Spread out

I usually don’t write a wishlist post before WWDC, but I’m going to make an exception here. There are a couple of small UI annoyances I’d like to see fixed in iOS 11. They’re so small they’d never get a mention in the keynote, and they’re in apps that Apple doesn’t talk much about anymore, but the fixes would make my use of the iPhone less frustrating.

Let’s start with the Phone app. Because people don’t answer phones anymore, I spend most of my time working through automated systems that ask me to press buttons or enter extensions or account numbers to get to the next step in the system. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit the red hangup button while intending to press the zero.

Phone buttons

I know the targets are big and the red color should warn me away from it, but for some reason I keep hitting it. Part of the problem, I think, is that it’s the bottom center button in a regularly spaced grid and decades of phone use have trained my fingers to expect that to be the zero.

If the hangup button were down by the Hide button, offset to the left, and maybe not the same shape as the other buttons, I think my problem would disappear. I don’t expect this breaking of symmetry to happen before Jonny Ive’s retirement, but I can hope.

Next on my list is the pair of message navigation buttons at the top right in the Mail app. Let’s ignore for the moment that the up button is often disabled even when there’s new mail above the current message—that’s a problem with the syncing code, not the layout—and focus on the spacing of the two arrows. Why are they so damned close to one another?

Mail buttons

The five buttons on the bottom manage to be spaced farther apart than two of the three on the top, which are huddled together like kids hiding from a serial killer in a slasher movie.

I don’t expect the up and down buttons to be evenly spaced with the Back button. Functionally, they belong together, just not so together, especially when they’re at the far outer edge of my thumb reach. Even using Reachability doesn’t work well because the angle my left thumb is at covers both buttons. Also, Reachability means I have to take two steps to do a single action.

The upshot is that when I’m working my way through my mail, I find it easier to go back and forth between list view and message view because navigating in message view is unreliable. This is not a productive way to work.

One of the funny conceits of Apple keynotes is that the executives on stage use their devices just like we do: scheduling meetings, planning vacations, triaging email, etc. Microsoft and Google do the same thing, and it’s always struck me as bullshit. What busy person in a position of authority would put up with the nonsense their devices put users through? No, it’s their secretaries who, like us, deal with the inefficiencies.

Anyway, I’ll be sitting at my desk tomorrow at noon, eating lunch and watching the keynote with my expectations low.