaceTime support. Although, who knows what the new feature set will be because apparently iOS 4.3 drops support for arm6 (3G).