This week for my topic I have chosen Apple’s iOS 7 as an example of great usability. The iPhone is really the only Apple product that I wish to own. I don’t own a tablet, and as far as desktops/laptops go, I am a Windows or Linux person. However, when it comes to my smartphone, why am I an Apple fan? For a simple reason- iOS is very fast and easy to use. Android devices that I have used I wouldn’t say are hard to use, but Apple has definitely nailed it better than Android when it comes to simplicity. The only thing I wish Apple would allow in iOS would be greater customization options. However, I am able to install a modified iOS that allows for non-Apple created files and tweaks to be installed (commonly called a jailbreak. Yes, that sounds illegal, but it’s 100% legal. Look it up. It only becomes illegal when you pirate apps and other data. But all this is for another discussion).
My favorite thing about iOS 7 is the addition of the quick menu accessed by sliding up from the bottom of the phone. All of the phone’s important settings are there, along with handy tools such as the flashlight. Before iOS 7, this was non-existent on stock iOS, which was one of the main reasons I jailbroke my phone back on iOS 6- to have a menu that performs these actions. Having a menu that is quickly accessible for important settings/actions is extremely important in iOS’s usability to me. Some of the settings, such as turning vibration off WiFi/data, or increasing/decreasing brightness, weren’t exactly easy or quick to find. My mental model of a good smartphone is one where important phone settings are easily and quickly accessible. The iOS 7 quick menu is very good, because it very easily communicates feedback to the user for settings by simply being black or white. If the button for WiFi is white, WiFi is on. Siri is also a great example of feedback. When you hold the home button to activate her, you hear the bell sound giving feedback that she’s listening. When you are finished speaking, you then hear another, but different, sound to give the feedback that she finished listening and is processing what you said.
iOS is also great because of its use of signifiers. The first example of this is the use of the slide to unlock phrase on the lock screen. Between that and the arrow next to it, it’s clearly signified that you have to swipe across the screen to unlock the phone. Another obvious signifier is sound. With iOS, you can set different sound alerts to represent many different events- getting an email, text, Twitter alert, text/call from a specific person, and the list goes on. Another example would be the numbers that show up on Apps on the home screen. These signify that the app has an update/event that you have not seen or addressed yet, and how many updates/events the app has for you. Unless you have them turned off, for example, I know that I have text message(s) by simply looking at my messages app on the home screen and seeing that it has a badge with a number on the top right corner.
For an example of an interlock, we can look at the combination of the lock screen and a passcode/word. To successfully unlock the phone, you must first slide to unlock, and then enter the passcode/word. This can only be performed in this order; try it in any other order, and you’re going to be attempting to unlock the phone for a long time.
iOS has many different lock-ins, but one example would be when deleting an app. When an app is pressed and held, this activates, what I call anyways, wiggle mode. In this mode, apps that can be deleted (anything downloaded from the App Store) have an X appear in the top left corner. Pressing this leads to a dialogue box asking if you’re sure that you want to delete the app, and gives a warning that it will also delete all data associated with the app.
I could go on and on about examples of usability in iOS 7, but put simply in my opinion, it’s the best mobile operating system out there, especially when enhanced to your own liking through modification. My main gripe with iOS 6 as I mentioned was no use of a quick menu, and now with iOS 7, I don’t have that complaint anymore! The only improvement I can offer is to give the user more customization options, but I am able to fulfill those needs through modification anyway. My “personal edition” of iOS 7 is perfect to me and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. It looks great, is very usable, and most importantly in today’s world, it’s fast.