iPhone 6 : More Than a Handful

God always intended the mobile phone to be used with just one hand. Atheists, agnostics and Dawkinians may wish to replace the first word with ‘natural selection’ ‘higher power’ or ‘watchmaker’, as required. I would like to replace it with ‘Steve’.

Indeed, Steve did so. iPhone designs up to 4S did agree with the average grip of a human hand. One of them, to be precise. Since his departure from this world, his beloved company seems to be bowing down to commercial pressures of coming up with ‘bigger’ phones.

iPhone 5S topped up one row of app icons. Although they were hard to tap with one (average sized human) thumb, the new size displayed 16:9 videos pretty well, and everybody was supposed to keep quiet since it was the best iPhone ever (as ever), moreover, the width of the phone was still the same! So why are you complaining, huh?

But with iPhone 6 and 6+ things have literally gone out of one hand. Although 6 can still be called ‘a phone’, 6+ is clearly a case of wrong branding. How about calling it iPad ‘Nano’? The app icons turn 90 degrees when you turn the device, just like all iPads!

But I digress. We were speaking about ‘phones’.

Since I’ve started using 6, my index finger must have reached the top of the phone at least 100 times only to realise that the power button is no longer there! Now it is on the right side. With a bevelled edge that can let the phone slip out of your hand, and the new placement for power button, the phone looks like any other phone sporting a droid.

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Not that the product designers don’t realise this. That is why we see many attempts at reconciling with ergonomics. A few Android applications have introduced ‘single hand mode’ like in the case of the calculator app shown below. But I can understand the challenges of ever growing device dimensions that Android app designers face.

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Thanks to the new ‘heights’ Apple devices have reached, iOS app designers now have challenges of their own. And their own UI designers have shown the way-When you tap twice, ever so gently, on the home button, the icons descend down to reach your puny little thumb! I can almost hear Tim going, “Best workaround ever”!

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But should we pat ourselves on the back? Is there any glory in overcoming obstacles that we place upon ourselves? Maybe one day, according to the Darwinian theory of survival, we may grow bigger palms. Pigs could fly. And Apple may go back to producing 4S.

Sigh! What a lovely machine! And so apt for our anatomy!

Update: March 21, 2016

Today Apple launched iPhone SE – It is As small as an iPhone 5S. Leaving their obsession with large phones, Apple seem now to be finding their way back to ergonomic realities.

Godspeed…

 

iOS 8 Spotlight Search: A Simple Yet Helpful Tweak

Sometime, amidst the frenzy of new arrivals of features and capabilities, simple things go unnoticed. No matter how small, every design decision to make life easy for the user must be applauded. Case in point: Visual treatment tweak to Spotlight Search on iOS8.

Once upon a time, when Steve was alive, iOS made sure that the user is taken to a different screen to perform search for apps and other data on the device (as well as on the internet if the device is connected). The reason – To let the user focus on the task at hand and not be disturbed visually.

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There was one problem, though. The user had to scroll away from the current screen. And if the screen was 5th or 6th on right, the user had to either scroll frantically to go to the search screen on left, or press home button and swipe left.

iOS 7 corrected this, making Spotlight search available on every screen. All the user had to do was to swipe top-down and the search bar was there!

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What got forgotten was the focus earlier design provided. As the search bar appeared, the chaos of app icons stayed on, adding a few moments for the eye to travel to the search bar.

Now, in iOS 8, this has been corrected. The whole screen gets blurred so that the user can focus on the task at hand.

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This may seem trivial, but not to the UX team at Apple. Someone over there is fighting out these small issues. You may call it going back to what worked, or realising your mistake, or an internal argument getting settled with actual product usage test. However achieved, this design tweak will add up perhaps a milligram of user satisfaction. Yet we must agree that every bit helps to achieve a great user experience.