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Nobody designs for small iPhone devices anymore (lwgmnz.me)
466 points by dirtylowprofile 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 258 comments

A big part of the problem is people just not following the guidelines. If you have a toolbar with buttons that have labels, it’s not going to fit. But if you’re following the guidelines, you don’t have labels and it fits.

If you have a list with a refresh button on the bottom you have to scroll to see that button on a small screen. But if you use the standard pull to refresh control, you don’t even need the button.

If you use these smart hamburger menu overlay or scroll controls, they look bad on untested devices. Don’t use hamburger menus.

Most of the screenshots in this article are from iOS apps that show Google Material Design. It’s not too surprising this doesn’t work properly on Apple devices, the design doesn’t fit and you can’t implement it using the toolkit Apple designed, built and tested to work on all their devices.


By the way you don’t even need to get a tiny phone to test this because most of the problems also show up when you increase the operating system font size which you’re also supposed to test.

The custom buttons without labels are a pet peeve of mine actually. I can never guess what the buttons do when they only have pictures and each app use their own icon set.

There are some apps that use standard buttons that I recognize but far too many want to be fancy and roll their own making the app practically unusable unless you guess correct or press all buttons to see what they do.

But you are correct in that if everyone followed the guidelines, used the standard UI elements and images etc it would be much better. I could even forgo button labels if that happens :)

But if you consider the app in the example, the ‘Globe’ carrier app, you’ll almost immediately see that the problem is that it is a confusing navigational spaghetti that is designed to force users to explore an app littered with ‘promotional offers’.

Why else would you need a special ‘discover these precious diamonds’ button in the toolbar, with the useful paths hidden in the hamburger menu and then patched over with parallel navigation from the ‘quick action’ buttons on the ‘dashboard’ (of which half is dedicated to ‘Offers & Promos’ and ‘Lifestyle’)

It’s almost as if the app has a fixed position ad that floats over half the screen and the article is complaining the useful information is so hard to see because they didn’t test on small iPhones.

The main problem here isn’t that apps/services don’t follow the guidelines per-se but that more and more software is designed not to solve a particular problem efficiently and get paid honest money for that effort but to waste as much of the user’s time as possible showing them “offers”. The industry calls this “engagement” and a large chunk of people’s salaries and careers (including mine at the beginning) is based on that.

This is kind of kicking an open door but the guideline explicitly is to design your app ‘to solve a particular problem efficiently’

Problem: our customers don’t get exposed to our special offers often enough but they do spend time checking their bills.

Let’s stop sending paper bills because ads on there are too easy to ignore and make a labyrinthine app where the bill can be eventually accessed if users know the menu cheat code which will change regularly.

Did the guidelines mean you should solve a problem of the users or the company?

The problem is why is that company in the business of "special offers"? The job of the telecoms company should be to provide reliable phone/internet service and otherwise disappear in the shadows. There should be no reason to "engage" with them other than paying your bill or changing some settings, just like there's no reason to "engage" with your power, water company or trash collection company.

For software that you only occasionally use custom icons with no labeling is a real productivity killer.

It's so much worse on mobile without tooltips as well, maybe we need to standardise a long press giving a description or something similar

Android already has that standard. Long press almost always brings up a tooltip.

I guess much like aria attributes it varies based on the quality of the product/motivation of the business.

I just tried one of my banking apps and a Reddit client and found neither provided tooltips - perhaps they thought those particular icons are too self explanatory or perhaps they didn't bother/used a cross platform tech that didn't make it easy.

Actually even on Google maps I don't seem to get tooltips for the fab icons for center map / directions.

I do remember this being a thing but it feels like it's fallen out of fashion.

Pixel 3a / android 11

You say "even Google Maps", and something surprised me when I explored their SDK. So I don't know about Android, but the Google Maps SDK on iOS does not use the iOS widgets. They draw everything themselves. Integrating Google Maps is a pain, because standard layout techniques don't work (for example for labels on markers). The whole thing felt really ancient.

It doesn't surprise me in the least that it didn't work as expected.

Writing a map view is like writing a game, you have no choice but to draw everything yourself if you want decent performance.

Six years ago, I would have taken that as gospel. I wonder if that is still the case, however.

On Android, by convention you can long-press icon-only toolbar buttons and the label will show as a tooltip. Non-native apps (fuzzy definition) lack this far too often, but it’s always worth trying. Not sure if iOS has something like this.

Yeah I used to be on android, I had less issues there. This is my first iPhone (version 11) and I'm not sure if I will keep with apple. The tracking of google is bothering me big time though so I might just accept a worse user experience to avoid that.

What is the advantage of this? If you can long press a toolbar button to get a label that states what the button is for, it’s easier to just tap the button and see what it is for.

What if you're not sure if you want to trigger the effect of the button?

Unless I’m missing something we’re talking about a tab bar? The worst thing that can happen is that you switch to that tab. Switching tabs should never be destructive.

Toolbar, not tab bar. You will regularly get mutating actions there, though any mutating actions should either prompt or be undoable.

I have to pile on the rant - OK, maybe the screen real estate is precious and you don't have space for buttons - but allow me to somehow discover what they do!

In desktop applications, you can over over a toolbar button and you get the label underneath. Why can't I long press a button in a mobile app and get a toast that says what it does? (I see the sibling says this should work, but I don't remember the last time I wasn't disappointed by trying this and failing.) You're making me miss the useless-90%-of-the-time question mark button at the top of every window in Windows!

Hover is quick and natural on desktop, but why would you want to long press a tab bar button on mobile? That's long and unnatural. Just press it (quick and natural) and see what it does!

“Just press it (quick and natural) and see what it does!”

And if it deletes something you wanted to keep you have learned a valuable and lasting lesson :)

Hmm I wonder if this button sells all my shares at a steep loss, guess there's only one way to find out

If a button does that kind of critical action, it better have a better and much more visible explanation + confirmation than just a hidden hover tooltip

At least it’s supposed to be red

Some Android Material Design guidelines (which are often not followed..) specifies that you should be able to press-hold a button and have a popup label shows up to describe its function.

I don't remember exactly where I've seen it, but for example in Android you can press-hold some buttons without labels and you see a toaster-style popup indicating its function.

Ob Android, long holding a button usually tells you what it does

> Most of the screenshots in this article are from iOS apps that show Google Material Design. It’s not too surprising this doesn’t work properly on Apple devices[...]

I can't help but feel a bit of schadenfreude after visiting many websites clearly designed on - and for - Apple devices. Those gossamer-thin font weights are unreadable on anything else.

Also unrelated, amazing how the tables turn: I remember back in the day when small iPhones where considered to be "the ideal phone size" but the technorati, there even was a doctored graphic to go with it that showed how a thumb would reach the very top of an iPhone screen. It was doctored because the phones were not to scale, in favor of the iPhone - and this was before Apple had a larger phone.

I would find this a more compelling argument if some of the apps in question weren’t from Apple themselves (Apple Shortcuts, Apple TV). If Apple can’t get it right, then how can we expect anyone else to?

The Apple TV example looks a bit disingenuous, the huge black space normally holds an image promoting one of the shows. That’s why it has so much space. I don’t know why in his situation the header is empty but that has nothing to do with layout on small screens. You could complain the promotional image is too large but it’s really obvious you can scroll down to reveal the rest of the content and I don’t think anyone is contesting the conclusion that yes, a small screen fits less content without scrolling.

The Apple Shortcuts (which by the way is an acquired app that was not originally designed by Apple) problem indeed is a bug in the way the sheet works, probably because of the custom keyboard like icon picker at the bottom, which is really poorly designed anyway. If you have an iOS device, here’s a riddle:

If your device has a larger screen than the one in the article and you try to recreate it (on ‘My shortcuts’ navigate back, then tap the add folder button), you can choose from a larger set of icons. Someone with an even larger device than yours would see a palette with even more icons. But on your device you can get to these icons as well, try to find out how!

> But on your device you can get to these icons as well, try to find out how!

Uhh, I scrolled just like the emoji keyboard (which every iPhone user has figure out) and it worked? There are also partial icons at the edge hinting of more to the right. This wasn’t/isn’t exactly hidden.

To me it was completely non obvious; I know that there are much more emoji than shown in the first view, there’s category buttons that suggest there are more and the icons are layed out in such a way that most of the time you see half of an icon on the right, which suggests there’s more to find.

For this folder design where for the icon choice (which appears rather superfluous by the way) I have no idea how much icons there are supposed to be in the grab bag the developers provided, there’s no categories and they are layed out as a vertically scrolling list with icons neatly arranged flush against the right edge.

Completely agree. If you change the category it doesn’t even scroll to the new icons, it just instantly replaces the existing ones making it appear as if those are the only ones existing. It’s only if you actually drag your finger over the icons that you get any indication there’s more.

It’s even worse, tapping a category brings you to the first icons in that category. There’s no way to find the default set (which seems to be somewhere in the middle of “objects” because that’s where the folder icon is).

And there’s a bug too (at least on my 12 Pro). When you scroll past the category border the category button jumps back and forth between the two categories as if it can’t decide which category you’re viewing right now.

The whole icon picker is very non-standard and feels very un-Apple.

Let’s not get me started on tiny tap areas. Virtually every graphic designer I have ever worked with is ignorant of Apples 44 by 44 point recommendation.

They just want their designs to look good, but give no though to how they feel, especially when trying to use them one handed or with disabilities.

What's funny is that Apple themselves are not helping.

If I use the following SwiftUI code, I get a button that's 24.5 x 22.5.

    Button(action: {}, label: {
        Image(systemName: "magnifyingglass")
The .imageScale modifier is set to the largest! That button is abysmally small. You can use padding of course, and that's what I do. I suspect I'm missing something, but I can't see a reason why .large gives me an unusably small image.

Yep, too many UX professionals spend 95% of their energy on the look and maybe 5% on the feel.

In my experience, designers work in Figma. Then they play with and give feedback on what the mobile engineers actually built, same as the rest of us. Their critiques become backlog items and it is ultimately up to the PM which of them to prioritize and whether they are launch blockers. They may very well be fanatical about feel, but at the end of the day there is a long line of people who want mobile engineers to change things and they will not always be able to skip to the front. With visuals, on the other hand, they provide the engineers with detailed layouts and assets, so their intentions are almost always carried out precisely.

This sounds right on in my experience, though I would say a truly good UX designer should know the usability of what they're designing in Figma and understand those limitations enough to work with a developer during the design process if needed to refine a non-standard action/animation.

I agree with this. I think design has a serious principle-agent problem.

A beautiful design will live forever on your personal portfolio, but no one can directly experience usability there. So designers are fighting competing incentives to do what’s right for this product, and what’s right for their professional image. I think this is partly the cause for trend toward stylish-but-less-useable.

Furthermore, many designers--at least those developing mobile apps etc.--are young people with good eyesight. There's also a general fashion element but I suspect this is one factor in the popularity of thin, small fonts today. (TBF, there's also a general trend towards simpler logos and the like which render well on mobile.)

Don’t get me started on font sizes. I’m older now and theee designs hurt my eyes.

And on iOS if you use the system font and standard styles, text automatically adjusts to accessibility settings. So I always suggest that but every designer wants to “make their mark” with custom fonts that either font work with accessibility or require a bunch of extra coding that the product owner never gives time for.

That's the sad thing! If the developer would just stop coding for a minute, and use standard controls and fonts, you get a lot for free. Including proper resizing, accessibility, all the niceties that iOS provides built-in. The more you try to customize, write your own controls, and fight the standard tools; the more clever you try to be, the fewer and fewer things "just work".

Apple themselves mess this up. Try dragging the progress bar on Apple music to skip forward in a song, for example.

> If you use these smart hamburger menu overlay or scroll controls, they look bad on untested devices. Don’t use hamburger menus.

What is a good alternative to a hamburger menu? I can't think of anything that wouldn't have the similar issues.

The alternative to hamburger menus is to design your app navigation so you don’t need them.

Use the settings app for settings, so they don’t clutter your app. Have the user tap an ‘account’ control to do account related things like logout or change passwords.

The problem is (oversimplified) these developers start with 20 things they want to show, and then they pick 4 things they can cram in the toolbar and the rest is tucked away in the hamburger menu. It’s a lot easier of course but it also looks like the lazy alternative to thoughtful design.

> Use the settings app for settings, so they don’t clutter your app.

I’m glad most app don’t do this, except for where they have to for notifications, etc. It’s really unintuitive to go to another app to adjust settings for an app you’re already in.

Exactly. Oh, you want to do something right here? Well, we could give you a menu right here of all the things that are relevant to this exact context--which was, you recall, the original "discoverability" advantage that was claimed to make a GUI better than a CLI. But, no, that would mean a hamburger menu, which "they say" is bad.

Instead, superior designers will show very little and explain nothing so the screen can look fabulous. If Apple has taught us anything, it is that fashionable appearance matters most. Users will just have to figure out that they need to leave this app, go open another app, navigate a few screens into it, see if there is an entry for this app, enter it, and scroll around hoping to see something in the master list that looks like it might be relevant to what you needed in the context that other app was in.

You can actually hotlink directly to the Settings page for your app (e.g. Slack does this in their settings).

That would require some type of.....menu gasp

> you [...] have labels, it’s not going to fit

or you have to localize in German.

Words don't translate 1:1 into another language. Sometimes labels are much longer in other languages.

Icons with labels are best practice for accessibility.

No, for accessibility icons have titles that are not on screen yet are read out by the screen reader.

Accessibility is not just for people who use screen readers. It's for everyone, including you and me.

Out of those apps, only 2-3 use Material Design. MD seems to attract a lot of poor copies, misunderstandings and projects that pay lip service to it, but have only superficial similarities.

With how stringent Apple's review process and focus on user experience are, I'm surprised these apps got approved for the App Store at all in this state

I'm curious if even Apple follow the guidelines. It has been way too long since I read them, but I remember the minimum button size being quite large. A while ago, the pull up menu (with camera/light/volume/airplane mode/etc) was redesigned. As part of that the play/pause/skip buttons became so small that my iPhone SE frequently does something other than my intention.

> If you have a toolbar with buttons that have labels, it’s not going to fit. But if you’re following the guidelines, you don’t have labels and it fits.

But this doesnt make any sense. Often you need guidelines.

Typical Apple problem.

That’s the core problem. Is there a specialized service you can submit your app to to test for guideline adherence?

You make good points but IMO that's an Apple problem first and foremost, not an application designer problem. If an application doesn't follow the guidelines and breaks on some of the phones supported by the app store, then Apple should tell the application makers to fix it lest the app be removed.

Last week I defended the move by Apple to remove that "crab house" app because they're the custodians of their walled garden and get to enforce arbitrary standards of quality and safety on the behalf of their customers who bought into the ecosystem. With this same mindset I can only blame Apple here for failing to maintain the quality standard on some of their phone lineup.

So basically I'd frame this as "Apple failing to enforce the guidelines" instead.

Alternately, Apple could choose a different and non-binary way of curating apps. An app store with 4 or 5 scales of 0 to 9 scores: UX, privacy, cost/benefit, user reviews, etc. would be a lot more useful to me than a store with x00,000 apps all in an undifferentiated pile.

Even trying to find specific app from a specific vendor, while being sure to not get some lookalike evil clone from J. Random Hacker can be challenging.

Why? What if you're developing some app where you want to divert from the guidelines, you should be able to do that. Guidelines are just that, they're not rules.

Apps should follow some basic accessibility rules and be functional, but yij can in earnest say that you think that all games for example should follow the Apple design guidelines, can you?

If not following the guidelines makes your app hard to use or glitchy on some of Apple's lineup, I don't see why you wouldn't expect Apple to reject the app. This reflect poorly on Apple because it makes it look that some of their devices are 2nd class citizens within their ecosystem.

They should follow the guidelines when not doing so causes usability issues. If your games is usable on all devices then obviously there's no problem.

There’s a point there but it is a difficult balancing act. Some of the largest third party apps, like Google Maps, feature the Google Material Design that is alien on iOS. There is no way to force Google to use an iOS design. Would it be a smart move from Apple to ban Google Maps from the iPhone?

The Google Maps thing isn’t entirely about screen size (though I would hope it wouldn’t be quite so bad on larger screens—but I’m only familiar with how it looks on a small-by-modern-standards Android phone, where it’s about the same as on the iPhone depicted in this article, or even a little less); it’s about the product’s overarching philosophy, which has changed over the past decade (in a direction I strongly dislike). It used to be about, y’know, maps, but maps are now incidental, a means to a different end, ably demonstrated by their icon change a year ago from a map to a location pin. It’s all about the destinations now, and mapping has progressively deteriorated and been deemphasised.

At least in the case depicted, you should be able to get it to show just the map by tapping once in the map area.

(If you’re interested in more about this, https://www.justinobeirne.com has some excellent long-form content analysing all the major maps products, how they’ve changed over time, &c. https://www.justinobeirne.com/google-maps-new-app-icon and https://www.justinobeirne.com/what-happened-to-google-maps are good brief starting points.)

While we're on the topic: YouTube, which is inherently a video content viewing service, goes out of its way to obscure the video content. The TV app, the mobile app, and the browser app all insist on overlaying the content with random garbage that no sane human being could possibly be more interested in that the content that they launched with the intention of watching!

Heaven help you if you open a popular live feed. The wall of random teenage stream-of-thought noise streaming down across the video is just unspeakably crass. Why was this added, you ask? Because some overpaid manager at Google saw that Facebook was doing more video, so turning a video streaming service into a social network seemed like a brilliant idea. I mean why not? Why wouldn't people watching NASA feeds want snotty little kids spaming swearwords on their television?

PS: products slowly morphing to become nigh unrecognisable is a pre-Internet issue. The MTV channel used to show just music videos!

YouTube added live chat not because of Facebook, but because of Twitch which popularized this live-video-with-synchronized-chat. (except on Twitch it's about 1-10s of delay where on YouTube it's 30+ minimum)

Facebook and YouTube then borrowed that feature when they added livestreaming.

Things[0][1] I've looked at says Twitch's delay is much longer than 1s.

[0]: https://www.fairlyoddstreamers.com/post/twitch-stream-delay [1]: https://onetwostream.com/blog/twitch-delay/

The delay depends on a lot of things, from configurable settings for the streamer (both on twitch and on their machine) and for the viewer (low-latency mode, and sometimes, explicitly not! using it), as well as things outside of their control - in Twitch's infra and just general internet latency.

It's not uncommon for streamers to display their chat in a sidebar on the stream, or overlaid on the content itself. From this, I've observed delays as low as (or maybe a bit lower than) a second, and as high as 30s - though I haven't seen anything nearly that high in a long time.

I suspect bigger or more successful streamers are prioritized on Twitch's backend. But I think the threshold for "successful" is actually rather low - someone consistently getting just hundreds of viewers is probably there already, in that top percentile.

Like others said, it depends -- if you have low latency streaming on as a streamer + low-latency viewing by the viewer + good enough internet, your "latency to broadcaster" can drop to 1 point something.

What you linked is streamers intentionally increasing their delay to account for stream sniping, but many streamers keep their delay not-extended to allow for better chat interaction. In some games, increasing delay to prevent sniping is just ineffective -- Valorant can regularly have 5+ minute queues in top ranks, and there's few enough players that even if you enter the queue very late, you can still run into them.


>While we're on the topic: YouTube, which is inherently a video content viewing service, goes out of its way to obscure the video content. The TV app, the mobile app, and the browser app all insist on overlaying the content with random garbage that no sane human being could possibly be more interested in that the content that they launched with the intention of watching!

Too often I've been unable to decipher what's being shown in the last ~15 seconds of the video because of the end-of-video annotations and recommendations.

I hate those scrolling chat feeds, and I don't understand how anyone's able to read them? I can barely read a 5 word message when it's juddering up the screen at a million miles an hour. Why hasn't twitch et al replaced it with a widget that just draws new messages above the old, scanning top to bottom?

You can turn off chat

What are you talking about? I just clicked through the "Settings" menu, and there's no such option!

Oh, you mean individually, on a per-video basis, using the tiny button that's thoroughly hidden as part of the dark pattern to drive user engagement?

I have followed the brilliance of google maps from an ux perspective for decades now, and don’t fault them that much for their new changes: it has become much more common now that I actually don’t care much about where a place is, more only about if I found the right place, and how do I get there. If I use public transit then the map becomes even more irrelevant. Given how good Googles places info is, the only time the map becomes relevant is once I start turn by turn directions, at which point it again shows one of the best UIs out there for that purpose.

Meanwhile, I get frustrated by the changes in their cartography style almost every time I use Google Maps. Most of the time I do want an actual map, and even when I’m not so fussed about that, the old style conveyed more useful details for the sorts of things I was doing. If you want to explore an area geographically, the changes have been terrible.

It’s not uniformly worse than it was a decade ago; there are some areas like highlighting business districts and such where in the last decade they’ve— uh— caught up with paper maps. But if Google Maps presented me with a “show maps like they were ten years ago” option, I’d enable it in an instant, because the cons of the last decade have been far greater than the pros for how I, all my family and most of my friends use it.

Absolutely, which is why I definitively prefer OSM for that purpose.

Google Maps is not much better on larger screens unfortunately. It’s almost as if it wants to obscure the map area, no matter what you try.

When using it you kind of feel how a once pioneering piece of tech and UX initially built by a small team got taken over by corporate Google which knows best what their users need...

Google makes what will get the team members promoted. That is rarely what the users need.

That website is incredible. I had no idea I would be so engrossed in reading about the size and shape of map labels and the shape of building in a phone map application.

Maps does what I want in this instance. The display shows results for what I searched for. If I want the map I tap the map. If I want to see more search results I scroll down. I'm not seeing any problem. I want those search results when I search. Where would you suggest they put them. The screen is already small, putting them just on the map would make it hard to provide any details to help you find the thing you were searching for

The big issue is having them on the map, without reloading the search results when the map is zoomed/panned, without the map obscured.

They absolutely don't support that use case anymore :(

One thing that really annoyed me who always preferred the smaller iPhones like the SE: When Apple updated their Music app to make everything super big and bloated it basically got unusable. Especially for classical music where you could not see past the long name of the symphony to see which movement it was. And even while playing you had to wait for the running text to reach the important part.

And all this was just blown up, they did not have to cram in a lot of infos they just increased the size of every UI element, made fonts bigger and bolt. It was really poor design, it felt like a phone for the elderly. Also one feature was gone that the old Music app had which would've helped here: hold down on a song to get the overlay of the whole name...

In general classical music is really poorly supported by many music services and apps but this was such a huge annoyance that I had to switch to a third party app and delete that shitty Music app.

Yeah that’s what bothering me as well. Seems to be happening everywhere though, reduced information density and increased whitespace and fonts. So as we’re all buying something with bigger screens, we still keep loosing real estate.

I have an original iPhone SE and I very rarely hit this, mostly by more amateurish applications, but it is still very frustrating when it happens.

For an example there's an application I use to put money on my washing card, and also book washing machines in my building, and that doesn't work on my iPhone SE, even though that application is mostly a webview.

It could be nice if Apple could detect these issues in the review process.

I held on to my original SE for as long as I could. I have dozens of screenshots similar to the ones on the article, and I was getting tired of reporting unusable or hard to use apps on small screens.

This was one of the key factors for me to switch to the iPhone 12 Mini. And even though some apps still have issues, they just don't test bellow the regular 12 size.

The worst recurring bug across apps that still happen on the mini is not having enough UI spacing to accommodate scrolling bellow the keyboard. I very often have apps that won't show the "submit" or whatever button to confirm a form.

Similar here - I just went up to a 12 mini because the SE I had was... well - still worked, but I wanted to 'forward proof' myself a bit. I suspect it may not go past iOS 14 (I just upgraded - was on 12 for a long time). For things like banking, etc, I wanted to know my device will work for the next few years, and this is the smallest I can get that still is in the ios/apple world.

I somewhat regret this, as I miss the Touch ID. Rumors are the 13 models will have a Touch ID under the screen, which will be great, but, I don't know they'll have a 'mini' version either. Apparently the 12 mini is being discontinued? I can't tell if that rumor is true, or production is just being reduced in favor of the larger models. Either way, the "small form factor" just seems to be an afterthought.

Was reading a few viewpoints on this (perhaps it was even on HN?) some time ago, and ... one of the attractions of 'big screens' is that, for most people, that phone may be their only or primary internet access device. For me, I'm on laptops and large screens all day - I want small and conven ient and mobility in a phone, not large screens. If I want a large screen... I go to a large screen. I don't try to wrestle with getting a 7" device in to pockets to carry around with me. But people wanting 5" phones are apparently in a minority.

> But people wanting 5" phones are apparently in a minority.

Let alone 4" phones! I'm still happy with my original SE, but the nuisances are starting to add up. I really prefer TouchID to FaceID and still use my headphone jack, so there's nothing in Apple's current lineup for me.

Fingers crossed that the rumors are right about the return of TouchID and the rumors are wrong about the mini being discontinued. If they finally dump Lightning in favor of USB-C, that'd solve my headphone jack dilemma as I could just use USB-C headphones on all devices. I'm not optimistic that all of this will come together before Apple discontinues support of the original SE, though.

the headphone jack is a nuisance, certainly. I've migrated to AirPods for a lot of stuff, but miss the jack and wired headphones. I did just learn about this 'reachability' thing in iOS, where you can pull down the top half of the screen to the bottom. this makes up for some of the stretching I was needing to do, but yeah, in so many ways the SE was such a good combination of qualities - size, features, etc.

It's weird that they don't. Every time I push to the istore they review it will multiple devices.

On the web, people came up with the concept of “mobile-first”, meaning that you should first of all make sure everything can work with the smallest size, and then add whatever adjustments, improvements, extra functionality due to size, &c. for larger screens after that.

(Of course, in practice people made a hash of it (as they always do) and it often became mobile-only design, with users of larger screens getting a comically bad experience that was manifestly designed for tiny screens; but that’s not the idea of mobile-first.)

I’d say it’s generally a sound philosophy, even though at larger sizes you may desire to recompose the UI quite substantially. It’s generally easier and/or safer to design for small screens and reformat or add extras for larger screens, rather than to design for large screens and reformat or remove for smaller screens.

But people definitely regularly don’t go small enough in their idea of “mobile”. I decided some years ago that I would target 300px as my baseline width, and I feel that’s served me well. (And if convenient, I make it work past 260px.) 300px is a bit smaller than anything mainstream, and is thus pretty safe. (I haven’t often done much that needs a baseline height, but I’d use 300px and/or 450px there, considering both portrait and landscape usage as necessary or applicable.)

Something that I do that most people seem to miss is disable sticky headers below a certain height. It's super easy to do with a simple media query.

I used to use a square-screened BlackBerry 10 device, and the number of websites that didn't do this was infuriating, and I made frequent use of a "Kill Sticky" bookmarklet. But everyone runs into this issue at some point just by turning their phone to landscape mode, which most web developers evidently don't test with.

I came here to bring this up, I use a Key2 daily and have used a UniHertz Titan for a time. Many applications don't handle odd screen aspects very gracefully. (Like Instagram opting for zooming stories instead of lettering).

But sticky headers are the bane of my existence.

Without even debating the pertinence and aggressiveness of this article's title, some of these examples are just ridiculous.

Negative space is good. It's good for readability and accessibility. Nowadays, most apps are designed to be scrollable, which means that cramping as much information as possible is probably not helpful.

>There’s too much padding on the navigation bar. For me it’s too much for my small phone and big thumb.

So… You want less space to tap with your big thumb?

Google maps is about the results list, not the map.

Other comments are just straight opinions about what he likes ("too much padding there and there"). Okay? That's just prescriptive feedback and don't bring anything valuable to the conversation.

It's also interesting to see that people in this thread have many design opinions, and almost systematically someone has the opposite feeling in their replies. It's proof that design is not just following a guideline. It's about choices, trade-offs and context.

> Negative space is good

Yeah, no. There's spacing, and there's useless void - negative space is usually being the latter.

Websites becoming ridiculous on computers, because everyone keeps designing for fat greasy fingers, and this trend is absolutely horrible.

You know that a proper website is designed differently at different breakpoints right? What you see on a computer screen is not designed based on fingers taps.

Of course there are cases where it's taken too far. Not arguing that there isn't bad design out there. But again, negative space is good. It's proven better for comprehension and accessibility

You just proved his point though.

> Also, I don’t care if the statistics for small devices is less than 1%, it’s just pure respect for those users.

Thanks. This attutude of respect on the UI side is why I'm tempted by the Apple platform. Unfortunately it looks like it's not as perfect as hoped initially and there's a lot of disrespect on other ends.

Apple devices are full of dark patterns (to get you to enable "upload everything always to iCloud") and bad UX. Even super basic stuff like the alarm clock ("bedtime") has become a Rube Goldberg-esque nightmare, and good UX elements have been replaced with garbage in other places as well. For example, setting the time of an alarm requires you to drag in a 5x5 mm area for hour and minute, respectively. Not only is that a way too small area for a touch interface, but you are also not seeing what you are setting it to. Utter garbage.

Wow, just looked at the new alarm clock in 14.3; it's insane.

But even before that it had UI issues. While I had no problems with it, a friend of mine, a seasoned UI and web specialist and Apple fanboy no less, couldn't for the life of him figure out how to set a basic alarm until I hinted "you need to press 'edit alarm' at the top"; he just didn't notice that option being there.

> For example, setting the time of an alarm requires you to drag in a 5x5 mm area for hour and minute, respectively.

The numeric keypad taking up the entire bottom half of the screen is what they’re expecting you to use. Providing that is why they switched to the new design. Dragging in the time box is just for some backward consistency; it’s not the intended interaction.

Oh, I didn’t even notice the UI change because for years I’ve been exclusively setting all my alarms with (Type to) Siri. If I add the Alarm shortcut to Control Center, would this numeric keyboard be faster? I wager it’d be more reliably/accurate than Siri

The worst thing is they have a great wakeup time picker (not a generic time picker) for the "Bedtime/Wake Up" feature. That this feature, a completely separate alarm clock logic, even exists is insane.

I use it but it’s really weird that there are two disconnected alarm clocks.

And the input for timers is yet another custom UI where you can’t enter the time with a numpad.

Yes, alarms are really fiddly.

My favourite bit of alarm related UX is that the “dismiss” button for alarms and timers are in opposite places.

Boo hoo. If it bothers you you can just type in the time, the large control got replaced by an enormous keyboard.

Come on, that’s neither helpful nor kind. The controls were larger in previous OSes, and now look like they violate Apple’s own 44pt minimum size target.

I am SO happy they did that. Choosing 4 digits by scrolling two pairs was a nice looking stupidest idea from the beginning. The fact that you had to wait for animation to complete didn’t help. And if you didn’t wait and hit “save”, it silently used a former value. I was late at least once because of that. I also had few predefined alarms to not deal with that crap too often.

I know many ways to improve an old control, and I believe Apple has a pile of folks smarter than me who did the same, but someone stubbornly retained that and that is a win that they finally gave up.

The large control you are talking about was replaced by a keyboard. The small control is completely optional.

Based on the downvotes flying around here, it looks like there are a lot of people who somehow haven’t noticed the keyboard.

Maybe Apple should have actually made the new tiny time display not scrollable so people would be forced to see the keyboard?

Not only that, the screen’s super-ugly. It looks like part of some “kitchen sink” demo of UI elements.

Glad it’s not just me annoyed every time I open that and am reminded how crap it is now.

I am by myself, I have no money backing my sites, how much time spent catering to outliers do you think is reasonable?

There are what, 3 screens sizes in the iPhone lineup?

Is it really that hard to test against them? Android developers would love to have it so easy I’m sure.

What's the cutoff? If you have a single user who's running iOS 7 and you have to slow down feature development 50% to support them, do you have to do that out of respect?

You should at least support what the latest devices support, e.g. iPhone 12 mini with Display Zoom turned on and large fonts. Incidentally, that will also mostly take care of the iPhone 5/5S/SE1 screen size.


We've had this discussion on HN before and I'll make the same point, because this is very similar with responsive websites as well. All too often I see designs that don't think about odd size tablets, or (as here) phones less than 375 or 414, or whatever else.

It absolutely boggles my mind, especially when you can attribute a "this is how much these users spend" amount to it (an ecom store, for instance). Most of the time it's not much extra effort to make it work properly (or even if you remove features, just keep it tidy), and absolutely worth it it real money terms.

> It absolutely boggles my mind, especially when you can attribute a "this is how much these users spend" amount to it (an ecom store, for instance).

It also happens the other way around, they break it for odd-sized devices and then they go look at their numbers: "It's less than 1% of our revenue", WELL OF COURSE IT IS! It's broken!

EXACTLY! And for some businesses, you may never get me back to try a redesign. That can also be used as justification - "those people won't come back again anyway".

This was some of the same 'thinking' back in the 'designed for netscape / IE' wars of the late 90s. I would routinely hear that "we get more sales from IE users". And me saying "it's because we didn't test on netscape and the form submission is broken" didn't seem to register with anyone.

I actually worked with one client who 'got it', and they were very particular that we tested with all major browsers of the day - they had multiple millions of dollars riding on orders coming in every month, and even small delays meant big ramifications down the line. It was almost all Netscape/IE, but we had to deal with multiple versions, and test accordingly, which wasn't trivial because they were trying to also add new JS functionality. We had a lot of user-agent testing at that time. :)

Yeah, see that loads, very frustrating. "Desktop CVR is double that of a tablet, so we don't bother with tablets..."

> Most of the time it's not much extra effort to make it work properly

I strongly disagree - with smaller devices you might be talking about an entirely different layout, and maybe a separate set of assets. More time for designers, more time for developers, and a whole category of tests for QA to verify during regression tests. You're talking about widening the entire development pipeline.

Most people on HN think UIs should be autogenerated from backend code and that peak UI was Windows 95. Anyone worth their salt doing some real UI work knows how difficult it is to accommodate every arbitrary resolution and aspect ratio.

To reply to you both - I'm specifically talking about the web. I have no experience building apps, so can't comment there. But for the web, I'm absolutely happy to argue it's not that much more effort.

Whether it's the web or an "app," it should work sensibly at any reasonable resolution. It doesn't have to look good, or look like the pixel-perfect, happy-path Photoshop mocks the UX designer made, but it should function. Desktop developers have been doing at least an OK job of this for decades.

Yet here we are, where it's a struggle to find an app that even sensibly supports landscape mode, or supports a user-configured font size.

Arguably most of the examples given in the post "work sensibly". They have some aesthetic issues but they should function

Developers that think we should support the iPhone 3 just to be nice have not worked on enterprise-level apps. They underestimate the cost of the things you describe--design, QA, support, etc. It's more than a media query.

I'm an iOS developer. The problem is multifaceted. Designers have completely disregarded these devices. They design for the latest and greatest in Figma and when we implement their design and eventually run it on an iPhone SE of course everything is super crammed, labels overflow into each other, you can't see some text, things just generally look bad, etc... etc...

Our UI code has multiple ifs at this point where we have handle smaller screens explicitly.

As iOS developers stuck into this position we have grown to despise having to deal with smaller screens. It just feels like we can't win.

This is not a mobile device problem or an iOS problem. This is a competence problem with your designers. The role of a UX designer is not to produce a portrait-only, default-font-size-only pixel-perfect picture on three popular phone screen sizes, and throw it over the fence for developers to develop and not ask questions. Designers must ask, what if the user prefers landscape mode? What if their fonts need to be larger for accessibility reasons? What if they are on an odd sized phone, or even one we haven't even seen yet?


It is just mediocre design.

This is not true. We still use my iPhone SE with a 4" screen as the primary testing device for our iOS app - https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/vendi-buy-sell-verified-phones...

There are many advantages to it. If it looks good on the SE, we can be reasonably sure it will look good on everything else (though this was affected by the introduction of the notch). Also, flagship iPhones can easily handle badly designed apps but my phone will show lag and artifacts while scrolling through an infinite scrolling screen.

Just upgraded from SE to 12 mini, but was hitting issues with testing a web app on my SE. I'd also kept it on ios 12, and all new 'large' devices were auto upgraded to iOS 14... hilarity ensued. We hit weird bugs that only showed up on iOS 14.

But... in general, yeah, the size/space/perf issues are more easily spotted on a device like an SE. I re-optimized some JS - reduced memory, speed improvements - was far more noticeable on the SE than the newer flagship devices.

Not true for you, true in general - “nobody” being just hyperbole.

My font size is set to a fairly large size.

For many apps, I have no idea what to click on because no one follows the autolayout.

Some (see Evernote) are so bad that I can’t even click the sign in button because the touch target seems to be on the text and the button only shows 2 letters.

¿Should I be outraged? So it goes...

A peeve of mine is the constant need to throw popups when you’ve just installed an app. “Want notifications? Please like us! Follow us on X” and the list goes on... Whatever happened to “don’t stop the proceedings” for user friendliness? If your app behaves like it has attachment issues, I don’t want it.

This isn't new. Back in 1992 you had two choices for DPI in Windows 3.1 but many applications couldn't cope with the larger setting.

I used it anyway because 1024x768 on a 14" CRT was unreadable with regular fonts.

iPhone and Android. So many apps have text they don't fit within their colored backgrounds, and overflow or get cut off.

This feels... silly.

Many of the examples have nothing to do with screen size (e.g. cutting off the bottom of letters or "so much white space"), or are intended ("Dang I can barely see the map" -- well yeah that's because the primary data is the list of results). Many other comments here are listing that many of the supposed issues are the same on large screens too.

I used the original SE and then upgraded to the SE2 and none of this has been any kind of problem.

In fact, almost all of these are great examples of responsive design. Even if you have to scroll a little or some ellipses are shown... they seem to all work.

If this is the worst the author can find of small screens not working... then they seem to have proved the opposite point, that small screens are actually working great.

Here on HN, the username/score/logout links are triple stacked in the upper right and I’ve accidentally hit logout more times than I can count. iPhone 12 mini

I always tap the poster’s name when up- or down-voting a comment on my iPhone XR. HN’s UI in general is not great for phones (though at least it is simple and effective, which is great).

I think that depends on your score. I’m on the 12 mini as well and those links are spread over two lines for me.

Unintentional privilege-based UI ergonomics

Problem is, they have one more digit in their karma than you...

A lot of these aren't "small screen" problems, just bad/hacky coding, not doing things like apple recommends or not handling some edge cases, so they're simply just bugs.

Clubhouse - maybe it's an issue that the UI on the right isn't disappearing completely, but maybe that's by design. Anyway, nothing is clipped/truncated

Spotify - the "now plating" bar's height isn't added to the scrollview's content inset. Not a small screen issue since it's on the vertical axis and content is scrollable.

Globe Telecom - yes, this could count as one (with the tabbar).

CloudMd - that's just probably hardcoding the status bar's height, nothing is truncated/out of view.

Foodpanda - that side menu is actually scrollable. y letter is cut off, ok. Nothing you can't access.

Google Maps - this is a design decision, same ratio of map/list height on my iPhone XS. You can either view the map or the list in full screen

Headspace - navigation/status bar issue, just bad coding local bank - yes, this counts as well

Lalamove - yes, 2 textfields are too much

Shortcuts - scroll up?

I do agree that small screen devices aren't getting enough focus on this regard.

edit: formatting

That was the case when I owned iPhone 4S. I think that around iOS 9 it was poorly usable partially because developers ignored its dimensions.

That's a pity. I still think that 3.5" is the best smartphone size and I would pay good money to buy modern smartphone with good internals. But it does not make sense, even if some Android manufacturer would create it, apps and websites will ruin it.

> I still think that 3.5" is the best smartphone size

There were two phones I owned which I loved from every possible perspective: an Ericsson T29s[^1], and the HTC Desire[^2]. This latter had a 3.7" screen, physical buttons, and an optical tracball, and it was glorious as a phone. Oh, and it actually fit in a hand, or a pocket.

Everything else I had since then - Nexus 4, Galaxy S4, Nomu S10, Moto E5 - are all way too big, but nobody seems to be doing any decent phones ~4" any more, which is a shame.

Current "phones" used to be called phablets in 2012.

[^1]: https://www.gsmarena.com/ericsson_t29s-225.php

[^2]: https://www.gsmarena.com/htc_desire-3077.php

There's the new Palm phone[0], which is absolutely perfect in every way except for the fact that it runs Android. I would give anything for an iOS phone like this.

[0] https://palm.com/pages/product

Thanks, that's really interesting product!

> Well, if you’ve been rocking the iPhone SE 2020 you would know

If you’ve been rocking the original SE you’d know even better. Such a shame, it’s the best size phone I’ve had.

>"Such a shame, it’s the best size phone I’ve had."

Likewise. It seems we will never see a comparable size flagship ever again though. I bought two new sealed box original SE's on eBay last year when they announced that the new SE would be larger, in the hopes they will last me for a while. I literally cannot imagine ever wanting another phone. It's without a doubt the best product Apple has ever designed.

Have you tried the new Mini? I switched from the Pro and love it.

I have, and it is noticeably heavier and less “thumbable” than the SE1 (and the screen scratches much more easily). The mini size is better than the 6/SE2, plus the return to flat edges, but it’s still a compromise in usability compared to the 5/SE1.

Amen. I'm sticking with my 12 mini for now, but just left the original SE. they're close in size, but more screen means more reaching/stretching for my small hands. SE2 was bigger, but because the screen is smaller, I'm wondering if that may have been the better option? I miss the Touch ID too..

I had an iPhone 6 (same size as SE2) for a year after the 5, and then reverted to the SE1 because the 6 was just too slippery with its round edges, and just a tad bit too wide to grip it naturally, and I had to use the Reachability feature quite often. So while it may work for you, I can’t personally recommend it over the 12 mini.

I'd meant I considered an SE2, but didn't get it, because of the physical size.

I haven't yet, mine is still pretty fine. But I'll buy it when this one eventually dies or is not supported anymore.

I do.

Habit shapes creation.

I use an SE and naturally design & build for it. (Plug: https://mro.name/ShaarliOS)

But when a former 500K ipa (objc) becomes a ~70MB upload (swift) that makes >300MB traffic submitting, you clearly know the culture behind it is not sustainable and has no future.

Apple doesn't care about the low end. Not in developer tools, not in OS (weekly big sur updates in the GBs) and so that's what designers get used to. Apple sells hardware. Software and services is the bait.

Those who do care are a few opinionated geeks. Not the mainstream, not where the money is.

> you clearly know the culture behind it is not sustainable and has no future.

It's not a culture shift, it's a technology shift. Systemwide shared-libraries are going away because they involve all-manner of versioning difficulties (DLL-Hell, etc). Simultaneously, computers have enough physical memory such that processes don't need to share libraries in-memory to keep usage low, and the security advantages of single-upgrades to shared libraries are wiped-out by programs breaking due to unexpected changes in their dependencies, and writing software is now accepted as a treadmill: ship regular updates (monthly? weekly?) where the only change is updating to the latest dependencies and ensuring tests pass - these 3 things combined lead to portable, self-contained software that can run on minimal platforms. Other examples include Go's single-executable statically-linked compilation. And so on.

But this is progress. I do expect eventually we'll have entirely dependency-free software where every redistributable is effectively its own self-contained computer system (basically, a VM): that has tremendous implications for long-term application support. Apple (rightfully) gets a LOT of stick for their lack of backwards-compatibility support, but if all software for Apple's platforms eventually becomes more like a VM image then we'll be able to run those VM images on Apple's future phones - and even non-Apple phones - and non-phones, decades from now - which is a refreshing change from where we are today where we can't even run games from only 2-3 years ago.

I'm a big fan of static builds. But cannot understand how a 15MB test IPA becomes a 70MB production IPA and takes 300MB to upload.

That's IMO software explosion and bloat as Niklaus Wirth ranted on decades ago.

I'm guessing you're using SwiftUI? When you do that, it bundles the entire Swift UI library, including all the parts you're not using, in your package - I think that's because they support runtime-defined UIs which means your app might use currently-unused Swift UI components in future...

I assume you've also seen this article? https://developer.apple.com/documentation/xcode/reducing_you...

No SwiftUI, backwards compatible to iOS 9.0, check the source if interested https://github.com/mro/ShaarliOS

Thanks for the link, I doubt it applies.

Is iPhone 12 mini considered small? I rock it and i can't seem to share the annoyances that the author mentions.

Because the mini has the same amount of pt’s as the iPhone X. Take a good look: everything’s smaller.

I sometimes see stuff like this on my 12 mini. Ridiculous. Almost always it’s a website though.

Seeing a lot of issues here that would also be violations of WCAG guidelines, and thus be something you could bring an ADA accessibility suit against the companies over.



For all of your web projects...

90+ score in Lighthouse is a good bar to aim for.

And look for any errors in Wave or Axe -- these should be part of your requirements (starting with requirements to the design team around contrast and colors they can use, as well as requirements to the devs), and part of your QA process. Call out issues you see. Compliance with WCAG (2.1, AA for most businesses https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21) is the de facto law of the land.



I'm no fan of ADA ambulance chasers, but if they start going after mobile and web ‘designers’ my schadenfreude will be unermesslich.

> my schadenfreude will be unermesslich

My new favorite set of words.

I use an iPhone 8 (more or less the same as the SE 2020) and I don't find this bugs often, but they are definitely there.

Regarding web design, I always set the iPhone 5/SE view as the baseline. I think it's a lot easier to go from there to a bigger device than the other way around. Also, the worst that can happen is that there's some empty spaces on the sides or some card gets wide. However, when you start from a big device and then try to fit the UI to smaller ones it's a lot harder.

Another problem is the rendering engines. I once had to help a friend with a problem that was only happening in my iPhone, but when I used Chrome (in my laptop) with the mobile view it worked ok. I could then reproduce the bug using Safari (in my laptop) with the mobile view active, so I guess it was because of the small size + rendering engine. Those things are also hard to debug and catch.

Wow, lots of assumptions or designer blaming in this thread. Not that it is unexpected, but it still hurts since it is not as black and white as people here draw it to be. Let me give you my perspective as a designer who spent quite a lot of time on this topic.

1. The fact that some designers ignore other devices than their own is definitely true. That is why I created a Figma plugin to broaden the perspective. https://www.figma.com/community/plugin/732240841094697441/Vi... But developers do the very same thing and as often as designers. Just further down the pipeline.

2. Not supporting the smallest possible devices like the original SE is a reasonable business decision. It is not even making it into the charts at all the products I'm currently working on. It is simply not worth the effort (since the effort is not as insignificant as people here say).

3. Supporting the smallest devices is definitely not free. And it has a real monetary, technological and UX cost. It costs a lot of money to properly test, report, design, and implement every possible edge case for every possible viewports. Developers HATE creating special layouts or cases for specific devices (speaking about native mobile development) and if I recall correctly, Apple might even prohibit it. And lastly, design is about making the best possible solution, for the biggest amount of people. Quite often you will find yourself in a situation where you have to decide whether you will vastly improve the experience for the 99% of people and make the experience not ideal for the 1% or vice versa. Which is the better call?

4. Blaming it all on designers is just too harsh. Yes, not everyone is perfect, and designers often miss it, but more often than not it is a simple business decisions. Designers can decide to ditch a certain viewport because it can benefit the majority, the same way developers decide to drop certain OS support.

Not supporting people jumping to bad conclusions or being toxic, but it's worth pointing out the author said this is the 2020 SE. Which is to say the body of an iPhone 8, not a 5. Which is to say roughly the same size as all iPhones before the X (and larger than the brand-new Mini!). That's not <1% of iPhone users, especially considering how long iPhones last. My parents are still doing fine with their 6Ses.

Edit: I was wrong about the mini being smaller; it's somewhat larger than the 8/SE

> Which is to say roughly the same size as all iPhones before the X (and larger than the brand-new Mini!)

This isn’t about physical size, though; it’s about screen resolution and aspect ratio.

> iPhone 12 mini: 2340×1080 @ 476dpi

> iPhone SE 2020: 1334×750 @ 326dpi

Yes, the 12 mini’s screen is 5.4” while the SE’s screen is 4.7”, but if the SE had the 12 mini’s DPI, it’d have a workable, modern-ish resolution. (Note how the OP never complained about how these apps look on the 12 mini. They look fine on the 12 mini.) The SE 2020 only ended up at the “outdated” resolution of 750p because its pixel density didn’t keep up with the times; not because it’s small per se.

It’s not really useful to talk about DPI/PPI of the screen in an iPhone. The 12 mini uses 3x scaling, the new SE uses 2x. According to [0], the logical resolution is 360 × 780 for the 12 mini and 375 × 667 for the SE. Sometimes, Apple used tricks such as running the OS at 3x and then downscaling it a little [1]. That said, since the SE is meant to be a hardware upgrade with the old size/form factor, some users would not be happy seeing smaller text on the new phone (compared to their old iPhone 6/7/8).

[0] https://iosref.com/res [1] https://www.paintcodeapp.com/news/iphone-6-screens-demystifi...

My mistake; I made the assumption the Mini would be smaller

Still, the point remains that lots of people are rocking an iPhone older than the XS (the 9 came out at the same time as the X) and would have these same problems

You're correct; I myself still have an iPhone 8. But I tend to think of problems I experience on my iPhone 8 as "being gradually left behind by an ecosystem that has moved on", rather than as "not being supported." (Like how it feels to try to use Windows 8.1 in 2021. It’s not technically End-of-Life’d... but do third-party devs even mention it on download-page compatibility lists any more?)

With an iPhone 8, I know I'm the one "at fault" at this point for sticking with this device, stuck on the wrong side of an inflection point in screen size/resolution from the introduction of "edge" displays all across the ecosystem. I might expect Apple themselves to tune their first-party apps for my device for as long as they claim to support it; but I don’t expect App Store devs to do so. They’re shipping cross-platform designs on a tight schedule, for screens that are almost-exclusively twice as large and high-resolution as mine.

The iPhone SE case is more concerning, because it's still for sale at the Apple Store. This means Apple is claiming it's fit-for-purpose for at least some use-cases. (Maybe that claim doesn't extend to "running apps from the App Store", though.)

I feel like, at this point, the SE is almost the same as the iPod Touch—it's not a thing you get to take advantage of the Apple app ecosystem; it's more a thing you get to either use Apple's first-party apps for basic use-cases, or because it's a very cheap automated development smoke-test deploy target (roughly the iOS equivalent of a Mac Mini.)

The iPhone SE 2020 and the iPhone 8 have the exact same screens. So it’s not your fault, it’s the lazy developers’ who can’t be bothered to sit down with the Simulator, click through the app, and fix at least the most basic glitches.

> The iPhone SE case is more concerning, because it's still for sale at the Apple Store. This means Apple is claiming it's fit-for-purpose for at least some use-cases. (Maybe that claim doesn't extend to "running apps from the App Store", though.)

Nah, Apple’s marketing copy [0] says:

> We put the brains of iPhone 11 Pro in the body of iPhone SE. Our A13 Bionic chip is built for speed. So everything feels fluid, whether you’re launching apps, playing the latest games, or exploring new ways to work and play with augmented reality.

(Also, a smartphone without third-party apps is quite useless for most users.)

[0]: https://www.apple.com/iphone-se/

I know that the author is speaking about SE 2020, but the issues listed in the article (at least some of them) to me seemed like bugs rather then deliberate design decisions.

But I completely agree that the iPhone 6. 7, 8, SE viewport should serve as the baseline for most, since the market share is quite significant (it takes the third spot worldwide).

Apple isn't checking apps anymore. They used to be pretty anal about many things. Unfortunately, even their own apps aren't checked completely anymore

Switching the language to German also has interesting effects.

For Clubhouse app, it seems deliberate tho'. It looks cut-off on my iPhone 11 Pro too.

Yep, this is definitely an intentional design decision, it renders that way on all iPhones

The same problem exists on Android. I chose one size larger system font because I like to be able to read the screen with my glasses off and safely read the screen while I am driving.

The result is UI regularly covered by the keyboard. Text clipping and text overflows. The tiny map problem mentioned in the article.

As much as I want a smaller phone I fear that it would be unusable with the default UI and certainly if I chose to use increased text size.

Now you can imagine my pain as someone who is visually impaired and who had to increase all the sizes to the max to be able to read anything....

I can understand Clubhouse. They don't care about people with old small phones--they're not influencers.

But banks, drug stores, and things like Spotify should be paying attention to these things. Many businesses may out-source app development to people who just don't care about anything but "meeting the spec" but Spotify should know better.

Really surprised this isn't caught in the App Store review process. Seems like a very low quality bar to aim for.

The only thing the review process is good for nowadays is to randomly ban apps by mistake, and make sure you're not taking payments without giving Apple their cut.

The walled garden has for a long time failed to actually keep the quality up.

I blame the CSS spec for not giving us responsive text sizes. It’s 2021, the Internet was literally built on text, and we still can’t have text that automatically grows and shrinks based on the size of its parent. We can go to Mars, but we can’t have responsive text. Blows my mind.

1Password on my original iPhone SE is a train wreck.

It often doesn't show the button to enable biometric unlock, so I'm constantly having to type the full password

I bet some developers do, the ones who care about quality and user experience.

It's so counter-intuitive and ironic that the biggest applications with the biggest headcounts in their small percentage userbases spend the least amount of effort trying to accomodate them.

If you think this is bad, try the first iPhone SE.

I'm still using the iPhone SE (2016) as my daily driver. I find overall it's fine, only occasionally does a button get cut off by the screen size with no recourse.

I’ve been confused by the “share” window where the screen dimensions cut content off perfectly, and there is no scroll indicator, so you don’t realize there’s more to the UI.

GDPR "consent" popups are sometimes not usable on the first gen SE, because some of them position: absolute with a fixed size that's larger than the screen. Coincidentally, the "Accept all" button is always reachable, with the "Settings" or "Deny most" button conveniently located below the unreachable fold.

I just read most stuff on Firefox Reader mode. No way to click those popupas cleanly on my phone.

Or Facebook photo preview where it cuts off the bottom until you open it to full, and no indicator it’s cut off except your own experience with crappy cutoffs. That often changes the meaning of pictures/memes.

Just a few times a button has been unreachable because of this.

Hasn’t happened with the iPhone 12 mini yet, but, it is a markedly larger phone with a significantly larger screen.

Same here, my iPhone SE (2016) is still going strong and I can't remember the last time I stumbled upon an app that gave me enough sizing issues to become frustrating. What I would've given for the 2020 SE to be the same size as the 2016, being able to do everything on my phone one-handed is such a nice perk.

In the first example (Clubhouse), it's a deliberate design decision to show the edge of the cards on the left as an affordance that you can swipe to get back to the main content.

The Google Maps example is probably because most people want to see the list of results when you search for a category of businesses - the map is secondary. If you do want to see more map, you can just pull down on that handle at the top of the list or press the "View Larger Map" button.

Many of the other examples seem somewhat nitpicky, so I don't really think this supports the argument that nobody is designing for small devices.

I was using my computer on a ~50in TV and sites were showing me their mobile version... there's a lot broken (it was not that low of a resolution).

Maybe the real question should be, why is software broken so badly?

I find it strange that these big companies aren't testing across a broad range of devices. I'm a solo freelancer, but the last app I built for a client, I actually went out and bought an iPhone SE, because that was the minimum spec.

Granted I don't load it onto that phone often, but I checked that it worked as expected, and the layout behaved reasonably.

An iPhone SE (not 2020) will set you back less than $100.

Anything that teenagers use (e.g. Spotify) you have to assume it'll be run across all kinds of budget devices.

It's not just small screens. If you enable "Zoom", the aspect ratio changes, and most apps don't handle that properly. Same with following the global text-size settings

For me it was Google Maps on my iPhone SE, but that was several years ago. The great GUI design for the display size is what made the classic iPhone size work. Essentially Apple decided to allow apps to be published that were terrible on smaller devices and I realized those horses weren't going to get back into the barn.

So I switched to a Samsung Flip, and I've learned that a device that has a large display and fits in my pocket is a reasonable compromise. Now they just need to be a reasonable price.

The main reason I had to get a new phone was because of apps not scaling correctly. And website visible areas being severely reduced due to ads and cookie notices etc...

I used an iPhone SE 2016 until recently and I never really ran into situations where an app was unusable because of this. Also a lot of these design mistakes could be described as “reinventing UINavigationBar or UITabBar, crappy”.

One thing that really annoyed me was doing an accidental shake gesture while typing something. The blocking Undo dialog’s buttons are covered by the keyboard and you cannot do anything but restart the app.

I'm humbled by the effort required to create good UI that works well everywhere. That is why I decided to use stock bootstrap with minimal changes. The designer tried to customize it (causing flaws on certain screen sizes). I had them roll it all back to strict use of bootstrap classes. I'm okay with the limitations imposed. Atleast it is functional everywhere.

... and i don't view the second iphone se as small even.

I have people in my family rocking the original iphone se because THAT is small enough for them.

That Clubhouse UI is the way it is generally. It is that way on my iPhone 8+ anyway.

Best to check your hypotheses before writing them down as facts.

Wait this is the 2020 SE? I.e. an iPhone 8, not even the older one? I'm even more surprised because the Mini exists now as a first-class citizen. Apple has historically been good about making sure all approved apps provide a good experience on all the devices that they should; I wonder why they've dropped the ball on this one

Try using apps with iPhone SE in German language. It’s rare occasion to be able to see a label fully displayed in the ui

I get frustrated on my iPhone SE by apps that have me fill in a field but then no “done” button to close the keyboard. Between the keyboard and the app’s overly large heading, there’s barely any space to click anything else to close the keyboard without triggering something else. Cronometer is bad for this.

The real problem is that designers usually focus on a single device without considering any other screen size

This is in part because it's assumed that everyone will get the cool new model once it's out and, in particular with iPhones, there's a marketing push to acquire newer models, lest yours feels outdated or stops being supported by the company.

Unfortunately, that includes Apple's own apps on 6s/7/8 iPhones. For example, the new [double-swipes right] "app library" or "app mediathek" or what it's called in your language overflows into the bottom. Or in iMessage, the context menu on a photo.

No one designs for IE6 anymore either. If it costs a lot more to support a platform that doesn't bring in money, it would be a terrible business decision.

"This is losing is a LOT of money, but it would be a nice thing to do" is not realistic.

The iPhone SE 2020 is hardly comparable to IE6.

With all of the annoyances that Safari ios provides, I genuinely consider it the spiritual successor to IE.

My favorite so far is my banking app asking a security question, with it being in a single-line field that truncates right at where it asks what information to provide.

In fact, I think I'll upload it somewhere for this author to add to the list.

I was considering upgrading to an iPhone 12 mini. Does it have these issues too?

It does but a lot less. Go for it, it’s a great phone.


Gosh, if only there was some kind of curated App Store run by Apple which only sold apps which had been reviewed and vetted by human beings who could check for this kind of thing.

Since many comments here says how Apple's own apps have the same problems, that wouldn't do any difference even if the app store was actually curated for quality and not control.

I do all of my iOS development on an iPhone SE simulator. No, not the iPhone SE 2020, the original one.

Scaling designs up to an X class device is much easier than trying to scale down.

There's too many devices and screens/orientations to handle. It's a hassle.

Mobile-first was an approach to fix this but pragmatism usually dictates otherwise.

Some are clearly mistakes from the builders, others are features. Come on stop bitching around and pick up some real apps.

I start design at iPhone 5 (320px wide in portrait orientation). However, it will often work down to 300px or less.

To take the opposite tack.

If it is really only 1% of the people with iphones that you are messing up... that is a gamble I would take.

This app will look good for 99% of the wallets who own this phone, the other 1% of the wallets have the cheap phone. By having the smaller device it implies (no matter if this is true or not) your spend will/could be less.

To me IOS is such a closed inbred ecosystem apps SHOULD look good on all of the devices.

iPhone 7, iPhone 8, iPhone SE 2020 all share the same screen size and resolution - so isn't this a problem on those other devices as well?

And for that matter so do iPhone 6 and 6S, which are still current as of iOS 14.

iPhone 7 and up are still going to support iOS 15, so these devices will be with us for a while.

How do these apps get by Apple's highly regarded, industry leading, 30% worthy, approval process?

The author made the wrong conclusion.

Most of these are either by design or just UI bugs or poor design.

The more I study UI systems the more I like Win95.

It’s particularly painful in the EU and with a 2016 iPhone SE like me. I’ve come across too many GDPR dialogs where it’s impossible to click any of the buttons.

Why would you? There are a tiny share of small screen size phones out there, and often you need a substantially different design for a small screen. Basically you are doubling the layout effort on your designers and app developers (or let's say 1.3 times modifier at least), and those designs have to be maintained as well.

The alternative is to really have a "one size fits all" design, but this will likely mean making compromises on larger screens.

Mobile development is expensive, and there's already enough to deal with to support backwards compatibility, and localization. It's just not economical to support small phones which almost nobody is using.

Everybody fits into a 1%.

Why design for vision, hearing, motor, cognitive impairments, older browsers, feature phones, 2g connections, motion sensitivity, unusual input devices, smart watches, tvs, game consoles, low-powered devices, languages other than English?

I don't mean to sound harsh, but I'm very tired of hearing this argument. It's not that hard to accomodate people, especially on Apple devices, they give you all the tools to do this.

Don't be shocked if X group is a small fraction of your users if your design has made it clear they're not welcome.

Maybe they aren't worth my time. What if I am running a bootstrapped startup, and supporting small screens is the difference between being able to out-compete my competitors on features or not? Just because these tools exist does not make it zero effort.

It's a very entitled view to assume that every product has a duty to accommodate you. Yes it feels bad to be left out of something, but that doesn't mean it's owed to you.

I'm talking from the perspective of the developers. It's not that difficult to accomodate people. Following principles on progressive enhancement is actually easier than not doing it.

If you're looking for a way to out-compete your competitors, how about making an app that works for the people they've left out?

> If you're looking for a way to out-compete your competitors, how about making an app that works for the people they've left out?

You're free to run this experiment, but my guess is that it will not be a meaningful differentiating factor

That experiment has been run and it’s a major success, it’s the iPhone.


1%s talk to other 1%s

Important note: the author is actually talking about the 2020 iPhone SE. There has got to be tons of those + iPhone 8/7/6S’s still in use.

Ok I missed that detail - I think it's reasonable to support iOS8 size screens given the market share. But the logic holds with iPhone 5 and below size screens for example.


pride in worksmanship, perhaps...

because 1% is still quite a few users for whom the experience sucks...

or perhaps just plain old empathy...

because not every customer can just replace their device...

or... i dunno... just avoiding someone posting embarrassing screenshots of one's app looking like shit on hacker news?

And then you make it suck for everyone else.

Mobile first often made the experience suck for desktops.

Tiny screen first just makes the experience suck for everyone.

The author says: Also, I don’t care if the statistics for small devices is less than 1%, it’s just pure respect for those users.

But that's a false dichotomy.

> Tiny screen first just makes the experience suck for everyone.

No it doesn’t. iOS’s UI toolkit has numerous tools to allow a design to adapt to screen size. There’s no reason an adjustment for a smaller screen would have any effect on a larger one.

I'm quite sure all the screenshots in the article are the result of adaptive designs being broken due to edge cases. Constraint-based adaptive designs are great, but they have their limits. Unless you have a very simple design it is not going to work on every form factor.

> Mobile first often made the experience suck for desktops.

I’d have to argue that poor design work in general is the cause for this. “Mobile first” never meant to neglect the desktop experience - designers who do that are just poor designers to begin with.

>And then you make it suck for everyone else.

In Russian, there is a saying: To a poor dancer, their own butt gets in the way...

none of these reasons negate the cost of implementing layouts for _literally every device on the planet_. it's not practical, nor do the bean counters really care because the loss in revenue is very much less than the cost of implementation.

How does any of that make money?

I don't recall claiming that it does...

Although I would think that this type of experience would steer one away from using the software or recommending it, this eventually reducing the revenue.

But more importantly, it would weigh on my conscience as a developer and reduce the quality of my sleep, which to me is more important than money by a long shot.

Wasn't that the original value proposution of the Apple products under Jobs? That the overall craftsmanship was high and they just didn't feel crappy like their competitors'?

it certainly seemed that way to me at the time... i miss ios 3.

When iOS3 was a thing, there was exactly one screen size to support at one resolution, and when you went to the home screen the app closed so you could count on a predictable state every time the app opened. We used to measure design elements in number of pixels back then. It was a much simpler time.

> someone posting embarrassing screenshots of one's app looking like shit on hacker news

The horror!

My mom will for sure delete her local bank’s app if she sees the post showing that the padding is a few pixels off on a phone she doesn’t own.

I don't know about you, but I would be ashamed if something I wrote showed up in this article...

There are more readers of hacker news besides your mom.

> Basically you are doubling the layout effort on your designers and app developers (or let's say 1.3 times modifier at least), and those designs have to be maintained as well.

Judging by the screenshots in the article this really isn’t true. Devs just need to bother to test with these small devices, they’d see the padding and offset issues immediately and it would be an easy fix.

Most of the time, just using the OS-provided controls would save these problems before they even happen.

Y’all are getting multiple test devices?

You can’t use simulators?

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