Responding to the same ‘Samsung out-innovating Apple’ piece I wrote about earlier, John Gruber at Daring Fireball talks about the iOS app launch grid:
The utter simplicity of the iOS home screen is Apple’s innovation. It’s the simplest, most obvious “system” ever designed. It is a false and foolish but widespread misconception that “innovation” goes only in the direction of additional complexity.
This is a viewpoint I’ve long shared and continue to argue in favour of. The problem is that the tech press lives in its own little bubble, and often those commenting on articles (and therefore shoring up viewpoints) are also those heavily into tech, tweaking and customisation. The reality is most people either cannot do such things or really don’t care about doing so. Most people just want to get on with performing tasks.
The question with iOS and its perceived limitations is whether it stops people from doing this. Some pundits have said the iOS lock screen should be massively overhauled, to add a slew of widgets, providing immediate access to information from diverse sources. Clearly, that’s something that works for some people, but it’s also a confusing, unfocussed mess for others. I look at my parents, new to touchscreen devices, battling iOS. If they were bombarded with crap the second they turned on their devices, said devices would soon end up in a drawer, never to be used again. But because they get a clean grid of icons and can focus on a single task, they’re getting into using these devices, and exploring the app ecosystem.
Even from my own perspective, I’m becoming an advocate of simplicity over complexity. I used to weld countless add-ons to my Mac, but I’ve in recent years stripped them back to only include add-ons that I cannot do without, because removing them would make me significantly less productive. I’m not sure how a more complex launch environment on iOS would make me any more productive. At-a-glance tiles can barely show any information anyway, and if they were showing something that’s ‘cropped’, I’d be more likely to open an app and become distracted. By contrast, when I open Tweetbot on iOS, it’s because I want to spend some time on Twitter, and the configurable Notification Center can take care of flinging an alert in my face for anything that’s especially important and/or time-sensitive.
Note that I’m not arguing that Apple’s got it ‘right’ and Android and others have got it ‘wrong’. But, like Gruber, I am arguing that taking a default stance that increased complexity is always a boon for computing is a bafflingly wrong standpoint that should cause any writer to take pause and reconsider.