I loved my iPhone 3G most of the time. Now I love my iPhone 3GS most of the time. It surely is a happy relationship. Sometimes, however, my iPhone really gets on my nerves. I definitely don’t want to replace my iPhone with Android because of what I’m going to write about. I’m definitely not buying a Nexus One just because of this. Yet, after more than a year of being an iphone user (yes, I joined late, I hire slow :)) let me recap what I think are the 10 absolutely unforgivable flaws of the iphone user interface. If you are an iPhone user too, you might have your own list. Please share your annoyances (or links to them) in the comments below the article.
Flaw 1: Search Button Too Small:
Let me state beforehand that I’m going to completely ignore features that the iPhone should or should not have. Features like resolution of the display, number of megapixels in the camera, the amount of ram, processor speed, gps sensitivity, blah blah blah etc. I’m also going to totally avoid talking about poorly integrated or implemented features such as the maps that should do this and that, or that is should be possible to send more than 5 images in an email, etc. I’m sure that there are thousands of articles written about iPhone features - by far more experienced mobile phone users and reviewers than I am. What I do want to write about, though, is a set of ten poor user interface implementation details and the crippled user experience they cause.
The annoying things I’m going to describe here stayed exactly the same for the whole time I’ve had an iphone since the fall 2008 and they were never improved. It means that even the ever-so-great Apple :) is perfectly capable making mistakes in their design and not fixing them for a very long time. There’s no particular order in this list.
Flaw 1: The Tiny Search Button in Contacts
(see the image above) The magnifier search button in contacts is simply too small. The search function is the single most important functionality in contacts and yet it has so little button. If you are like me, you’ve mistakenly clicked the larger plus button instead when trying to search for somebody. So annoying. The workaround is to click on the letter F (for example) and drag your finger up until the search field appears. The proper way to implement this would be to add the search button instead the “+” add button and move the add functionality somewhere else (I admit I don’t know where) or to make the search button more prominent.
Flaw 2: Passcode “7” next to the emergency button
There is so much space on the screen and yet the iPhone has to have the number “7” in the passcode unlock screen right next to the emergency call button. Not that the buttons are small but mistakes do happen and opening the emergency call screen when you want to unlock the phone can be annoying. Seriously, how many people out there have set their passcode to contain number 7? Unless you are really paranoid and you really want to check the emergency call screen time to time to make sure it still works you probably want to avoid having number 7 in your passcode. This is a screen that you see a many times a day and you probably don’t pay so much attention to it as to other normal screens, that’s why these buttons shouldn’t be so close together. Look at the keypad screen in the phone menu for example. The buttons are much bigger there, using much more of the screen.
Flaw 3: Why Do I Have To Click on Edit to Delete a Message?
In text message list, why does Edit only allow you to delete a message thread? Shouldn’t the button be called Delete instead?
Flaw 4: Missing Cancel in Delete Messages Screen
OK, I’m in the message deleting mode now after clicking on “Edit” - see previous flaw. What if I don’t want to delete anything? What if I’m too scared that I clicked on something wrong? I mean, these do not enter signs next to all my messages don’t look any good. Will all my messages be lost now? I want to click on a cancel button to get away from this scary screen! Instead, my iPhone is giving my only a Done button, which could easily mean “ok, delete all messages marked with the do not enter sign”. I’m an experienced user of course and I know that I would have to click on the do not enter sign to actually enable the delete button. An iphone newbie, however, who gets to this screen for the first time, will be very worried. This aspect of the user interface is not very intuitive and therefore is very wrong. The Done button should be called Cancel or Back initially and should change to Done only after you delete a message.
Flaw 5: Another Missing Cancel Button and a Forward Hack
This again has something to do with a wrongly named “Edit” button in a text message conversation view. When you click on the Edit button, which in fact should be called Delete button, you get to this screen. Now you can mark your messages to be deleted or - surprise surprise - forward them to somebody. The forward functionality is clearly an add-on hack that shouldn’t be in this screen. It seems to me that the iphone user interface designers didn’t know where to add the forward button so they decided to add it to the delete screen, which is kind of dangerous. Additionally, this screen once again misses the cancel (or Back) button that would clearly indicate that you haven’t deleted anything. The Clear All button at the place of the usual place for a back button is also not very nice to the user.
Flaw 6: The One Click Voicemail
Voicemail is not very popular here in Europe and having a voicemail button that dials my non-existing voicemail account and costing me money for doing nothing is simply annoying. Please allow me to disable the button in settings!
Flaw 7: Ability to Write a Text Message in Bed
This is what I see when I try to send a message when I laying in bed. Seriously. Not that I don’t appreciate iphone’s ability to react to it’s orientation and switch between normal and landscape keyboard. It surely is useful for commercials. However, as you can see it’s very hard to write a text message when you see this! :) There’s obviously not an easy solution for this. May be a rotate screen button? I don’t know. What I know is that I have to hold my phone above my head to be able to write messages in bed which makes my hand hurt after a while. It would be much more comfortable if I could rest my hand on the pillow. :) Don’t Apple iphone designers use beds?
Flaw 8: Weekly View In Calendar
This is not an unser interface flaw really but a missing feature maybe. To be honest I don’t use the Day view much either because it’s pretty much useless on the iphone. Therefore instead of adding the week view the day view could be improved somehow. The issue is that you can’t really see the whole day in the day view which makes the day view unreliable. It’s even missing markers to show there is something above or below the current view in the day you are viewing. Therefore I use the List view instead which gives me the comfort of making sure I’m not missing an event.
Flaw 9: Which Number Did Just Call Me?
If you have two or more numbers stored for a contact and they call you from one of them, there’s no way of knowing from which of the two numbers they just called you from. This is very unfortunate if you need to call them back and you don’t know which of the two numbers to use, isn’t it? What if you need to know if they called from the office or from their cell phone? It rarely happens but when it does, there’s no way of knowing.
Flaw 10: Silent + Vibrate + Ring
This is the only user interface flaw in this article that cannot be fixed using a software update. Or can it? I’m talking about the 3rd missing sound mode for the iphone that would allow me something between total silence and a normal mode. Sure, I can go to settings and turn the vibration on or off for the silent mode but that’s not something I want to do when I want to switch to the mode. What I would really want is three modes: Total silence (cinema, really important meetings, at night, etc.), Vibrations (meetings, office, quiet places, etc.), Sound on (all other cases). May be the iphone could ask me if I want to switch to total silence or vibrations when activating the silent mode? Or may be this option could be turned on in settings?
What are your iphone annoyances?