THREE WEEKS AGO, on the way into the News Building, I went to hand over my beloved OnePlus 3T at the airport-style security desk and it slipped out of my hand. Face-down, from five feet up. Onto the very solid floor.
I picked it up, braced for the worst, and heard the security guard's "Oh no!" before I even saw the smithereened screen. I was devastated, but being British, pretended it was totally fine and not even a problem because I had my secondary phone, the iPhone 7 I use for testing apps and services for work, in my handbag. A quick SIM swap and I was back in touch, albeit sadly.
Unusually, I didn't have any Androids in for review, so the iPhone ended up being my daily driver while I was waiting for the 3T to be fixed. Anyone who knows me will tell you it is seriously weird to imagine me using an iPhone daily, being pretty much the biggest Android fangirl ever, but here we are.
It's been a very useful experience, though, because it's only when you look at something with fresh eyes you can see the flaws in it. As an Android user looking at iOS, I can see some glaring UX issues that really should have been fixed before now. Here are the 5 most egregious.
1. The pointless Edit button in the alarm clock
My alarm times are big and obvious, as they should be. But can I tap directly on them to change them? Heck no! I have to tap the miniscule ‘edit' at the top left for no reason at all. It's an extra step that nobody needs.
You could argue that it's to make sure no one changes their alarm by mistake, but you'd have to be pretty distracted not to notice the huge number - or, of course, iOS could also adopt Android's helpful on-screen "X hours and X minutes until alarm" message when you confirm an alarm time. I miss that, although at least now I can kid myself that I get enough sleep.
Also, the snooze interval is automatically set at 9 minutes for daft historical reasons and I defy anyone to tell me how to change it.
2. It's nigh-on impossible to move the cursor to the middle of a word
On the rare occasions I misspell something or decide to put a probably-unnecessary hyphen into a word (like that one), on Android I just move my text cursor to the right part of the word.
I use SwiftKey on both Apple and Android, but this is also an issue on the native keyboard. On a ‘droid, I tap on the part of the word I want to move the cursor to and it goes there. Usually, it snaps back to the beginning or end of the word as it assumes that's the bit I want, but if I tap again on the part of the word I want, it stays there. Apple does not do this. Regardless of where or how I tap, that cursor is gonna snap to the beginning of the words and nowhere else, ever. There aren't even arrow buttons on the keyboard to move it to where you need it. Rubbish.
3. The way sliders work
I change the brightness on my phone screen manually quite often (I'm fussy), which I appreciate isn't something everyone cares about, but it means I'm constantly reminded of how Apple sliders don't work properly.
On Android, you can tap anywhere along the line and it'll set the brightness to that point. On iOS, if I tap on the bar, it does nothing. I have to physically swipe from the current point to where I want it to be, just because. It doesn't take much time, but almost no other sliders work this way - even my Windows desktop lets me click on a point in the slider bar. Sort it out, Apple.
4. The goddamn rolling date wheel
YES IT LOOKS VERY PRETTY, well done Apple, the only issue is that it's a tremendous ball ache to use. Depending on what you're trying to pick a time and date for, there are ways around it, but how many people do you think realise that?
The vast majority of people use the default settings on any given piece of tech (this is why you hear key tones on public transport), and I truly feel for people born a long time ago who have to scroll through that badly-designed rolodex of date-hate.
Considering how much effort Apple put into the API documentation for this particular feature, it would have been a lot simpler just to make it usable.
5. Going back
When an Android user switches to Apple, the first thing out of their mouth is always "where's the back button?"
I can live without a physical button, or even a software key, that takes me back. I've got sort-of used to it. But please, for the love of everything, build in a consistent way to go back that works across apps, like Android has.
On some iOS apps, a firm (and it does have to be firm) left swipe will take you back. On some, you have to swipe up from the bottom to close whatever's on the screen. On some, there's an X, sometimes an arrow, sometimes I can't figure it out at all and have to double tap the home key to get away.
I'm a n00b, yes, and most people who have been using iOS for years instinctively know how to do what they need to without thinking about it. But it shouldn't be this awkward for new users. ‘Back' is something we're all used to from web browsers, and while it's a little more complex in the layered environment of an OS, Android shows it's not hard to implement.
In the meantime, I'll be going back another way - to Android. µ
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POKE no more. Oh wait, that was 30 years ago