Apple’s software problems go deeper than skeuomorphism

By , Nov 6, 2012

Though it took a lot of people by surprise, the overall feeling on Scott Forstall leaving Apple is mostly positive. The long-time SVP has been painted as extremely difficult to work with, and the leading advocate for the controversial skeuomorphic elements in iOS.

Forstall’s duties will be split up among several executives, with all Human Interface stuff, for both hardware and software, now rolling up to Jony Ives. A lot of folks think Ive’s talent for aesthetics will transfer over to software and give iOS a much needed makeover.

But are rich Corinthian leathers and dark linen backgrounds Apple’s biggest problems in software?

Kontra, veteran designer and author of counternotions says no. In a blog post that started making the rounds yesterday, Kontra explains why Jony Ive might not be the iOS savior that everyone is hoping for, because for starters, its worst problems aren’t UI-related.

“In the end, what’s wrong with iOS isn’t the dark linen behind the app icons at the bottom of the screen, but the fact that iOS ought to have much better inter-application management and navigation than users fiddling with tiny icons. I’m fairly sure most Apple users would gladly continue to use what are supposed to be skeuomorphically challenged Calendar or Notebook apps for another thousand years if Apple could only solve the far more vexing software problems of AppleID unification when using iTunes and App Store, or the performance and reliability of the same.”

Of course, there’s a lot more to Kontra’s piece. And the entire thing is worth reading. But this really summed it up for me. As successful as it has been for Apple, iOS is inherently broken in many areas. There are still several major features that are either missing or subpar.

Like why is it so hard to transfer files and documents from one iOS device to another, or to a Mac? And why is it that it still takes several taps to access settings like WiFi, Bluetooth, and screen brightness — things that all have a substantial impact on a device’s battery life?

Obviously, this list of problems could go on forever. And I’m sure everyone’s would be a bit different. But the point is, Apple’s biggest problem in software goes far deeper than skeuomorphism. It goes all the way down to functionality — heck, just look at iOS 6 Maps and Siri.

Maybe Mr. Ive will make iOS look [feel?] better, but for a guy with little background in software development, I doubt he’ll be able to do much for the OS’s bigger problems. Luckily, other Apple leaders like Craig Federighi, SVP of software, and Mr. Fixit Eddie Cue are on it.

Thoughts?

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  • Wassim Omais

    I don’t see what’s so wrong with iOS… I’ve been using it for years and none of this, including the skeuomorphism has ever really stood out as a problem. In fact, I like the design of iOS and the apps in it, and I don’t think there are as many issues as described.

    • Damian W

      nothing is wrong with iOS, it is just years behind the computer system.

  • JerseyD

    Apple doesn’t need to look too hard for the solution. Just tap on some members of the JB community.

    • Damian W

      i think the biggest concern APple has, is security. They try to keep iOS simple, because that way it is much easier to have a secure system. For example they have not implemented a real download manager in Safari browser, not because they take their sweet time. It could be that they were actually afraid of security risks that would follow from being able to find exploits in safari. More features equals more VULNERABILITIES and hackers (good or bad) are just waiting for it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/graphic.dix Graphic Dix

        ahh that’s the reason then…thank you so much Damian, i always wondered why, now i got an answer that has sense.

      • http://twitter.com/Nullbrand Niclas

        If so, why even have a web browser? It’s a huge security risk even without downloading capabilities…

        I’d say that’s a way to justify that apple is always right, no matter what they do.
        Just admit it they have an agenda in this regard and don’t care that the users will have to deal with a bad solution in this case.

      • Damian W

        Probably Apple managed to secure Safari but without download. So far Apple makes pretty secure system as we can see. But if they kept on adding million extra features year after year. It is possible it would be much much easier to hack iOS, there would be considerably more bugs.

        BTW, I also think they have some sort of agenda to slow down the development of iOS. Or rather not going too forward. I cant admit it since we are all guessing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/alfonso.vin Alfonso Viñuales Segura

      Absolutly agree. But I want to go further. In my point of view Apple need to APROVE a “Cydia Store” and allow some developers provide theirs tweaks legally with the customers. And then another “Custom Themes Store” to provide themes for personalize the Iphone appearance

      It would be a very brave step, but you get a control over Jailbreak Community, you almost win the battle against piracy of Apps in the Store, and you convice a hardcore user to still keep going in Apple Device giving to them the ability to include his personal touch in the devide.

      Even more you could achive a mayor improvements in features for short time

      • Damian W

        I think Apple will never (at least for couple years) accept Cydia. Simply because Cydia poses serious security risk. Cydia disables all iphone security protection, meaning hackers could put malware on your phone. Basically, you would deal with same situation like Android phones, which are already infected with Malware and viruses.

      • http://www.facebook.com/alfonso.vin Alfonso Viñuales Segura

        Sorry, I mean that Apple do his own “Cydia Store” and acept developers to provide his tweaks to Apple and the Apple submit to his “Cydia Store”. It means that Apple control the tweaks and don’t allow those who compromise security, however Apple wins more friendly developers and lose the piracy interest for Jailbreak the device

  • Thorasgard

    It is truly unbelievable that I have to email myself documents or use Dropbox to transfer files. App switching is just as insane.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1100358050 Walcy Carroll

      i agree maybe there is an official way but i have ran things jb for so long, you can use may tweaks to do things, one that i use is AnyAttach, , then from the appstore paid for uhm, docstogo, the premium version, lets you download,edit, save, email,etc, not sure if ifile from the cydia store might let you do that also,i’ve used drop box too myself, google drive might work ok, or google docs cant remember. but i really use docstogo alot, and AnyAttach from cydia

    • Tr1pTr0p

      Those are the exact reasons behind my disdain for iOS.

      • http://www.facebook.com/siggen Sigurd Bøe

        I sold mobile devices for consumers for a while, and advocated strongly the rich features of Android if you cared to tinker a bit. But the truth is that I used Dropbox for file transfer to my android devices as well as to my iOS devices. I just don’t care to find a cable for this, or to connect some obscure connection process wired or wirelessly. I thought it was VERY nice to just have a folder on my computer I could drop files to, and they were easily accessed to all my devices.

        Sure iCloud could do this if Apple wanted to, but they would need to compete price wise and smoothness vise to Dropbox. (i have 9gigs free), I also have a Box.com with 50gigs free, which I don’t use.

  • http://www.facebook.com/luis.f.graham Luis Felipe Graham

    They should make an airdrop app for ios with a file manager on it so you can transfer folders/files between your mac/pc and ios devices easy and fast then you can choose to open does files with all the apps you have!

    • http://www.facebook.com/graphic.dix Graphic Dix

      completely agree.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1100358050 Walcy Carroll

    I have used ios since the beginning and I can see things that they need to take note of and improve on. They need in my opinion take a look at how some of the linux devices allow users to access and do more easily. Now I haven’t used ios 6 alot but with ios5 and before there are some limitations.
    I am happy with the way ios works, but i do agree they need to make things just work better/faster, less clicks, like to having to go to settings then whatever, whatever just to turn off wireless or blue tooth,etc
    jailbreaking makes it work with just an activator setting,

    1. Printing is not really easy, especially finding a wireless printer, with out having to install some software, or another app to handle things.

    A way to universally download docs, pdfs, excel, photos, notes, whatever the file is and attach it to an email, print it, edit it on the fly. I know that there are some updates and more of this is now possible, of course jailbreaking makes it easier or buying an app such as notes or docs to go makes it easier to do. One of the things they will not do is give the user the control to mess things up, which will probably always be the case, basically access to root structure or the file system to access certain things.

  • http://twitter.com/notoriousTEG tim

    I cannot believe they don’t have a timestamp all messages option and a widget in the notification centre to toggle wifi etc. just why not!

    • sambuzzlight

      yeah the no timestamp is annoying :/

      • czbird

        No delivery reports on iPhone 4S is annoying maybe even more :/

  • CollegiateLad

    I’m always in favor of more features. Just don’t give me bloatware, lagginess, malware, fragmentation, stretched phone apps for my ipad, or software that tracks me or that logs my personal info and sells it. And please, don’t target me with ads. Thanks!

    Scott is gone – Out with the old, in with the new.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rodrigo.sze Rodrigo Sze

    I have a iPhone 4 and I believe Apple does the most reliable computer gadget ever. But I need to be practical, I need to receive my files attached, edit, share with friends and keep then organized to presentation, edition, some sort of CVS etc etc, use only one hand to make everything (specially take notes when I am in a metting or a class)… I surrender to Android in this office tasks. It just copies the way PC works. I expect Apple can do something better than this, but still is more complicated, with more steps…

  • iamnotfan

    Soon Apple will sue IDB

  • ghulamsameer

    Whatever happens, change in iOS will happen and that’s what I’m excited for.

  • Infone

    NCSettings FTW

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mateo-Mejia-del-Castillo/538808577 Mateo Mejia del Castillo

    Why dont bring something as simple as NC settings or grid lock! And one thing is certain, this two things wont put in risk your device, Cmon apple, need thos in iOS 6.1

  • willie_walk

    Between the two, I think we’ll see some much needed improvements.

  • http://twitter.com/e420kush e420Kush

    my iPhone 5 needs a jailbreak. I do agree with a lot of these comments and iOS is quite dated. I miss apps like SBSettings, Anymailattatch, multiiconmover, barrel roll, just to name a few. Oh how I miss Cydia.

  • http://www.facebook.com/davidlim.zhongwei David Lim Zhong Wei

    Or they could just implement some ideas from jailbreak tweaks.

  • http://fearless-assassins.com/forum BBL

    I totally agree with the point about: transfer files and documents.
    but I think it’s even bigger problem if you add files management, especially on iPads..
    for example you have a file you wanna edit? ok open or create your file in the app … humm wait I need to add something, but wait only possible in other app!!! ok use “Open in”.. oops now that file is duplicated twice
    OK done editing, back to first app… oops “Open in” OMG duplicated again… 3 files instead of 1… really!!? iOS is about easy to use not complicate things with 3 operations to make 1 task
    another example I wanna download an .SRT file OK… no third browser can download this kind of files… the only one I found that it can is ReadlleDocs and it’s not that simple because you need to open it, go to it’s browser, open the file and hit download then hit “Save as…” to finally use FTP to transfer the file… really complicating tasks for an OS that suppose to make things easy and simple

    A real file manager without having to duplicating the same file every time you wanna edit it with third apps (waste of time and space) is what iOS really need, and called iFinder, why not.

    • http://www.facebook.com/alfonso.vin Alfonso Viñuales Segura

      For me could be enough if iOS could include a “container” like Camera Roll where every Apps could acess without sandboxing limit, and use it for videos, music and documents. So we use the same space that the Apps which use that kind of document could access and open it. In that case you could use GoodReader to mark a pdf file, and the use another app to include whatever you need over the same file

  • http://Capturelux.co.uk/ Hollie

    I don’t think people realise that the main problem with iOS is its limiting rules and APIs for its 3rp party Apps (Set by Apple) Think about it, App store Apps have only recently been able to do things like put album art and meta data on the lockscreen, or use hardware acceleration for media etc etc

    Also, 3rd party Apps them selfs are very limiting, even now the majority of Apps don’t even have app switching code imbedded (Open In….) And that is pathetic, for example having to save an image to the camera roll from one app before opening it in another etc etc and it’s not just images, it’s documents, music, video! Just two examples are Photoshop Touch and Avid Studio…

    Also Apps can not access general  File content as they are Sandboxed to only their own Documents folder! This is very limiting! As is the fact iOS is limited to only being able to save or open images to/from one crippled and controlled Camera Roll folder where pictures have to be named appropriately or they won’t be recognised , and the same with Music! You can’t use your own pictures and music or open pictures and music stored in one of your Apps! Everything is limited and requires a computer to transfer music and pictures to the device, even in to an apps sandboxed documents folder,  making it no more than a toy!

    And it’s all because Apple are obsessed with controlling you and worried you won’t spend all your money in iTunes etc… F*#k you Apple, let us do what we want on Our devices, let developers have more access to APIs that will make their Apps Much better and not Lag on web content etc let people interact with Their content how they want! Your rich enough now, don’t be greedy or you will burn and fall as people get sick of being controlled!

    Don’t chuck your toys out of the pram when someone comes along and does it better, don’t try and get their products banned to illuminate the competition like a spoiled brat that pushes his opposition to the ground to win a race, like a bully! If you want to be recognised as the best BE THE BEST!!!!

  • Zurkram

    Let me guess. IOS should be more like Android, right?

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

    apple is now lazy due to greed and lack of competition