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iPhones are hard to use (fawny.org)
976 points by mrzool 88 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 636 comments

Most of this article just lists semi-advanced features that people don't know about. I think that’s Apple’s intention...

Having every feature and option up in your face can reduce usability and make simple tasks harder for the average user. Apple wants a product that's easy for anyone to use and that often means keeping non-essential features out of the way.

I’d be more interesting in seeing feedback for Apple on how to improve the situation without compromising on ease of use.

(Regarding the WiFi thing...I agree this is a very annoying default setting, but I think a worse outcome is when a user shows up in their friend’s house and has no idea how to connect to the WiFi. Making the user go to Settings -> WiFi to disable this prompt means they’ve demonstrated they’ll be able to go back to that page to manually connect to a network in the future. If you turn this setting off on a friend's phone, be sure they still know how to connect manually.

(Though I do think iOS could be smarter and not prompt you to connect to intermittent networks while you’re driving around a city...))

I get that, but I do think that saying that text size is an advanced feature is just not true.

Loads and loads of people are older than 40. Loads of people just have weaker eyesight. Apple has really good accessibility tools, and it would make a _lot_ of sense for there to be a dedicated part of the onboarding for accessibility.

Text size is part of the onboarding now.

I bet the end users are not setting up the phones themselves and the younger people doing the setup skip all of the prompts except WiFi.

That isn't Apple's fault though.

As much as I'm not a fan of their products, there is very little you can do to help users when they (by proxy in this case) ignore or avoid your attempts to help them.

Making the option easier to find after on-boarding might help, but for the users you describe it would need to be very easy to access and you will fill any list of quick-access options very quickly if you include things they may only want to use one or twice in the life of the phone rendering the "quick access" a big scary list that is neither quick nor easy. Even if you do find a good place for the option: will that class of user even know to look for it never mind find it? They'd just ask the person who on-boarded them instead so the technical level of the target audience has changed back to someone who at least knows how to Google for where to find a more buried option.

You can make the onboarding so simple they don't need help?

Do you know what iOS onboarding even looks like? It literally can't be more basic without removing the exact thing you are trying to make a point to have.

Honestly I don’t think it could be any simpler. The problem is some of the questions it asks about privacy and the cloud are beyond the scope of many people. But these questions need to be asked.

It can't be simpler but the questions are not simple?

So don't ask them. Default to a non privacy invading mode. Ask the questions later of people who wants the features.

I don't buy "this is the pinnacle of ease of use" and we can't get further.

I lost count of the people who complained about their iDevices features not working properly because they intentionally (so they thought) turned them off. Having eg location services turned off by default and not ask about it will just lead to tons of people complaining that directions don’t work properly. And asking them the moment they open the builtin maps application will make them close the app because ‘it does not work’ and ‘there’s an error’ and ‘iPhones are so complicated’.

I think you will find much of this is because of the current balance struck between privacy invasion and usability. If brilliant minds were put to it, I am sure location services could be mostly client side and not server side. And so on. Just writing it feels heretic and crack-pot, except it wouldn't have to be.

Location services are client side. You turn it off if you don't trust client side apps to have access to your location.

Not if the problem has nothing to do with how simple the onboarding actually is, and everything to do with the users being scared to try things.


Why? It's literally the whole reason for that article. It's "hidden" because these older people are too scare to even click on a setting button.

Maybe I suck at the Socratic method. Maybe the onboarding should be much easier. I think that if people must ask a friend to set up the phone, something has failed. It should just work and setup should be optional. If you wanted to migrate all your data and settings from a previous phone, you should be able to do that later, without wiping your phone. There's a lot yet to do in UX, not much explored. Apple really owns the "slick" game but they could spend some effort on the next billion customers.

It doesn't matter how easy a particular procedure is on an iPhone or anything else if the person trying to use it is so scared of technology that they don't even try.

I know many people (yes, most of them older) for whom the idea of trying to look at an unfamiliar process on a computer (including smartphones) and see if it's something they can do themselves is just a completely alien idea. If it's not something they're already familiar with, it's Scary Technology Stuff, and they need a Technology Person to handle it for them.

Not if you do it in an Apple Store, at least in my experience.

Siri says that the nearest Apple Store to me is 265 miles (a 4h 38m drive) from me.

It seems a bit of a stretch to ask everyone around me to drive go there every time they get a new phone.

> everyone around me [...] every time they get a new phone

Reality: people who feel that they need help, and for most features it's a one-time trip with settings passed from phone to phone as you upgrade.

I'm guessing most people get their phones from their phone provider or online.

And of course there are still countries where there is no Apple store, but you see quite a few iPhones.

Only a small fraction of iPhone users have ever been to an Apple Store, never mind bought their phone from one.

I suppose a nice compromise here would be to make an intelligent decision whether to bring up a prompt asking if you want to change the font size. For instance, if the FaceID detects that your face is farther or closer from the screen than normal, or that you're squinting.

Maybe, but I can say without reservation that the times I find my personal technologies the most frustrating are when they're "trying to help me". 99% of the time, this is the WRONG thing to do - for instance if my phone "helpfully" resizes my text, then there's a very good chance that I can no longer see everything I was trying to see on the tiny screen in the first place, as it will have reflowed off-screen! FAIL! It MAY be OK to ASK if I want help, but just jumping in and doing something is most likely to result in, "Shut up and do what I tell you!" (in the words of Beka Valentine...)

It has been since the 6/ 2015

Yep, that's how Android does it too. Text size is a very important option for older folks, and having people pick it during the initial setup alongside other accessibility options, helps a lot.

I just set up a pixel 3 and it didn't ask anything about text size?

Onboarding was like 3 steps, including "plug in your old phone".

Onboard if tends to be quite different if you already had a device though. With an iPhone you can just put it close to your old one and it will suck in everything. But if you set it up anew it will ask questions about privacy setup, text size and so on.

If its important enough to put in on boarding, its important to have it handily available through easy to access means during regular use.

You can put it in control center and have it be about as easily adjustable as brightness. It‘s not there by default and hard to discover, but adjusting your text size all the time really is a bit of a niche feature.

I‘m really not sure what else Apple could do other than:

- Asking during onboarding

- Putting it in Display as well as Accessibility settings

- Having a control center button

This has no basis in reality. Putting a feature like this upfront will cause more accidents than it will allow people with vision issues to use it frequently. People with vision issues need almost all text to be larger. These same people will be the ones accidently hitting this bar instead of brightness and not knowing how to fix it.

I have very bad vision and I use the feature regularly but I imagine I‘m like 1 of 500 people. Accidents are not an issue though since I oversold it being as easy as brightness. You need to force press the icon before you can slide up/down.

I really like this idea. Actually, I have it in control center on my iDevices, but I’m not sure if I had to turn that on.

I don't think so. What's important for setup is not important everyday. Some things you just need to be able to set once and forget. No reason to put those things front and center.

Language? I'd quite like to be able to change that frequently. I see no good reason to have mono-culture enforced by the OS. There are three languages spoken in my household, by various family members. Changing the language dynamically for them would be a benefit, not a hindrance.

Text size? Same - I often have to show something to my elderly family members, but digging deep into the menu's to find the Text Size setting is very distracting.

I think what's happening in this thread is that people are simply attempting to justify bad design decisions without thinking things through. Language should be something you can change, with ease. Same with text size. Ditto, Wifi access, etc.

>Language? I'd quite like to be able to change that frequently. I see no good reason to have mono-culture enforced by the OS.

That's an outlier request, if I ever saw one, and the accusation is absurd (they give localizations for the OS and tons of things like Siri for dozens or hundreds of languages, so to say they ..."enforce a mono-culture" because they don't allow one to see Spanish one day and French the next on the menu" is contrived at best.

The vast majority of people just don't change the language frequently, and wouldn't do it even if it had a dedicated rotary switch on the side.

If that's the best argument, Apple is doing pretty well.

>>Language? I'd quite like to be able to change that frequently.

> That's an outlier request, if I ever saw one

I've lived in similar households. In KDE one can change the language on the fly for any arbitrary application or the desktop manager.

The Russian-speaking girlfriend, the Hebrew-speaking children, and the Spanish-speaking regular can all use KDE comfortably. I was actually surprised when I had to use an English-language Windows machine and could not change the language on the fly.

It's not an outlier for me. Most people I know switch between English for work and international friends and the local language for mostly everything else.

I'm switching languages I type in every whatsapp conversation.

On an older Android version that doesn't track per chat language, I have to switch the keyboard every single time. Three languages. And I happen to know more.

I switch between languages all the time too. Mostly, I just type whichever language I want, and the keyboard figures out it’s one of the two I use frequently and doesn’t bother me. Failing that, there’s a button next to the dictation button to change languages if autocomplete is acting up (this whole post was written with the keyboard set to Portuguese with only one miscorrection thus far).

You don’t need to change the whole OS’s language to type in multiple languages!

You’re talking about switching the keyboard language, which is easy to do all the time. The parent is talking about changing the language of the entire phones UI, which seems like something you’d do significantly less frequently than changing the keyboard.

Actually, I'd do it frequently if I could, since I live in a multi-lingual household.

> The vast majority of people just don't change the language frequently, and wouldn't do it even if it had a dedicated rotary switch on the side.

The vast majority of users in some countries may never change language, but there are other countries where multiple languages are officially spoken and where even members of the same household have different first languages.

For the phone form factor I would think that maybe language switching isn't as important since most people are not sharing their phones often, but for the iPad it might be more useful to be able to switch languages quickly.

The fact that the vast majority don't use a feature does not make it less important for the people who do. That's the same logic as saying, I don't know, that face recognition only has a false positive rate of 1/1000. If you scan a million people each day you still end up with 1000 people falsely identified.

I switch languages between English (work) and German (everything else) every day. My sister's family is bilingual. I've seen them switch languages back and forth every other sentence within the same conversation. (When I asked the kids why they do that, they told me that some things are easier to express in a specific language.)

FWIW, multi language support has gotten much better but there's still a way to go. Two issues of the top of my head:

- I have my phone set to English. But I want Google maps pronounce street names in German when giving directions. This should probably be a user-configurable option because I can see that it helps people to hear (an approximation of) how a street would be pronounced in their language if they don't speak the local language.

- iOS automatically detects the language when I type in some text. But speech recognition always uses whatever language the keyboard is currently set to. I often speak out notes in German and English and to do that I have to make sure that the correct language is set.

Having a customisable control centre might be good. I often turn mobile data on and off (when I'm abroad), and it's a minor pain going into settings. On the other hand I hardly ever touch Bluetooth, and never use airdrop or airplay mirroring.

You can do this from Control Center.

3D-Touch the widget group with airplane mode and the antenna toggles in it, and it will expand to include a Personal Hotspot control.

Of course, this is completely undiscoverable...

Personal Hotspot is not the same thing as mobile data...I suppose it's possible it's what the parent meant, but unless you meant to say that there was a switch to turn cellular data access for the phone itself on and off there, I don't think that's going to solve the stated problem.

There is an immediately visible cellular data switch (right next to airplane mode) in the control center, as well as a hotspot switch which is hidden behind the 3D Touch.

Mea culpa, you’re totally right about the distinction, I wasn’t reading clearly.

Interesting. Couldn't under ios10, but I've bitten the bullet and downgraded to ios12 and yes, it's right there, cool.

I had no idea widgets in the Control Center responded to 3D Touch/long press.

It is customisable, you know.

I'd like to use different languages for different applications. I'm using Russian and English languages interchangeably on my phone. Luckily many applications nowadays have separate language setting, but not all. That's not an outlier request. I hate that English-dominating CS monoculture that thinks that everyone is like them. It caused great headache of 8-bit encodings which the rest of the world had to deal with for decades, while US didn't even understand what the problem was about, strlen is just fine!

Yup. "ASCII is mostly OK if you're USian and only use English, therefore no problem exists."

It was good enough for UNIX... Heck, it was a big deal when early uucp and Internet links were finally 8-bit clean! (Only 7 bits are needed for plain old English ASCII, and when you were paying many thousands of dollars a month for a T1 (1.5Mbps) connection, using 7-bit was an instant 12% bandwidth boost...)

Which is why then you have to come up with tricks like typing c, instead of ç, eh instead of é and so forth.

Then everyone does it a bit differently and there is this pre-parsing phase trying to understand which idiom people have written the text.

Sure, but that's a historical quirk - epoch time has advanced from 0 a bit ;)

One thing I'd think could be useful would be switching the language based on Touch ID, so family members or partners who speak different languages could pick the device up and feel at home.

I would argue that Apple actively doesn't want to support your two use cases because they'd much rather sell a device to each member of your household and make it incredibly easy to share the page you are looking at between each member of the house.

This is what frustrates me about consumer electronics, that if you have a use case that the vendor doesn't want to support then you'll be constantly frustrated over what could be a simple software change.

>I would argue that Apple actively doesn't want to support your two use cases because they'd much rather sell a device to each member of your household and make it incredibly easy to share the page you are looking at between each member of the house.

Bingo! Apple have acquired immense expertise in applying this anti-pattern.

Language can be changed in the keyboard quickly and easily.

Why? The initial setup is for the things you set once and never need to change. I tell my phone I want it in English during on boarding - and then I never need that setting again.

Eyesight changes over time. People learn new languages, and want to switch. Making these decisions for the user and then forcing them forever is decidedly un-user-friendly.

Or, you know, the person can search for 1-2 minutes how to change the font, when they need to, if and when their "eyesight changes" enough during their years of using iPhones to warranty it.

Better than cramming every such feature as a first priority, and making a UI that's confusing for everyday use.

Or 1-2 seconds. The 3 steps are explained at the top of the Google search:


You didn't read the article? Even though its buried there, in the system prefs, people who need to change such settings still cannot find them. That's the point: the UI is already confusing for everyday use, and we honestly expect better of Apple.

>You didn't read the article? Even though its buried there, in the system prefs, people who need to change such settings still cannot find them.

They can always look them up (online), set them, and forget them. Better than having all such settings front and center over more commonly used settings.

Would you say that everyones grandparents (which mostly could use that setting) are capable of googling tutorials?

Even most young people I know are not able to google things (even if it's some important information they urgently need). Or maybe they just don't get the idea of even asking the internet.

> They can always look them up (online), set them, and forget them.

But they don't. You're a reader of HN. It is fairly obvious that you're the sort of person who, at a point when you need to accomplish something you don't know how to accomplish, will assume that it's possible and start with research. But there are a lot of people out there who will start with the assumption that not being able to see their phone screen so well anymore is just something to put up with. The entire point of this post and discussion is that Apple may not be providing the best experience for those users for whom it would never even cross their mind that changing the text size on their phone is possible.

What operating systems have settings like these in a more intuitive location?

Apple's design of Settings has clearly evolved via accretion rather than any thoughtful and considered design. The fact that something is possible in a UI/UX has no bearing on the fact that it's fundamental design can still suck huevos.

How often do you think this happens? I am through and through an Android + Windows user and hate Apple for certain things but I do have to admit their design decisions are pretty solid most of the time.

It's not like you're learning a new language everyday. Nor losing your eyesight. Keep in mind that the life of a cellphone is anywhere between one and six years, for most tends to be around three (speculation). Isn't reason enough to make it a top priority for people to be able to access language / text size changes in their settings everyday.

Forcing them forever is not the case, IDK where you're getting that from. Language settings and text size / other accessibility settings are in the settings and nowadays ios even has a search function in there.

If an elderly person can't find these settings buried in some menu system, they're as good as set forever.

>Loads and loads of people are older than 40. Loads of people just have weaker eyesight.

Even so, all of those people have to change their text size just once or twice. They can look it up when they need to. It's not like it's a feature they need to use everyday.

Simple commands like this can also just be invoked with Siri. So difficulty with navigability to find the option is becoming less and less of a problem.

The main challenge there is just reminding people that the option exists so that they will know to ask. That and normalizing the idea of navigating interface elements by voice or querying the search bar rather than by physically scrolling around.

My mom asked me if I can make the text bigger. Or I told her, I forget. How is this so upsetting? I also had to set up almost all her devices, and she’s not technically illiterate at all. She just doesn’t have the time or energy to learn every minute detail like I do.

The point was not accessibility in day-to-day use. The point was discoverability of the feature in the first place! You cannot look up how to change text size if you haven't even realized that the possibility exists.

> Even so, all of those people have to change > their text size just once or twice.

Actually, I prefer a larger text size in the evening / night and a smaller text size during daylight hours. So I'm changing text size once or twice per day.

Text sizing is addable to the control center, as are other accessibility shortcuts. That's about as fast access as I think it's possible to get.

Worth noting that there's a fair number of apps historically that don't really support text sizing. Until iOS 11, if you were using a non-system font, you had to do the resizing manually. They made it much, much easier to buy in to Dynamic Type in iOS 11, so hopefully this will get better over the next year or two.

> Text sizing is addable to the control center, as are other accessibility shortcuts.

I don't think that was the point. The point was that people don't even know it's possible to change text size, never mind about other accessibility features, because they're not easily discoverable. Besides, the people who don't know about text sizing don't know about control center customizability either...

True, you do still have to find it once.

Our of curiosity, how is the accessibility of Hacker News? I don’t know much about how to verify that. And I imagine threaded comment pages would be especially difficult to interpret non-visually

Couldn't optimal text size be determined by the camera (squinting) and machine learning?

not really 'good' tools, but they have tools for that that they should put forward

I think the points that are well taken are those around identity, relationships and contacts. I've been using iPhones for something like 8-9 years and I didn't know I could specify a contact as a specific family relationship. A while ago when I wanted to configure emergency contact information it took me a google search to figure out that I needed to find the Health app buried on the last screen of the phone.

At the very least, the emergency contact info should be stupid simple to find (I'd say top level in Settings). This isn't an "advanced" feature, it's a fairly vital and basic feature of a cell phone. Family relationship specification should be simpler too.

It's a niche feature that has been there since at least iOS 4, (or at least I've known about it since iPhone 4, when I had the time to meticulously comb through every app on my Phone), but it wasn't actually useful until several interations of Siri later.

Relationships is one of the features, to me that feels like Apple ended up building functionality on top of years after the feature was released, but since it was useless for so long nobody ever uses it.

Did you know not only could you specify your relationships, but other people's relationship's as well? I'm not sure if Siri lets you contact people this way ("Call John's mom"), but I wouldn't be surprised if a hidden update to Siri enabled this feature as well.

> It's a niche feature that has been there since at least iOS 4

FWIW it's been in the MAC address book since the original OS X (jag-wire?)

Yes, the feature has been there since iOS 1.0. Siri on iOS 4.0 started making use of it to enable voice commands (e.g. “call Mom”)

You can also tell Siri relationships, “x is my brother”

I'm sure that everyone has something that should be stupid simple to find.

It's a hard problem. Has anyone really solved it well that offers the use cases our current smart phones/computers have?

No, and I don't think it can happen until users are empowered to be driving design decisions. Designers may need to serve as facilitators of the design process.


I'm not about to try it right now (don't want to mess up my contacts) but I'm pretty sure you can just tell Siri that "suchandsuch is my wife" and she'll update the relevant Contact cards for you.

This is correct.

"so-and-so is my wife" => it will update that contact's info (and yours). Then later you can say "text my wife I'm on my way home" and it will.

"call me Mister Smith" => it will update your contact's nickname and use that to address you

"Take me home" (or to work/etc.) => it will bring up directions in apple maps to the "home" address on your contact

If you ask Siri "call my wife" before that, Siri will tell you he doesn't know who your wife is and ask for a contact name, then ask for confirmation, and finally persist the information and proceed with the call.

Right there you highlighted the biggest issue most people have. They're scared to touch or change anything in case they mess something up.

All devices need a universal undo so you can change something and easily undo if you get it wrong or you just preferred the old setting.

For security you could prompt after a while to make the new settings permanent and delete the snapshot.

And if you think people are terrified of messing up the iPhone itself, they cower in mortal fear at trying to do anything in iTunes, which is still, a decade on, inexplicably the only way to do many things with an iPhone (like, for instance, back it up if you don't trust your personal info to iCloud...)

Talk about a feature my 89 year old grandma will be terrified of.

Jane will find it funny if you say “call my wife” and it calls someone else instead I’m sure.

The problem lies in what's semi-advanced to one is critical or basic to many others. Apple has been known to hide (aka. make subtle) basic operations. How often have you wanted to load a page in 'desktop mode' in mobile Safari? It's there, just invisibly so. The UI does not teach in the name of clean/minimal design which is Apple's way: form over function.

Edit: it's the equivalent to not putting keyboard shortcut keystrokes into pull down menus.

Theres a lot of armchair design going on here. Obviously there is some sort of balance between showing the user too many options or not enough and making the important stuff obvious without cluttering the UI. I imagine if Apple had gone too far in the other direction (which they would never do IMO) that people would complain there are too many options.

There is definitely room for improvement though. There are some regressions that are too obvious. The recent regression that comes to mind is forcing the end user to go through extra taps to switch the camera between front and back during a FaceTime call when previously it was a one-button click

That change is infuriating. Showing something/someone else on a FT call may be a minority pastime, but it's not exactly a super-obscure use-case.

I seriously doubt there was a groundswell of users complaining they could swap cameras with a single tap.

The other annoying change was putting the End Call button in a panel the bottom right. Regular users have muscle memory, and suddenly they have to relearn one of the main features.

Changes like these are superficial tinkering and make work for the sake of appearances rather than considered, focused development.

Personally, I use the "Request Desktop Mode" features lots! I also moved it so it's the very first option listed for quick access. But I wouldn't do that on my grandma's phone...

While 'desktop mode' is super useful the HN crowd, I don't think most users would benefit from it.

A non-technical user is probably only minimally aware that mobile and desktop sites might have different features at all. And even when you do use it, it might not have the desired affect. I might have been browsing around on "mobile.site.com" for a while and repeating my request with a desktop User-Agent is still going to get me the mobile version. (this happens to me on m.facebook.com) To fix this I have to know how to modify the URL to point to the non-mobile-only version...easy for this crowd, but not for the average user.

Certain CSS @media queries also don't seem to be affected by "Desktop Mode". (It only changes the User-Agent I believe?) So in other situations, it won't work no matter what and that's pretty frustrating/confusing/inconsistent if you don't know the details.

Even if I do succeed, a desktop webpage on mobile can be a pain with all the zooming and zooming out needed. Sometimes desktop sites don't even work properly on mobile browsers! Now...we understand the constraints, but all these details come together to make it a pretty confusing feature for the average user.

I think most users wouldn't get value from this so it's obscure by default...but for the technical types that love this, it's not too hard to figure out how to move this feature to a place where it's convenient to access.

Overall I think the current design is a pretty good balance all things considered.

(though I do wish the ability to move the desktop mode button to the 1st slot was more obvious. Definitely took me a while to figure this out)

> I also moved it so it's the very first option listed for quick access

It took me a second to realize that "Request Desktop Site" is available in the Share Sheet. I use it by long-pressing the refresh button.

hah I only discovered that long-press option just a couple months ago!

Long pressing there also gives me a "request without ad blockers" button which I've found super useful as well. A bit weird this option isn't in the Share Sheet like desktop mode is...

also isn't it weird that this is called the "Share Sheet" but has lots of buttons for non-sharing related things?

Yeah, "request without ad blockers" is great. Very inconsistent that it isn't available in the Share Sheet.

The whole "Share Sheet" is rather confusing. It has three categories of actions in one screen. Potentially useful options are hidden wayyy down the list (like this Request Desktop Option). Even more options are hidden inside "More" menu all the way at the end. Which is also where the re-ordering controls are – although I just realized the icons can be reordered with drag-and-drop.

All in all, not very discoverable for a feature with such high utility.

Steve Jobs was heavily against hidden functionality (sorry there is a word for it I can't remember off the top of my head). It's why Macs had one-button mice for so long. It wasn't until the third major revision of the OS that iPhones got copy+paste!

I think the word you're looking for is discoverability (or perhaps visibility).

The problem with Solaris, Windows, and other desktop workstations at the time was that the second (and even third) mouse buttons were required for many workflows, especially in applications---i.e. a lot of functionality was only available from the right-click menu or via the middle mouse button. This introduced a lot of unnecessary complexity to computer use, especially for new users, because of low visibility and discoverability.

Even today, Mac hardware never has a visible 2nd mouse/trackpad button. Sure, you can click a trackpad with 2 fingers or tap on the right side of a mouse to get a context menu, but keeping the buttons invisible forced these shortcuts to remain just that, and not an essential requirement to get the job done. Windows apps today follow this rule as well -- never make right-clicking the only way to execute a particular function.

This, unfortunately, is slowly going away. The Home app in the new macOS, which has been ported over from iOS, is unusable if you don’t know how to two-finger-tap.

Discoverability is a very hard problem on the small screen. I’m amazed at how often I actually know a function exists, and I try every conceivable type of interaction I can think of to no success. Then I google it.

Damn the little tip about tapping the clock to jump is so handy, I have actually searched for how to do this and never came across a description of this feature.

There were no other desktop workstations at the time, Solaris and Windows didn’t exist for years.

I’m talking about the early 1990’s.

> Steve Jobs was heavily against hidden functionality (sorry there is a word for it I can't remember off the top of my head). It's why Macs had one-button mice for so long.

That doesn't make sense at all to me: The right click button on a mouse is visible.

The Mac way of hiding it behind the ctrl key was non-discoverable and non-obvious to me.

Every single action that was available in the contextual menu (hidden "behind the ctrl key") was supposed to be available elsewhere as well, typically as an actual app menu item.

Or under pull down menus... or context menus... or...

Force touch just seems like a different form of right mouse clicking.

I know a few people who - even after trying - can't make "force touch" work properly. I love it and try to show them. But they can't seem to make the effort to learn it.

I know at quite a few people that have not upgraded their iPhone 6-vintage phones simply because they found 3D/force Touch to be a really significantly negative feature, and just flat don't want it.

Are you saying they are...holding it wrong?

The idea wasn't to hide or show the context menu -- but to have those actions NOT need the context menu.

E.g. to delete you didn't need to "right click, send to trash". You dragged the item to the trashcan.

> sorry there is a word for it

You're probably thinking of either discoverability or affordance.

Apple hides tons of stuff - often so well that they go missing for years. I hate to admit this (I'm an 8-time tech CTO), but I thought that Apple had made the bonehead decision to completely remove the iOS search feature after swiping to the left from the home screen stopped working (iOS 6?). It was literally years (at least iOS 10!) before I accidentally invoked the absolutely opaque "swipe down from the middle of a home screen" gesture to discover search was still possible.

Actually, I wish any modern smartphone OS had half the thought put into it that Palm had 20 years ago. After all this time, nothing even comes close for contact and calendar management, as well as actual phone use!

I had a Palm Pilot, Palm III and Treo, followed by BlackBerry. It wasn’t THAT great, poor graphics, slowness and weird quirks (also graffiti) but I agree it was visionary compared to everything else in the 90s. the blackberry was pretty amazing in 2000 and as a phone was a step up circa 2005. Though the Palm Pre had some great ideas we Are seeing now in iOS and Android. iOS became really good at calendar and contacts by around 2010 if I recall but I lived with it from 2007 onwards.

Whenever a key feature in iOS seems missing I just google for where it went. iOS search is so essential that I couldn’t see it ever removed...

> hidden functionality

Easter eggs?

Edit: it's the equivalent to not putting keyboard shortcut keystrokes into pull down menus

This reminds me that several versions ago, Windows stopped underlining the shortcut keys to the menu items by default --- taking away the only affordance to discovering that the keyboard can be used to more quickly activate the menus. I learned by accident long ago ("what's the Alt key for?"), and have used it since. In contrast, I remember trying to operate a Mac the same way but gave up experimenting with the Alt key and such to try to get the menus to show (I know about the shortcuts, but they are not easily discoverable/explorable in the same way that menus are) --- and only later found out that trying to operate the menus on a Mac from the keyboard is... not very intuitive and disabled by default (why!?!?):



(I'm not sure if the above even apply to pre-OS X --- when I discovered the function of Alt and the underlined keys in Windows, it was the Windows 3.1 era.)

>The problem lies in what's semi-advanced to one is critical or basic to many others.

Well, that's not a dictum to design UIs by. This way everything becomes "critical".

At some point you just use statistics, and if something is critical to fewer people, you can give it lower priority anyway than what most want to use everyday.

Or clearing the cache in Safari. The only options I know is to go to the settings and then find the Safari app.

This is not so nice when you only want to reload the page while clearing the cached files.

Could have been something like a long press or double tap on the refresh button.

> How often have you wanted to load a page in 'desktop mode' in mobile Safari? It's there, just invisibly so.

Not a single time in the past 5 years or so. What's your point?

sorry to off topic - but how do you get safari to force desktop? I've been hacking URLS

Press the share button at the bottom (or next to the address bar in landscape/iPad), then scroll along the list of options at the bottom and you'll see "Request Desktop Site."

Cool, thanks!

I think the trick they are referring to is to go to the site then hold the refresh icon and a menu saying "Request Desktop Site" pops up.

I thought cool, I'll try it with the nyt - It'll be like the original iPhone demo again but no - it goes to a pay screen. Mercury Browser kind of worked though which is an app that "can spoof the UserAgent string to trick websites into thinking the browser is a desktop browser."

"Form over function" is not "Apple's way". Apple's way is function, period, paragraph. And often, what "function" means is, don't bury the user under 200 options they will never use. Make choices. Be willing to say "no" to having every single option front and center.

Added to this is the obvious point that with a touch interface on a small screen, you cannot make everything obvious. It's impossible.

> "Form over function" is not "Apple's way". Apple's way is function, period, paragraph.

I like Apple's design, but that's...definitely not true. You could charitably say that Apple's goal is a seamless marriage of form and function, and they do that better than most. But they have always cared more about aesthetics than any other important developer, of hardware or software.

Exquisitely thin keyboards that don't work reliably, missing ports that need dongles, a touchbar that doesn't really add much and sometimes gets in the way, super-thinness at the expense of extended battery life, and a missing headphone jack are all examples of form over function.

Meanwhile a function-motivated Finder in MacOS would not look anything like the clunky dinosaur we seem to be stuck with.

is that what putting usb ports on the back of an iMac is? function, period, paragraph, and publication?

Where would you suggest the ports be located on a desktop computer whose sides are not thick enough to accommodate any ports?

Perhaps they should be located in the middle of the screen? ;)

well, for the imac, the thickness is more than thick enough to handle usb ports, they just taper it off at the edge so certain three quarters shots make it look thinner than it is. there's also a bezel on the front that could be accommodating. i think the bottom of the screen is an obvious choice, or even integrated into the stand. I understand why they don't do any of these things, and I wouldn't put usb ports in the front of an imac either (its very pretty and sleek). but, a theoretical function first machine would certainly have usb ports right in the front. my monitor has usb hub functionality, but they're all in the back, or behind a plastic shroud on the bottom. I don't get it- its an ugly dell monitor anyways, that i bought for the resolution, why not make it uglier and more useful? so yes, its not just apple, and at least they don't seem to have those useless plastic shrouds over cables. but the imac is not a function first machine, not from a cooling perspective, and certainly not from an I/O perspective.

>is that what putting usb ports on the back of an iMac is?

Yes, why not? Tons of PC laptops had it that way as well, even industrial-style all-function PCs.

well, older laptops had top mounted hinges that allowed for a lot of I/O real estate on the back. that allowed them to work well on a tight desk, with power, usb hub, whatever coming out the back. for a portable machine, i think most accessible things should be on the sides, and the newer hinges on most laptops that are mounted to the back of the chassis mean that back mounted ports aren't an option. the obvious function first choice is side mounted ports, with a bottom dock with power redundancy and everything else. best of both worlds. i don't know if older laptops are the relevant comparison point to a new imac all in one desktop though. I understand why they are on the back, but its clearly not a function first decision (putting them on the front would be way more functional.

200 options one person will never use is 190 options that other people won't use. And they're not mutually exclusive.

I'd rather present all of the options and let the user learn what options are there even if they never use them.

And that's fine, you have other options available to you. Apple's target demographic prefers simplicity first, convenience second, with niche features way down the line... and Apple delivers.

Personally, I prefer the Android ecosystem, and honestly I'd very much prefer even more control than that. In fact, I'm really excited about the Librem 5 project, which is pretty much the exact opposite of Apple. However, many of my friends prefer the Apple experience.

A product doesn't have to cater to everyone. If it tries to, it ends up alienating everyone.

I always thought Apple sold lifestyle/fashion primarily; their target demographic are those that buy in to fashion readily. They're highly concerned with looks and want to pay more to flaunt their wealth.

I've always found the Apple-way, wrt UI, to be different; more confusing for me because I'm used to a different paradigm. But, there's some lock-in effect there, if you start with Apple, you become accustomed to their way and then other "ways" seem more complicated. In practice it seems largely to be just familiarity.

This article makes it clear why the major tech companies are so focused on making intelligent assistants and on using machine learning to make using software more contextual.

Our tech keeps getting more powerful, to the extent that the interfaces and sheer number of options outstrip the average person's capabilities to manage.

The problem with assistants and the like is that they hide features even more. On iOS you can browse through the apps and settings, on Siri you can't. Sure you can try some but there's a lot of "Why didn't I think of that?" options available there.

That's true, but I think there's a lot of less technologically proficient people for whom this actually works better.

Like, as tech nerds we have no problem navigating lists of lists of settings, we can usually guess where a setting will be if it exists. But for a lot of people, just asking "Hey Siri, can you make the letters bigger?" would be more accessible.

But that's where the behavior analysis here would be key. Someone mentioned it in a previous post but imagine if Siri, by way of the FaceID sensors, detected that someone's face was closer to the screen or that they were squinting and recommended that she could increase the size of the text on whatever they're reading. Better yet, imagine if someone repeatedly hit a point on the screen followed by the back button and Siri suggested making the buttons on screen larger. At that point, people would view Siri as more of the personal assistant she's meant to be and ask her if she can do things rather than what she can do.

I think that instead of defending the design we need to focus on this problem:

-we have feature X but only 1% of users find it where 10 of users use it after someone else shows them how to use it. Maybe a feature that is only for 5-10% of users is advanced or niche but we need to design it better so this niche/advanced features are irrecoverable.

I do not know how to solve this on mobile, I know that some software on desktop has a tooltip dialog when you open it(with a checkbox to disable this feature) that presents some cool advanced feature, you can click Next and Next to see more and more advanced features. I seen this in Intellij, they also have a list of the actions you performed sorted by usage, so you can look at it later , notice you used action X the most and that you can speed it up if you learn or configure a shortcut

Settings having a search facility is helpful. Something like `apropos` that searches all installed apps and suggests matches seems like it would already be in the latest gen phones?

You still need to know that something exists and how it was named to be able to search for that setting.

You need to have an idea it exists, but with well designed search/indexing you shouldn't need to know the name of it. E.g. "duplicate screen" "copy what's on my display" "mirror to another device", etc., should all show "MirrorShare" (and possible other options) on Android.

It's even anti-ergonomic in general to overload features. It's probably an easy frequency based relationship.

I don't think making your market small and extremely fragmented is call for innovation. Certain features should be available easier for the ease of the user. If you don't like the environment you're using, and you can't change it, you're being abused by the software.

I don't know about intention, I mean e.g. the Health app is pretty clearly on the primary means of launching apps. I think it's more of a matter of people not actually sitting down to learn and explore their device.

Mind you I do believe Apple should release a proper manual. Barring that, there's a series of iphone books, websites and magazines that will go over these features over and over again.

If people don't invest the time themselves, why should Apple bother?

Also why is Apple and the iphone singled out? It's the same rhetoric for Windows, where the start button is a mystery to the computer illiterate.

TL;DR educate yourself or don't get an iphone.

I do believe text size should be an option for the first configuration though (and if you give your old phones to other people, do a factory reset and let them run through that initial setup themselves).

It gets complicated with apps though, designers often don't keep the variable size text in mind. That feature - at least when I looked into it a few years ago - gives you fixed text sizes to work, which is fine for default looking apps but a bit problematic when you're implementing a certain style.

You can generally either dumb down the product that it has very few options to tweak (I call it a lazy engineer's choice), or you can design the product that it has the initial setting for average joe, then you can drill deeper into advanced settings if you need. Plenty of software does this right.

These type of complaints are the most common I hear from technical people that switch from android to iphone - the lack of customization, the product is on purpose 'dumbed down'.

I recently had to help my mother with some tech support. One of the things I needed to do was turn off the device - I had to actually Google how to turn off an iPhone X.

This is after me owning 3 generations of iPhone (3S-4S) and an iPad AND the family owning one of every main iPhone since 3S.

Is turning off the device an advanced feature?

> Is turning off the device an advanced feature?

I guess most people really never need to turn it off. Maybe when switching sim cards to not hotplug them?

Try downloading and playing an MP3.

Works just fine. Save to files. Open and listen in Files.

Ok, but honestly, where does Apple list the instructions for using iOS as well as the preinstalled apps? They believe their product is so easy to understand that people will just get it. But then they go and change things like where they put the autobrightness switch and even seasoned iOS users have to hunt for it. Or go on Reddit.

They just changed the battery page in settings. Where's the tutorial? An obvious place would be apple.com/batteries but I don't see it.

In the user manual. Which is, btw, one of the very best user manuals you will ever see. It's very easy to find, and the fact you haven't found it tells me you probably didn't bother searching, since almost any Google search finds it instantly:


And no: Apple does not "believe their product is so easy to understand that people will just get it". You just made that up. It's...surprising what people will claim sometimes about what Apple "believes" based on zero evidence. The fact is, Apple knows very very well what is easy and obvious, and what isn't. They have done rigorous study of all of this.

I'm not saying that Apple always makes the right choices, design-wise. But to say that they are blithely ignorant of the basic usability facts surrounding the most successful consumer product in world history is...a bit of a stretch.

I'm an avid apple user and honestly had no idea that manual existed. They could do a better job advertising it. Is there anything in the box mentioning it?

Edit: and according to the article, the manual doesn't cover a lot of the hidden features described in the article.

I learned at least five new things: select multiple pictures, announce calls, swipe right for forward, and a couple others I don't recall. I would rate myself as an advanced iphone user. I've made very complicated Siri shortcuts. But a lot of stuff has been rather hard to discover.

It's the first thing mentioned on the small-print card that's in the box. I somehow suspect that most people don't read this card.

More likely to be found is that in the Tips app that a newly set-up iPhone tries to point you to, once you've gone through a few tips one'll suggest that you download the manual through Apple Books.

> one'll suggest that you download the manual through Apple Books.

That reminds me of the 1990s scenario of having to know and understand FTP in order to install a web browser.

Wouldn't it be more sensible to have it preloaded on the phone? I presume the OS is already regionalised, so they could include the appropriate manual.

Absolutely correct. This is actually one of Apple's biggest flaws: failure to take credit for dozens and dozens of things that they do better than anyone else. Failure to advertise it, to market it, to inform.

When he got his first iPhone, my dad found it and proudly told me that he manage to download it all by itself.

It’s purely anecdotal but as far as I’m concerned I would rate discoverability as good enough.

It's referenced in the only piece of paper in the iPhone box at the end of the getting started instructions. Or at least it was when I got my latest phone a year ago.

Having actually asked this question of Steve Jobs at a town hall for interns (& having worked at Apple later as a full time employee) and it is 100% in the DNA of Apple to try to make things intuitive without needing to reference a manual. There's a reason they don't include anything more than a getting started guide. That a manual exists and is high quality isn't proof that they intend or even expect the typical user to use it. A lot of it could also be for SEO purposes so that if you're searching for a question the top hit could be directly from the manual rather than a random blog post.

I have a feeling they also rely on less tech savy users buying in-person at the Apple Store where their sales staff can do whatever custom 1:1 training is required.

> And no: Apple does not "believe their product is so easy to understand that people will just get it". You just made that up.

Stop being hostile, dude.

Poll a hundred iOS users and ask how many know there's a manual.

> And no: Apple does not "believe their product is so easy to understand that people will just get it". You just made that up.

You're being weirdly hostile about this.

I like Apple's design for the most part, and I enjoy a good comprehensive manual as much as the next guy, but the expectation these days is that software should be self-teaching. Presenting the user with an incomprehensible pile of options is bad, but so is only giving them a tiny subset of practical functionality. Good design presents the common/important options front and center, then lets power users drill down into advanced settings if they want. And all that should be at least nominally discoverable with recourse to the manual.

I am sorry if I came across as hostile. My apologies.

The WiFi thing is made more complicated by how the Apple Watch works. It uses an adhoc WiFi connection to your iPhone, so you don’t want the toggle to disable that. And it would be confusing to have different behavior depending on whether or not your watch is nearby.

Apple Watch uses Bluetooth to communicate with your phone, not WiFi (unless it’s out of Bluetooth range, in which case it will connect to a known network if possible, then LTE if you own a cellular model).

Unfortunately true even in the case of Watch updates. That’s why the trick to make it faster is to kill Bluetooth via Settings.app after it starts downloading an update. Easily half the time spent waiting!

Most people know it's controversial to say "iPhones are hard to use" because most people feel that the iPhone, perhaps more than any other technological innovation in the past 20 years, made technology easy to access, use, and integrate with their lives.

To say 'iPhones are hard to use' and then point out all the small edge cases of use as significant flaws is hyperbole in bad faith. The author is caught up in his own intellectual habit and not in touch with reality.

A better title for this article could be 'Simplifying complexity inevitably sidelines some of some user's needs'.

Or maybe "making the setup process easy hides some really important (and even safety critical) functionality". Or "popups are still bad and apparently we still need to say it" (referring to the wifi one). Or maybe "some current edge cases should be center cases".

I don't think that his point is an overly broad indictment of the iphone so much as an analysis of where many of its more common flaws actually lie. I've seen so many criticisms of trivialities around colors in the calendar, but little analysis of what real people with basic knowledge don't know.

The fact that it is so iPhone centric leads me to believe that the author is a fan. I don't consider this bad faith at all.

Do you really believe "iPhones are hard to use" faithfully represents his overall critique? Objectively iPhones are not hard to use. Do you really feel that an iPhone's ease-of-use is reasonably compared to a "handheld engine-diagnostics module for Daewoo cars"?

The fact that an iPhone can literally be used out of the box with no user-manual (unlike an engine-diagnostic unit) is testament to its simplicity. I don't even know why I am arguing this point.

Does iOS get everything right? Nope. Is an ongoing conversation about UX important? Of course. My point is not that the author may or may not bring up some valid points, it's that he hung his whole piece off of an self serving, insincere title and sensational premise.

More and more we are declaring that there is so much noise on the web that it's ok to bait users with nonsense titles. Just a couple comments down someone advocates this. If you let principles like sincerity and honesty slip just to get attention you've let a piece of your integrity go which in turn mars what you are actually saying.

If what you are saying isn't interesting enough to warrant an interesting title, maybe you aren't as smart as you think you are, or what you have to say is less important than you think it is. Either way, don't hijack the attention of others to validate your own ego, work harder and earn the attention honestly.

I took no offense to the title myself.

“Hard” is obviously a definition that’s relative and varies from person to person. Maybe you could define it as some sort of objective metric where you poll people about ease of use, but then your definition of hard becomes subjective.

For a lot of people any tech is hard relative to the rest of their life, including the iPhone. My mom is very much not computer savvy and she runs into so many problems with her iPhone that would otherwise be obvious to tech users. When you really think about her problems often there is some unintuitive design choice causing it.

My point is that “iPhones are hard to use” is a very true statement for many people. I don’t think the author was insincere.

Some people are bound to struggle with any form of technology, no interface can ever accommodate all levels of expectation and comprehension. One size will never fit all, it's just not a reasonable expectation. If that is your standard for 'easy' then yeah, iPhones are hard to use.

Within the spectrum of all personal computing, ever, I think today's mobile devices are some of the easiest to use. Blinker yourself from the realm the devices occupy and set idealistic goals and maybe you can say 'iPhones are hard to use', but you are likely being purposefully obtuse, dishonest, or willfully naive.

After reading your response a few times I think this might come down to whether you jump to using the word "hard" relatively or absolutely.

You seem to describe something as "hard" or "easy" relative to other things.

If your job is lifting rocks and all of them are really heavy, but one weighs slightly less, you might describe the less heavy one as "easy" to lift. Someone else might describe them all as "hard" to lift.

A lot of people in the tech industry, yourself included, seem to be in the first mindset. That mindset can be dangerous as it invites complacency.

This language matters a lot, because who wants to improve something that's already "easy"? Refusing to call something "hard" because it doesn't apply to what you view as the average or ideal user is picking a small semantic point in a way that avoids improvement.

Perhaps this is not you, but I've seen many people use language like yours("idealistic", "naive", "one size will never fit all") to dismiss turning a critical eye towards tech design. The argument seems to be that modern design is actually really good and that efforts to improve it are just a futile quest fueled by people who are unnecessarily critical.

Maybe that argument is right, but I don't think so. Whenever I get a chance to peek outside my bubble in the tech world and I talk with a less tech savvy user it becomes clear their relationship with technology is basically adversarial.

The iPhone can be "great", "easy", "hard", and "terrible" all at the same time. Refusing to accept calling it "hard" and describing someone who would do so as "obtuse, dishonest, or willfully naive" is a constrained and inaccurate mindset.

"Easier to use than anything before" and "hard to use" are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

I agree with you, especially considering that the same complaints aren't really any easier on any other smartphone. You can't lump "Androids" together because most of them have some sort of custom skin over top of the base Android install and, even if they didn't, most end-users still wouldn't know how to change the text or manually select a WiFi network without some kind of instruction.

The author's issue lies with the complexity of today's modern devices vs. the number of people that require certain features. It's definitely in bad faith and, frankly, is nonsense.

I say this as an Apple fanboi with both a PC and an Android Nexus phone.

A handheld engine-diagnostics module is not hard to use. Take it out of the box and drive in a nail with it.

Saying that there is something you can do with a device without an explanation doesn't automatically imply that it's easy to use. Ease of use is a metric for how much of the full potential of something you can utilize with as little instructions as possible. The article has a point that this ease of use is quite reduced when you are disabled or don't have prior knowledge of devices.

I'm not saying that the title couldn't be less sensational but simply saying that iPhones aren't difficult to use is wrong aswell.

I can definitely see where you are coming from there. The more that I think about it, I would be just as annoyed if this were coming from a major news publication.

But I see his blog as one dude's opinion, who just happens to also be a good writer. Its hard for me to blame such a person for clickbait when I can't really see how they would even derive significant personal benefit from such clickbait.

As to your comment about the Daewoo engine diagnostics module, I've never used that one specifically, but you might be surprised at how easy some engine diagnostic tools are to get started with. And also how powerful they are if used really well, and how frustrating (and incorrect) they are if used for marginally more advanced things without a basic level of knowledge. The analogy worked pretty well for me.

But then nobody would read it

Well sure, the profit-motive explains clickbait (or in this case, wanting readership; I see no ads).

We should still keep it off HN. I expect the headlines to work for me, not for the author.

Yeah, the OP made a good point, but it is really true of most persuasive writing, IMO.

There is one way to solve this problem. Apple knows which users are new and which are not because of iCloud. Just allow new users to schedule a class at a nearby Apple Store at the Welcome screen when users login to their iPhone for the very first time.

I like your idea of identifying if you are new via iCloud registration. I think this event should trigger an extended first-run setup flow that hits all the major accessibility features under the assumption that most new users would benefit from becoming familiar with these features from the get go and how to access them in the future. I know many senior citizens (including parents) who would have greatly benefit from an accessibility settings heavy onboarding experience, related up many of the issues the author mentioned regarding eye sight and vision related age decline.

Sorry, but I've been a iPhone user for many years, and will turn on iCloud about the 12th of Never. You totally give up all privacy for contacts, photos, appointments, etc. the moment you turn it on, and you can never undo that. Apple is NOT trustworthy enough to have that kind of insight into my life. (And Google is even worse, which is why I'm stuck with Apple as truly the lesser of two very definite evils.)

If you don't use a cloud service, then how do you transfer all of your phone numbers and emails when you get a new iPhone?

This is not necessarily true. My parents had a Mac with an iCloud account and managed to purchase an iPhone from Verizon without ever logging into their iCloud account. It's one of the reasons I moved away from Verizon. They prioritized the sale of the device over making sure that people understood what they were buying and how to use it. Luckily, the iPhone is user-friendly enough that they were able to use it fine but they were never even asked if they wanted to enable iCloud and eagerly said yes when I mentioned what that meant.

Sounds a lot like you're saying blindly, that Apple is without any design flaws because look what they've introduced to the world.

What is the hyperbole? Should he rather have said "iPhones are not easy to use", as they clearly demonstrated?

I think the main issue is that he's singling out the iPhone as if it, outside of any other smartphone, is somehow more difficult to use than any other ultra-complex piece of technology and then proceeds to demonstrate that, poorly IMO, by pointing out several edge cases that the majority of users will never experience. His first example, case in point, is that users are never asked about text size when that's demonstrably not true. New iPhone users are presented with that during on-boarding and existing users have already made that choice. Changing it is in the settings. It's not Apple's or Samsung's or Nokia's fault if someone has another person set up their device for them and choose their preferences. The WiFi example is another one. The entire premise of those features is that users prove that they're capable of navigating to the manual selection of that feature because they need to do that at least once in order to turn the auto-discovery off. That's very intentional.

There's a lot to unpack here, and a lot to disagree with, as I believe there's plenty of evidence Apple cares a lot about accessibility.

Also harping on specific terminology like password vs passcode is not really productive in terms of improving the underlying UX, as the word gets translated into tons of languages which may or may not have the same level of nuance.

While I don't necessarily agree with the premise, especially when compared with the competition, I will say that iOS has not gotten easier to use over time. Features like 3D touch are implemented inconsistently both at the hardware level, and in the UX — Worst is how undiscoverable they are. Here's the crazy part: Apple is about to release the iPhone XR, their 1 and only phone without 3D touch!.

It's gotten worse. Screens keep getting bigger, but more and more functionality keeps getting hidden behind undiscoverable swipes and taps. I've been an iPhone user since the 3G, I used to program computers for a living, and I don't have a reliable mental model of what the available gestures even are these days. I'm reduced to randomly tapping and pressing and swiping like some sort of idiot.

I'm generally dismayed at the state of UX in general, and mobile UX in particular, these days.

It feels like we have regressed a lot from where we were in the "golden age of the desktop". I mean, we actually had standards for things - remember CUA? And UX was designed in a way that made it so that once you learn a few basic tricks (like double click and drag and drop), they would work everywhere, and they would do so consistently. Consistency, in general, was key to the UX of that era. Some things might not have been as easy to access as they are today, but all things could be found where you expected them. Even the menu hierarchy was largely standardized.

Now, even if you stick to one particular platform, it often changes the concepts radically within 4-5 years; and many of those aren't even consistently applied. Worse yet, instead of fixing the mess, the UX designers just keep piling more and more stuff, like Apple's "3D touch".

20 year UX veteran here. It's absolutely unheard of for UX to be the final arbiter on marketing &/or development driven features.

To take your 3D touch example. I'll bet it went a little something like this; development said 'we can now detect pressure', leads (inc UX) brainstormed on ways to utilise the functionality. Then it's soley on UX to make it usable.

I've never been involved in a situation where I get to demand capabilities that hitherto did not exist. Nor have I ever held the power to stop-ship. We have varying degrees of touch on functionality as it evolves for sure but not the power you assume we have.

We don't live in a reality where any company, Apple specifically, says 'hey customers, we realised we actually got things right on the last release, please give us more money 'cos shareholders'

Product design is inherently a push system. If it was needs-based pull, the world would be slightly different.

If everything was evaluated by cybersecurity and UX experts first, we wouldn’t have half the problems, but people aren’t interested in those sorts of issues, it is more of a matter of getting there “firstest with the mostest”.

> If everything was evaluated by cybersecurity and UX experts first, we wouldn’t have half the problems

That's an extremely brash assumption. The reason privacy and security haven't been built into the core of everything we do is because the ease of use within highly secure systems is inversely proportional to it's UX. The more secure you want something to be, the harder it is to learn and use.

> but more and more functionality keeps getting hidden behind undiscoverable swipes and taps

I think the issue is that Apple keeps adding functionality to iOS, but seldom removes functionality. So all these "non-essential" features end up relegated to harder to discover actions.

I don't think that's the biggest part of the issue, though. I think it's that whatever functionality is there has to work across a broad range of devices. Someone mentioned consistency and that's what's key here that I think most people are missing. Using an iPad is, generally, the same experience as using an iPhone even though an iPad has a completely different set of utility than an iPhone.

That means that the fact that phone screens have gotten larger is irrelevant because whatever complications or features are added have to work broadly and consistently amongst devices of varying screen sizes. Web developers actually have it down best when it comes to responsive design but even responsive design makes for a different experience on mobile vs. desktop and I think Apple is trying to avoid that. An iPhone might be "hard to use" for someone that's not tech savvy but, once they learn how to use it, they now have an easier time across Apple's entire product line, not just that one device.

I feel the same. And when I learn how it works I get it but it doesn't rub right to me, I say to myself weird. I think it's apple without Steve Jobs super crazy attention to detail and the overall feel of it degraded over time.

3D Touch seems to be the Touch Bar of the mobile world.

Both are great ideas, but only sparsely exploited even by Apple, itself.

For what it’s worth, I use 3D Touch pretty much every day. The number one usage for me is moving the cursor around while editing text. I actually did it while writing this post; I decided I wanted to add a comma after “worth” at the beginning and did so easily with this feature.

This exact function is duplicated by long pressing on the space bar. This has been there since iOS 11, I believe.

So you don't actually need 3D Touch to have the benefit of the awesome cursor UX.

Whaaaat? I'm on my 3rd iPhone and I never found this, I just assumed that Apple was punishing people who wouldn't upgrade to 6s by denying them this feature.

Drag space bar is new in 12, but two finger drag on iPad has been around a bit longer.

It’s a bonus for SE users without force touch. Seems obvious to include this, but I assume the reason they went back and bothered with it is the new XR taking force touch back out.

> but two finger drag on iPad has been around a bit longer

Since iOS 9. Early in the betas this feature existed for non-3D Touch iPhones as well, but then it was removed and restricted to models with 3D Touch.

Fun fact, before Apple so graciously incorporated this feature into their software, it was a tweak you could install after jailbreaking the previous versions of iOS. Same with the "quick reply" from notifications and a dozen other actually useful features. This behavior from Apple reinforced my belief that all they do is absorb other's innovations, make them shiny, and then sell at a ridiculous markup.

I agree with the author that the iPhone is hard to use

To use more charitable marketing speak Apple definitely strongly uses a second mover advantage, maybe with some secret sauce thrown in.

3D Touch is great when it works. But sometimes it just doesn't. I know on my 6S, there are times where 3D Touch stops working until I restart my iPhone. It is so frustrating that it sometimes works/sometimes doesn't and if you push to hard it's another gesture altogether.

Did you get your screen replaced by a third-party? My friend has this same issue and the only thing we can think of is that it's his mall kiosk screen replacement.

No. It happens on two iPhones I have, one has the original screen and the other has had the screen replaced by Apple twice.

I also use 3D touch many times every day. Mainly for mobile payments, example: 1. Pay for bus fare: unlock->find app->3d touch->select "show payment barcode" 2. Instant payment in restaurant: unlock->find app(e.g. wechat)->3d touch->"show payment barcode"/OR "scan barcode" to scan restaurant's bar code for payment

Without 3d touch you need one more step to open the app, and maybe more steps to find menu for payments(depends on apps you use)

edit: just found some apps(not all) provide widget to access features like payment...

Most (all?) 3D Touch actions can be handled by a long-press these days.

Whoa. I just thought to check my train ticket app for 3d touch options and sure enough, I can launch straight to my ticket!

Since iOS12 you can do this by holding the spacebar on devices without 3D touch

That's amazing, thank you. I had no idea this was possible on my iPhone SE. I'm assuming that there is a lot of other things that my phone can do that I am completely ignorant of.

Tried it on my iPhone 8 (by disabling 3d touch). It seems to be a lot less precise for whatever reason. And one issue is also that the swipe always starts at the lowest end of the screen and it's not easily possible to scroll downwards with it, since one starts at the spacebar which is at the very bottom of the screen. With 3d touch one starts the gesture somewhere in the middle of the keyboard, which provides room in every direction.

On devices with 3D Touch you can also press harder to activate text selection, which is something I use daily.

With the spacebar alternative method you can also activate text selection.

Long press does this.

But you are already long-pressing in order to use the cursor?

iPhone X with 3D Touch enables: the space bar longpress worked for me. This is actually more convenient as the 3D Touch hurts my finger and sometimes activates the alternate letter options.

That’s odd. On my iPhone, moving the cursor is activated with long touch, and 3D Touch does nothing...and yet I do have 3D Touch

You need to do 3D touch on the keyboard itself.

This is really great, thank you. I wish Apple’s weird “intuitive” gestures were more discoverable, on both macOS and iOS. They are often good, but they lack the visual hinting that you get from keyboard shortcuts.

I had no idea that existed and it is a game-changer. Thank you!

Ditto. I complain a lot about Apple software lately, but have to admit I'm turning on 3D touch for this.

This is one of the best things I've learned this month! Thank you

The long touch cursor movement is different than the 3d touch cursor movement.

With a long touch, it brings up a loupe that magnifies the text. With 3d touch it lets you use the keyboard almost as a trackpad to move the cursor around.

That's not the full story. From iOS 12 you can do the long touch on the spacebar and get the same functionality as the 3d touch on the rest of the keyboard.

Great for me as 3d touch is so flaky on my iPhone since I got the screen replaced.

I also use it every day, but for apps. Many of the apps I have on my home screen, have "shortcuts", not in the new siri way, but in the "do something/go somewhere quickly in the app" way. I used it to call a person, I use it to open a new tab on Firefox, I use it to add a new todo item, I use it to go to a specific tab on an app. I would be very sad if it goes away at some point..

Samsung manages to include the "shortcut" functionality you mention AND the ability to reorganize apps through a simple long press. Like a commenter above already mentioned, 3D touch was most likely a solution looking for a problem.

Same here. I was really surprised to find that most people don't use/know about/want it.

The ideal scenario imho would be for every interaction to require pressure.

That's a great idea! With a configurable amount of pressure and haptic feedback, preferably.

"3D Touch seems to be the Touch Bar of the mobile world."

No, it is the right-mouse click of touch interfaces.

I've read on a lot of sites that 3D touch is going away with the next flagship.

No it won't. Pressure sensitivity is built into the hardware. 3D Touch is just a feature of that hardware functionality. Unless they get rid of the hardware, which doesn't seem likely since it's used for other things, 3D touch is probably here to stay.

This is highly likely, since most people (off this site) don't seem to use it and one of the newest phones omits it.

I sure hope not. If I were buying a new phone this year, that single feature would get me to pay the extra $250 or whatever to get an XS instead of an XR.

I have been an android-windows user for the longest time, and using Apple devices is among the most difficult things I've had to do.

I have used windows phone, linux, chrome OS, Blackberry's palm-like UI over the years, but I have gotten the hang of each over a small period of time. Apple devices however, are simply counter intuitive for me.

Apple seems to design UI for 2 types of people.

1. Old Apple users 2. The person whose phone use is the same as it was 15 years years ago + an app launcher

Because of those, I have seen 2 negative trends in their UI/UX design :

1. Sticking to old but familiar (for Apple customers) ways, even if they are cumbersome. (itunes) 2. Front loading everything that is heavily used by a layman (their launcher and quick setting menu), and hiding everything else behind a bevy of menus in settings.

If you have not grown up thinking like an Apple user and want to do anything advanced (my demographic), then their interface is incredibly alienating. The only other time I have felt this way has been when using SnapChat. (although Snap's was a lot more egregious than Apple)

I used an iPad for 2 months this Summer, and swapped it out for a Fire HD 10. As much as the iPad was fast, I can't be happier to be back to familiar territory in Android (even if it is on 5.1 Lollipop)

Granted, that my demographic may be the minority, esp. in the US. But, I can't help but feel, that the incessant praise showered on Apple's devices is partly because of the greater familiarity people have with those devices. And, that Apple won't fare as well if they were to be evaluated by an audience unfamiliar with their brand and devices all together.

> Apple won't fare as well if they were to be evaluated by an audience unfamiliar with their brand and devices all together.

Haven't they spent the last decade expanding into new markets successfully though? And from what I gather their new customer retention and satisfaction is among the best in the industry.

People like to explain away Apple's success as merely the product of "fanboys" they've had for decades, as though the same 10 million guys who bought the first iphone are somehow responsible for the 50+ million phones apple sells each quarter. The truth is simpler: (1) yes they do have many loyal customers and (2) those customers keep buying Apple products because they have good experiences with them. It's also true that their design priorities are not universal and some are especially ornery for power users. But the idea that their UI design is inherently bad seems off and the fact that people keep copying them [1] seems like the best evidence.

[1] https://www.theverge.com/2018/10/17/17988564/chinese-phone-s... , money quote: "judging by the accuracy and specificity of the rip-offs, the camera app from iOS 7 has a serious claim to being one of the most influential software designs of the past decade."

> People like to explain away Apple's success as merely the product of "fanboys" they've had for decades, as though the same 10 million guys who bought the first iphone are somehow responsible for the 50+ million phones apple sells each quarter.

Given the world's fashion industry is worth trillions, it will take a more persuasive argument than that to convince me it's not heavily influenced by people's perception of it as a status symbol.

> those customers keep buying Apple products because they have good experiences with them.

Or they've bought into the hype and that's all they experience on a regular basis anymore. My mom has driven a Mercedes for decades. My sister drove a cheaper one as her first car, and recently bought a much nicer one. Even if I wanted to spend that much money on a car, I don't like them, and have always had bad experiences with them. My mom's car was a lemon, in and out of the shop multiple times every year for the first 15 years, until it's been too unreliable to drive on a regular basis the last 5 years.

She's in a market for a new car, and both she and my sister are excited to get her a Mercedes. Their experiences should have driven then away from the brand years ago, but they haven't. Why do you suppose that is? I have my own theories.

Do you mean fashion, or luxury? Fashion and apparel is 1.2 trillion. But that includes clothing, which is a necessary item.

The luxury goods industry, by contrast, is only worth 250 billion.


I feel your analogy is not very well founded.

> Do you mean fashion, or luxury? Fashion and apparel is 1.2 trillion. But that includes clothing, which is a necessary item.

I was using https://fashionunited.com/global-fashion-industry-statistics, which has slightly different values (but it's likely including labor force).

And yes, I meant fashion, including clothing. Either works in this case, as both are very large numbers, and a large amount of the general apparel category is also carried by brands and brand awareness. Just because it's not Louis Vuitton doesn't mean people aren't opting for the Gap instead of Walmart, Target, or in years past, Kmart because of perceived value and status.

> I feel your analogy is not very well founded.

Feel free to provide a counter example, or explain why the specifics you called out change the point I was trying to express. Maybe you thought what you already provided was self-evident, but I don't see it that way so I don't see how you've provided any evidence that it's not well founded.

> But that includes clothing, which is a necessary item.

In XXI century, in a western country, a smartphone is pretty much a necessary item too. Not on the clothing level yet, but it's definitely not a luxury category.

Most likely some kind of signalling behaviour.

Status signalling is what a particular kind of "rich" person does to indicate they are rich or high value. Often also used to bolster social capital. You see it when women buy extraordinarily expensive designer brand hand bags. Men buying sports cars but have no clue what is under the hood. The key element is not the actual product but the visible cost involved in actually purchasing it - expense as a feature.

When the Android phones came on the market, I was extatic. Linux, in my pocket!

However, Android did not live up to my expectations at all. I don’t know what I was hoping for, but Android was not it.

After a while I came to understand that for me personally Android was a bad fit, and everything I had envisioned about running Linux on my phone was ill-adviced. Linux and FreeBSD are my main two operating systems I run on my own computers and servers, and I would not trade them for anything in the world on my main laptop, main desktop and servers. But on phones neither have anything to offer that is of use to me actually.

I don’t really understand what kind of “advanced” things you are referring to not being possible on iOS. Could you expand on that?

I use my iPhone for web browsing, watching videos, making music, playing some games, taking photos, 2nd factor auth, sending and receiving money, SSH client in my pocket, GPS with updated maps, listening to music, writing down notes, setting alarms, keeping track of my schedule, keeping in touch with people, creating PDFs that are indistinguishable from the scan a full size flatbed scanner would give me. The list goes on.

Everything I thought I wanted when I imagined having Linux in my pocket turned out to be a distraction. When I need Linux or FreeBSD, I have my laptop, desktop and servers for that.

Anyway, the point is to say that I don’t identify with the two groups of people you said are their target audience, but I find myself a very happy iPhone user.

But I am not married to Apple, and I am a loyal customer only because of 1. their stance on privacy and security and 2. their product fits me so well.

If they mess up with my trust then they will lose me as a customer. If they make changes to iOS that make using it bothersome, they will lose me as a customer.

> I don’t really understand what kind of “advanced” things you are referring to not being possible on iOS. Could you expand on that?

Personally I'm still pretty annoyed you can't replace the default url handlers for stuff like Maps and Mail. Every time Apple Maps pops up I curse them.

on the maps front it annoys me they're all silos, and there isn't, at the very least, easy switching between map apps for the same coordinates&zoom. The location api exposes a notion of 'here'/'location', I want a shared notion of 'there'/'destination' (useful not only for mapping, but eg transport apps).

Pipe dream level: Apple Maps gains api-accessible import/export of geodata, (POIs, tracks, layers...?), so opening any compatible map app can both open at the 'there' location and can display the shared geodata.

(typically I use google maps for urban stuff, maps.me for pre-downloaded offline maps and POIs, ordnance survey for uk outdoors, michelin maps for france (the search is terrible, but having roads marked as scenic is fantastic), bikehub for cycle routes... and more. I switch maps a lot...but never to Apple Maps)

> I don’t really understand what kind of “advanced” things you are referring to not being possible on iOS. Could you expand on that?

I could give you one. An actual user-accessible filesystem instead of having only iCloud plus siloed app-specific storage. (No, Apple's eventual capitulation to include a "Files" app which just aggregates files from different apps doesn't count.)

Seconded. Hiding the filesystem is both destroying productivity and fucking up people's mental model of computing. I hate when people build abstractions that lie to you about the way things work - because lies are always inconsistent, they'll eventually leak and confuse people.

Proficient users aren't born, they're made. Or, increasingly, not made, thanks to contemporary UX trends.

I am not sure that the way files are usually presented is actually that much better.

You and I know that a file is data and a file format is defined by the structure of the data.

Most regular users I have talked to don’t know this. If you ask them what a file format is they will say that the file format is determined by the extension of the file.

Even with a file system presented to the user you still end up with most people not having a real understanding of what files actually are.

Likewise, a lot of users will insist that certain file formats “belong” to some particular program, just because the extension associated with the format is handled by that program on their computer.

Furthermore, most users have no idea what really happens when you open a file in a program.

In fact I would bet that at least some are completely unable to distinguish the data of the file from the interface that they are using to edit the file.

A file system is a powerful abstraction, but I don’t think it teaches the “truth” on its own.

Neither do I think knowing about files is the most important for someone wishing to understand computation.

The most important to understand is what a data format is, and knowing that knowing the details of the byte-level structure of the data is what allows software to be implemented to interact with and optionally transform that data.

Furthermore, I wish more people knew some fundamental things about data like

- the difference between text and an image of text

- the difference between bitmap and vector graphics

- the difference between lossy and lossless compression, and how these work

- why some formats are hard to work with, for example extracting data from PDF files


Understanding these things does not require a user visible fs, nor will a user visible fs help most people understand these things for reasons I stated earlier in this comment.

What do you need the filesystem for on your device?

I've had direct access to my filesystem on my iOS devices since 2012 and it is very very rare that I use it. And when I do it is mostly for fun and exploration, nothing a normal user would be doing anyway.

All abstractions eventually leak and confuse people. The file system itself is an imperfect abstraction.

>Hiding the filesystem is both destroying productivity and fucking up people's mental model of computing

That's nonsense. Most users don't care that there's a file system and they surely don't care how it works. They care that, when they open up Microsoft Word, they can find the document they last created or an older document. They care that, when they open an app called Photos, they see their pictures. They don't care how they're stored by the computer or how they're organized, they only care that they can find what they're looking for when they're looking for it.

It may be easier for you to navigate through a file system because that's how you've adapted your workflow but to say that not having one is somehow destroying productivity is crazy nonsense. You're taking your individual experience and extrapolating it on populations that are not similar to you at all.

I mean... do you honestly thing that Donald Trump/your grandmother/a teenager cares that there's a file system on his iPhone?

We must use the phone in very different ways. I spend hours a day in a terminal, so I live by a file system on a computer. Yet I've never felt the need for a filesystem on an iPhone.

When android first came out they were apps like tasker (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.dinglisch....) almost immediately that showcased pretty clearly a lot of things you could do on android but not iOS, a lot of examples are here: http://www.crunchytricks.com/2016/10/tasker-profiles.html

My personal favorites are to turn off wifi if I'm not at home or work, turn off bluetooth if I'm not home, turn down brightness at night and shaking your phone to turn on the flashlight.

I've a fun one: The BlackBerry KEYone and KEY2 have a physical button called the Convenience Key that can be set to any app or shortcut. I set mine to a Tasker shortcut that changes what it does based on the day and time (mostly based around my daily commute, for bus prediction times and an e-reader).

I have had the same experience with iPhones - being unable to figure out how to do things should have been easy. Ended up having to use my Android to look up how to do things.

It's not that things aren't possible (sometimes), it's that they're not discoverable.

I've done extensive user testing with people on both Android and iOS devices (and, comparatively on Windows and MacOS devices) and the common thread that I see is that Android users coming to an iPhone try to use it exactly the same way that they use their Android device and then get frustrated that it doesn't work the same way. Windows users try to use a Mac exactly the same way they use Windows and get frustrated when it doesn't work that way. Inversely, the same is try for iPhone users trying to use Android and Mac users trying to use Windows. They ignore the intuitive features of both sides simply because they're used to working with one or the other.

If you can't figure out how to do things on an iPhone and think it's difficult, I'd wager a argument that it's because you're not just looking at what's there, you're trying to project your existing experience onto a different device and expecting it to work the same way. In other words (and I don't really say this sarcastically), you're using it wrong. If they were meant to be used the same way, they'd be the same products and they're not.

I had nearly every iPhone until the LG G5 came out and I switched to Android. Whenever I use my wife's phone I honestly feel like an idiot because I can't figure out 3d touch and a bunch of the other features since I missed their 'introduction' of sorts and don't know that they exist or how they are supposed to be used.

You shouldn't be downvoted for this. I was missing new apple features for years, until I started browsing the apple subreddit. There are a lot of hidden features.

Seems there is a good manual online, but it's poorly advertised. The new features are often mainly announced once when you first open a system app after an ios update.

I've seem my parents repeatedly close them in a rush to get to the app. There's no "show me these tips later" option either, so they never learn the new features.

There are many advantages to the simplicity, but it's not wrong to say that new stuff is poorly discoverable. For pros and casual users alike.

That said, basic useability is great. Both of my parents figured out how to use iphones for their day to day with basically no tech support requests. Same with a mac. I was impressed, they always asked for help on Windows.

> There's no "show me these tips later" option either, so they never learn the new features.

There is a Tips app which is visible on the Home Screen that contains general information such as "Welcome to iPhone" and "What's New" that contains tips on how to use the new features.

The app sometimes even nags you with "Tip of the Day" notifications.

Tips is nice, but it only has a fraction of the info that is displayed on those splash screens. That info is displayed exactly once.

It's a mystery to me why they don't have a list of tips for each stock app in the tips app.

I feel the same way, but in reverse.

I've been using iOS since the iPhone 3G and have built apps for it. I know iOS inside out. I recently started a new job where the vast majority of our customers use Android. I therefore chose my work phone to be Android, so I could use the same platform that our customers use.

Wow - is it confusing! Nothing is intuitive, and I genuinely find it very hard to use and get into a rhythm with. It's a Galaxy S9, so hardly a "bad" Android phone.

My takeaway is that so much of the way we use our devices, especially our phones, becomes muscle memory. Android is not badly designed, neither is iOS, it's just that I've built up a decade's worth of muscle memory, coming from hundreds of interactions a day with the device, that switching to a different paradigm is going to feel jarring.

Most people use different devices in the same way they use their preferred devices and get frustrated when they don't produce the exact same results.

What a ridiculous response. Man used to using Android find iOS frustrating, predicts doom for Apple.

When iPhones first came out they were a dream to use - but I think that was largely because they didn't do very much. Picking up an iPhone 3GS (the first one I saw in real life) the interface was fast, intuitive and accessible.

However, as more features were added, Apple's desire to keep things appearing to be simple and clean, and their refusal to increase screen size, meant features get hidden away, behind swipes, long presses and double presses from different parts of the screen. I find iPhones really hard to use nowadays - even though they now have a lot of features which stopped me from buying them initially.

Are you joking? On the iPhone 3 I couldn't even copy paste....

>because they didn't do very much

They also didn't send MMS. No Flash, at a time when the web was highly reliant on it. No front facing camera. No practical way to share files. But the interface was definitely simple and easy to understand.

Very strange experience. As far as sharing anecdotes go I have witnessed two people coming to Apple without previous experience and having zero problems. You yourself state how happy you were to go back to familiar land of Android. So it may be, that Apple is not an issue here.

You realize 15 years ago was 2003.

I'm the same way. I've gotten used to using a Mac for work; there are the few things I need to know how to run, and I've more or less figured those out. Even after that, though, I was utterly useless last week trying to send an email for my mom on her iPhone.

1. Open Mail

2. Click compose button

How could that possibly be difficult of all things?

I've never been able to understand why mail apps insist on the word Compose. Is it an American thing? I've never wanted to compose a piece of text, and never heard the word used in that way.

It's from the older phrase "compose a letter". Since letters were replaced with email, the phrase became "compose an email".

It's the word gmail uses as well.

no the word gmail uses is "+"

I do see a "+" front and center though,which is not the case on apple devices. even if I don't know what compose means, I do know that + probably means creating a email

To be clear: whatever the button is called, it doesn't have any text on iOS (which, as far as I can tell, is what OP was talking about). It's just an icon of a pencil writing on paper.

To be even clearer: It's literally one of only 4 buttons on the main Mail screen (the others being Back, Edit, and Filter). If you just go to Mail and don't even attempt a guess, that's on you.

What word would you use to describe the action of creating a new message?

write or create or new

Sounds a bit grandiose from here in California.

Compose is defined as putting together many pieces into one coherent work. Most people associate it with music, where composers put together notes until they make up a piece of music. In the mail app context it also makes perfect sense as you are composing a larger piece of work (your letter) from smaller individual elements (words).

TL;DR - Compose is the correct word to use.


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