Steve Jobs And John Gruber On Simplicity of the iOS Home Screen

  • February 21, 2013


Steve Jobs And John Gruber On Simplicity of the iOS Home Screen

I stumbled across this post by respected blogger and Apple aficionado John Gruber recently. Gruber post was in response to a CNN piece by Steve Kovach in which it was alleged, that the home screens on iOS devices “is still just a grid of static icons that launch apps.”

I haven’t read the post by Kovach and don’t intend to. However, I found what Gruber had to say very interesting.


[quote] Kovach’s whole piece is inane, but the above criticism — that iOS’s home screen is behind because it’s “just a grid of static icons” — is one I’ve seen from other, more reasonable critics. Such a mindset completely ignores simplicity and obviousness as benefits. The utter simplicity and obviousness of the iOS “system”, from a user’s standpoint, is arguably the primary reason iPhones and iPads are so popular. Is such simplicity for everyone? No. Is it suitable for all computers? No. But it is both comforting and comfortable for everyone who’s spent the last two decades more confused than not by their computers.

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.[/quote]

My first reaction was that Gruber got it wrong and Joshua Topolsky’s review of the iPhone 5 and iOS operating system was more spot on.

Joshua Topolsky:

[quote] Don’t get me wrong, iOS is a beautiful and well-structured mobile operating system — but it’s begun to show its age. It feels less useful to me today than it did a couple of years ago, especially in the face of increasingly sophisticated competition. I always have this sense now in iOS of not knowing where I am, what my status is — constantly having to load things and reload them. It feels tiring.[/quote]

Yes, why are we not allow to customize our home screen (creating folders is not what I have in mind)? Why do we still have to stare at a grid of apps for several seconds before finding the one we are looking for?

The answer to these questions is simple. Steve Jobs said so! He believes that Post PC devices need to easier to use than its predecessors. That is, ‘dumbed down’ as much as possible so that your grandparents and children could use them.

According to Steve Jobs:

[quote] And our experience and every bone in our body says that is not the right approach to this.. That these are Post PC devices that need to be even easier to use than a PC. They need to be even more intuitive than a PC… And where the software, hardware and applications needs to be intertwined in an even more seamless way than they do on a PC. And we think we are on the right track with this…[/quote]

Hence, Gruber was merely echoing Steve Jobs’s belief of what the user interface/experience of iOS devices should be. But does that make him right?

Personally, I think not.

Windows Phone Hub

Consumers have come to love their iOS devices and have grown to expect more from their device. Especially given that other competing mobile operating systems are delivering features such as; easy customisation of the home screen and quick access to information e.g Facebook and Twitter updates.

These things are more essential to the daily work flow of many smartphone users in 2013 than in 2007. Hence, it begs the question. Why haven’t iOS change to accommodate changes in users’ behaviour on smartphones?

Looking at the HTC One event, it was clear that HTC was using this change in users behaviour to influence the design of the software in their smartphone. Apple should be doing the same.

And given Scott Forstall departure, users can expect major changes in iOS 7. I don’t expect the philosophy of keeping iOS simple in comparison to OS X will change. However, it will not be as ‘dumb down’ as it is now.

Posted by | Posted at February 21, 2013 11:10 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Storm is a technology enthusiast, who resides in the UK. He enjoys reading and writing about technology.

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