Just say no to pizzazz

There’s an ongoing argument that because iOS is now the oldest mobile operating system, Apple needs to jazz it up a bit. Writing for ZDNet, James Kendrick encapsulates it:

Apple’s iOS home screens are looking a bit dated. This occurred to me as I put down my iPhone and picked up the iPad mini. The home screen is certainly clean and functions well but it looks much the same as it has for years. It desperately needs some pizzazz to modernize the interface.

(Via @Lessien who says “Change for change sake.”)

My reaction is the opposite of Kendrick’s. “The home screen is certainly clean and functions well.” Full stop. Would I like more information when I turn my iPad on? Maybe. But it depends on the costs associated with providing that information.

The picture Kendrick posts of an Android tablet screen doesn’t do his argument any favors. It looks like a desktop operating system. It’s a mess. As Rene Ritchie points out, trying to shove a more desktop-style user experience down mobile customers’ throats isn’t the solution.

The added complexity is actually off-putting, intimidating, confusing, or otherwise unwelcome on the even more personal post-PC.

This was my reaction to my Nexus 7 the moment I turned it on. Who threw up screen elements on my new tablet? The device itself was fine, but the interface was overly complicated and configured to suit Google’s needs, not mine. The first thing I had to do was rearrange interface elements to clean it up and get Google Play out of my face. Basically, I made it more iOS-like. Now, does that display my personal biases? Sure. But I believe my biases are toward simpler, not “Apple”.

If Apple does decide to take cues from someone to provide more user feedback, I hope it’s Microsoft instead of Google. I know some find the updating tiles distracting, but to me the Interface Formerly Known As Metro is attractive and provides more functionality without additional complexity. I can do without the different sized tiles, but being able to know what the weather is going to be without opening the weather app would be useful (these should ship in the “off” position, however). I’m not arguing that Apple should copy Microsoft. They’re probably capable of coming up with a better way to improve the interface. But I would much rather interact with the Metro solution than the Android solution.

I don’t know anything about how providing these updates to the home screen affects battery life and performance. It seems like on iOS it could be handled in the same way notifications work, but Apple considers these issues far more carefully, it seems, than its competitors. And to Kendrick I would say that pizzazz is a crappy thing to get in exchange for battery life.

It’s not that I think iOS is perfect the way it is, but there are a lot of good reasons why iOS is the way it is. Simplicity is a design goal and an important one.