The author makes this statement: "...that focus on instruction...has become something of a burden. iOS is pinned down by its early interface decisions..." and doesn't offer one example to back up the claim.
We've heard the 'Apple design is too skeuomorphic' for years now and I just don't see how writing another generic article about it is noteworthy enough to make it the top of HN.
Yet, here I am commenting on it.
EDIT: And another thing! If Apple changed their design philosophy to a less skeuomorphic, more trendy, metro, flat style they would simply be accused of copying Google and Microsoft. Lose, lose.
Here's a speculative opinion of my own that goes against well-established facts as presented in this article: Apple does skeumorphic because Steve Jobs liked it. And when given a choice between designs, he favored the more skeumorphic ones. Designers noticed this and went into that direction. The design community, being overwhelmingly Apple fans, but also liking the flat trend, needed to create a narrative for when Apple was behind the times in design, hence this article.
Even in computer GUI design we from the early OSX, XP Luna, candyland overdose to the extremely understated ICS and Windows 8 2D rectangles. I'm not a far of the flat trend but I'm not that hung up on skeumorphisms either. And I still don't understand how Mathias Duarte went from the truly, awesome interface in WebOS to this bland design in Holo. Put them next to each other and you wonder if he was just phoning it in when he got to Google.
Now this is some historical revisionism. Palm's "heyday" was the late 1990s through the early 2000s. Computers were already extremely ubiquitous at that time. Laptops weren't quite as common, but the dream of "a computer on every desk and in every home" had long-since been achieved in developed nations.
> the Palm Pilot and its successors were a massive hit.
Relative to what came before it, but not what came after. Palm's PDAs were very much still a niche market when smartphones came along and made them irrelevant. In 2003-2004, PDAs (across all brands) sold about 2.6 million units. This was probably the peak, but I can't confirm that. Three years later the iPhone launched and Apple sold 6.1 million units of the 1st generation. Just last quarter they sold 47.8 million iPhones.
> It's a clear case of revisionist history to say that the iPhone is the "first comprehensively successful attempt to create a mass-market, consumer-friendly, always-on, pocketable touch screen computer".
No, it's clear that the iPhone's sales absolutely dwarf those of Palm. Relatively speaking, Palm was not a "successful attempt to create a mass-market ... touch screen computer". Even current BlackBerry sales absolutely dwarf Palm's best-ever sales rates.
The camera UI, for example, has been updated in iOS 6. Holdovers from years ago might include the UINavigationBars and the status bar but they've also been subtly updated and themselves don't seem too outdated. Any good examples?
I didn't intend this to be a comprehensive argument, just wanted to draw some connection between the environment that iOS launched into and (what feels like) a lot of recent criticism of its design and behavior. Not specifically skuemorphism (which I realize isn't really worth debating in a vacuum, maybe I shouldn't even have used that word), but just instructive design in general (single-screen apps, limits on configurability, etc). Anything that can be seen as prioritizing teaching the user through interface decisions.
And, I completely agree that the market for new smartphone users is still huge. Point being that iOS now has to manage that market alongside the market for existing smartphones users (which it help create/grow).
That said, probably should have included some specific examples of what I was talking about.
Lack of intents is also a serious problem, apps have to specifically support sharing to each source.
A related issue is the lack of system accounts. One has to log in to each app separately, even if many of them use the same account.
I have witnessed this confusion with users, and it really hurts the platform in a lot of cases, IMO.
I can select one to be the default "always", but this doesn't work well either. If there are five applications that can receive a particular intent, my selection of "always" will be lost every single time that ANY of those five applications are updated. So, in practice, my "Always" selection typically only lasts a couple of weeks.
There HAS to be a better way.
Intent intent = new Intent(Intent.ACTION_VIEW);
Would open the adobe pdf reader for instance.
That said this is hardly desirable from a users perspective.
Both 1) and 2) are pretty OK in my opinion.
There may be a growing anti-skeumorphic trend on the Internet, but I could reasonably imagine most iPhone users either being okay with skeumorphism, or frankly, not caring at all.
iOS remaining large problems (no 'services', no way to change defaults, awkward inter-app workflows) are unrelated to 'teachability' of the core interface, as they're almost all concerns that only crop up for power-users or normal users who are months or years into their new device.
And they're solvable even if Apple clings to the big candy-like buttons, no widgets, skeumorphic app design, etc. So that bit is neither here nor there.
For example, on iOS the dialer is fine, the podcast app sucks.