Creativity is just connecting things.
— Steve Jobs

Tag Archives: iPod

Multitasking on iOS

It always starts with three little letters, right?

W h y

To manage your running apps on the iPhone, you must hit the home button twice. That triggers an animation that dims the screen and slides up everything on the screen to reveal a row of full color icons, sitting at the bottom of the screen.

At this point, it would appear to the average user that only 4 apps are currently running on the iPhone. If the user slides to the right from the starting position, iPod controls are displayed.

To manage the running apps, the user is expected to swipe the row to the left to reveal another set of 4 active apps. Swiping from right to left can continue for quite a while if numerous apps were running.

This design decision made me wonder why Apple chose to display only 4 icons?

Finder vs. Dashboard

In the Mac, Finder allows users to quit processes many different ways:

1. Force Quit via command-option-escape
2. The Dock via control-click on an icon
3. Command-Tab then Q on any icon in the floating row of icons.

Finder, however, is not the only app management service on the Mac.

Another was added a few years ago: Dashboard. Dashboard runs widgets, mini-apps that are technically not considered to be apps. Widgets are not affected by the Finder process termination methods. Dashboard functions in an entirely different way.

After activating Dashboard, users may click a “+” icon in the lower left corner of the screen. This brings up a row of icons that fill up the width of the screen and include pagination. These icons represent all available (not running) Widgets. Dashboard also places an “X” button at the top left corner of all running Widget “windows” that float above the row of icons at the bottom of the screen. Click an “X”—terminate a process/close a Widget.

Skinning the Cat

There are many ways the iPhone iOS allows users to delete one item at a time while viewing multiple items.

1. The list view with the either left aligned red circle with the white “-” inside.
2. The list view with a right aligned red “Delete” button.
3. The “Edit” button found in Mail that triggers a new set of actions (select then delete).
4. The Camera app does away with a “delete” button and uses the trash can icon.
5. The Photos app uses a curving arrow in the top right corner that, upon activation, transforms itself into a “Cancel” button also while revealing a new row of buttons at the bottom of the screen that includes “Delete”.

However, NONE of those solutions were used in the multitasking UX. Why?

I think the Dashboard has become extremely useful to iOS UX designers when solving for multitasking support on the iPhone. However, it still doesn’t answer the question of why use a single row of four icons at the bottom of the screen.

My Turn

If I had the ability to mock something up, I’d modify the experience to this:

When a user double clicks the home button, the display would use the 3D flip animation. Whatever screen you were looking at when clicking the home button would flip over and reveal a full screen using the existing textured background behind the single row of icons. All running apps would be arranged into rows of icons like the current home screen, however, the bottom row will be replaced with the iPod controls. If the user wants to kill a process, they could simply swipe vertically or diagonally across an icon to trigger the poof effect. Icon sorting will ensue, but it will make the running processes screen more functional and intuitive to the user. It will remove excessive swiping and remove the need for the Delete button or a row of control buttons.

iPhone 3.0 Nits

Some quick notes on what I think can be improved:

1. Why do we now have two separate applications for note taking? One is verbal (Voice Memos) and the other is textual (Notes). I could easily imagine a Notes interface button with the old style microphone as its icon that brings up the audio recording interface.

2. Why does SMS get renamed Messages and still stay separate from Mail?

3. The idea that swiping to the left to get to a simple search function is a sad solution. The ultra tiny magnifying glass icon tucked into the list of open windows blows that UI metaphor apart. Why not have the user pinch the screen? We do* have more than just left/right swipes at our disposal right? The pinch could use the same zoom+fade in motion as found on the desktop OS.

4. Why does the Contacts app support screen rotation and re-orientation but the Phone app doesn’t?

5. Because Mail is such a monstrous piece of shit, I’ll tackle that in a separate post when I have time to redesign the whole fucking thing. I’m tired of that app and wish it was more useful than it is.

6. Can we please have more information in the top status bar throughout the OS? Why do I have to back all the way out to the home screen to see if any Pushed emails are present? Why can’t I tap the battery icon in the top right and get a percentage? I know it’s there because it was shown to be so in a hack. Obviously, don’t repeat info shown when on the Springboard but that goes without saying.

7. Is YouTube still so fucking important that it needs to reside on the home screen? Why can’t this be on a second page of lame apps like Stocks or the Weather widget?

8. Why can’t we hide apps from the Springboard? Sorry Apple but not every app you make is something everyone wants. Let us decide please.

9. Why doesn’t the Calendar app icon on the Springboard display a badge when an appointment is nearing?

10. Why in the iPod app’s Artists and Songs screen do you hide the search field at the top? Same goes for Audiobooks, Composers, Genres.

11. If you don’t have a certain type of content on your iPhone, wouldn’t it make sense to provide a button to the iTunes store from the iPod’s Videos, Audiobooks, and Podcasts screens instead of just saying “You can download something from iTunes.” Guess you’re really not trying to sell content to users.

12. Why not share the same iconography from the iTunes store when browsing Genres in the iPod app? Reading text lists in the iPod app is not sexy or fun.

13. At what point in the future will you standardize the placement of the Edit and Create New Item buttons in your apps?

Messages: Create New is top right and is a Pencil icon in a button.
Calendar: Create New is top right and a Plus icon in a button.
Mail: Create New is lower right and a Pencil and “paper” shape – no button.
Notes: Create New is top right and a Plus icon in a button (but it’s brown!)
Contacts: Create New is top right and a Plus icon in a button.
Clock: Create New is top right and a Plus icon in a button.
Voice Memos. WTF

14. Photos. Why can’t I create a photo album on the phone and assign photos to it from the camera roll? And why is the “Photo Albums” header background transparent? What is the benefit of doing this?

15. Mail, can we please mark a message as read without having to literally tap into it? One would think that the Edit button would offer this option, but it doesn’t.

So how’s that for a 15 minute evaluation? 😉

50 Things About Me

This blog, founded on June 1, 2004, is written and produced by Matt Binkowski.

Matt and baby Elise

1. I have been happily married for 14 years to my best friend, partner in crime, and all around love of my life.

2. My daughter Elise is perfectly cute, funny and smart as a whip. My baby boy Miles crashed the party on November 29, 2008.

3. I collect old Apple hardware:
– 1 Apple Pippin (Developer’s Edition)
– 1 Emate
– 2 Newtons (130 and 2100)
– 1 Interactive TV Prototype.

4. I started playing guitar when I was age 15.

5. My hollow-body aluminum strat was hand-built by a gifter luthier, Tom Murray.

6. I’ve driven a Wrangler over log piles, shale beaches, large boulders, through flooded trails, on the Rubicon Trail and the Chrysler Proving Grounds.

7. I like to think I’m a good painter and draftsman.

8. My dog lives on a 20 acre ranch in California and I miss him every day.

9. I lost my home, job, friends and savings thanks to the financial collapse in 2009 but somehow we were rescued and my family is okay.

10. I need to be challenged wherever I work.

11. If I’m watching a band is playing at a bar, I get nervous because I’ll feel like I’m up next.

12. My favorite color was blue and now it’s red.

13. I am an Eagle Scout and once won the Summer Camp-wide Archery competition.

14. I think Flash is the least usable application a designer has to deal with.

15. I used to live in California during the big internet boom and I miss that optimistic culture.

16. I rarely use my iPod Newton.

17. I love my iPod iPhone.

18. I find my Newton iPhone more useful than my iPod Newton.

19. I once fell from the roof of my Mom and Dad’s house and I didn’t get hurt.

20. I’ve never broken or sprained anything.

21. I once camped outside for 24 hours while it was 10 degrees below 0.

22. I once played in a band described by the Metro Times as “Detroit’s most offensive hardcore band.”

23. I took that as a compliment.

24. I loved playing in that band because our live shows were so crazy.

25. I painted three life-size oil portraits of my friends for my senior thesis in art school.

26. My college band performed a show in front of AC/DC’s lead singer and 800 high school kids. (it was so odd to see Brian Johnson just 30 feet away from me watching us play.)

27. There’s something comforting to me about a buddy list that makes me think I’m able to keep up with friends.

28. I take other people’s old Macintosh computers when they mention throwing them out because in some weird way it feels wrong.

29. I am determined to create my own OS X iPhone app.

30. I bought a Jeep so I could learn how to take it apart.

31. I hate being bored.

32. I have a good way of being calm in hairy situations.

33. I can’t cook anything except Crazy Pancakes.

34. Even those don’t turn out very well every time.

35. I wish Google Maps was able to send info to my Newton.

36. I’m somewhat addicted to the news, especially during election years.

37. I can’t watch CNN for very long before it stresses me out.

38. I once hiked over 100 miles in 1 week in New Mexico while carrying a backpack that weighed over 40 pounds.

39. I only drive the speed limit when I drive with my family.

40. I can draw Dora the Explorer.

41. I really can’t stand Dora the Explorer. I’m really learning to like Dora now that my daughter is so caught up in the Disney princesses who need to be married in order to “be complete.”

42. I can do all of the Winnie the Pooh voices.

43. I drink too much coffee and not enough water. Too personal? Maybe…

44. My first guitar teacher taught me Puff the Magic Dragon. Then I quit and learned how to play by listening to the radio.

45. The first record I ever bought was Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger.

46. The last record I ever bought was Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger.

47. My favorite movie is Better Off Dead.

48. I have a bad habit of rejecting bands the first time I hear them…and then reject them again a few months later…eventually listening to them religiously about a year down the road.

49. I’ve taken over 8,000 photos and 300 movie clips of my family.

50. I am amazed you made it all the way to the end of this list.

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I Bought an iPhone

I know, it’s nutty. I’ve never had a personal cell phone before this. There’s no point in me writing up a review since there are literally hundreds if you search Google News or do virtually any blog.

I went to the Twelve Oaks Apple store in Novi, walked to the back display unit, futzed around with it for about 2 minutes then walked over to the register and bought it. No waiting in line. No camping. All the hype around this device made me think I’d have a poor store experience but it was great.

What I will say about the device is this. I think it’s Insanely Great™ and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m anxiously awaiting news of someone finding a way to install 3rd party apps on it. Even a way to just move data back and forth without having to use iTunes.

The Google Maps feature is something I desperately need because I ALWAYS get lost when traveling. I have no sense of direction and am tired of being late or lost whenever I leave the house. The new UI gestures like pinching and flinging really make sense with this app.

I do wish the built-in Mail app was a little more sophisticated by having a built-in spam filter, ability to mass delete messages, and faster navigation between accounts. I don’t like having to climb all the way back to the main menu to jump to another account that has new messages. I think the bottom nav bar could be an easy place to provide these functions since now they’re kinda bare and static except for the “checking for messages” text.

The iPod is really really fun to use as are many of the other things that involve flinging or flipping or throwing. The extra steps it takes to accomplish tasks seems offset due to the fun factor of the UI.

I would also like to see AOL’s IM built in as well as a Keynote Player and a way to connect the device to a projector via the dock/usb cable. Maybe an adapter is in the works. If Leopard had been introduced on time, I bet the Keynote app would have been included as part of the refreshed iWork suite. If Apple can find a way for users to upload or sync Keynote presentations to the iPhone and allow it to power a projector, I’d be really blown away.

Finally, I would love to see Apple publish at least, a developer guide for creating Safari webapps and post it somewhere around here.

Next on the agenda is a case for the iPhone. I will DIE if it gets wrecked. This one looks to be quite durable and even makes the iPhone resemble a Newton.