If it were not for my need to have a day job, I think I would relish the opportunity to make a living as an ancient astronaut theorist. Why? Why not? After all, who else but an ancient astronaut could tell humans all about time?
Heraclitus is credited with a number of proverbial statements that linger centuries later, including “the only thing constant is change.” Maybe so, maybe not, but we see that constant at work in Apple’s headquarters on One Infinite Loop in Cupertino, CA. iOS and macOS are not standing still and that presents a problem.
Features Beget Complexity
As a bona fide Trekkie, first TNG, then Classic, then everything else, I’m at peace with how Star Trek treated computers as machines with little personality and little human interaction. Hundreds of years in the future memory is still stored on tapes and memory banks, so the future obviously isn’t going to be what we iPhone and Mac users think it will be.
The recently completed WWDC 2017 brought home the basic fact that Apple isn’t standing still, that more change is on the way, including drool-worthy iMac Pro models, and that iOS 11 isn’t your father’s iPhone circa 2007. Looking back, those first few years of iPhone models and introduction of iOS proved one thing. Change happens.
Here’s the problem, Cupertino. That change– iOS, macOS, or any other Apple OS– is happening at a faster pace than our ability to keep up. I love the Bell curve, but this one– which stretches from early adopters at the right side, back to the middle of the pack, and down to where my parents live on the far left of the curve, is an oddly shaped creature with an increasingly long tail.
In other words, changes are coming so quickly to our iPhones and iPads that many of us, if not most of us, cannot keep up. I have friends with iPhone 7 models who don’t know what 3D Touch is, or if they’ve seen it, don’t know what it does or how it works. The Control Center in iOS 11 is back to a single screen, but cluttered with at least 14 different and unrelated options. Icons as buttons are everywhere and few of them make sense, and worse, Apple’s famed designers and engineers think that a text description below the icon is for morons (and morons don’t buy iPhones, amirite?).
Who’s to blame for this growing mess of complexity and confusion about how things work on Mac and iPhone?
Apple. And Apple’s customers. If Apple doesn’t give us something new, we won’t buy anything new as often. Plus, we keep asking for new features here and there. I can only imagine how bad this complexity has become for Android smartphone owners and Windows 10 users who have been pummeled with a growing list of features and functions that few customers even know about, let alone use.
I love using the Mac because macOS usually gets out of the way so I can focus attention on a specific app. macOS, and previously, OS X, of course, is a complex beast, but usually easier to navigate and use than either Windows and certainly Linux. Likewise, iOS seems easier to use basic functionality better than Android smartphones, but we may have reached a point where complexity is becoming overwhelming and users have resorted to just the basics, and nothing more.
Look at the iPhone and iOS 10 as an example. Press the Home button to unlock the lock screen and what do you get? App icons and folders. Lots of them. But from the lock screen, swipe left and you get the camera; swipe right and you get Notifications and Widgets. I know at least a dozen family and friends who have iPhones and didn’t know that.
We say the Mac has been dumbed down to account for all the new customers who came over from Windows and iPhones. They don’t get a Start button, but they do get a Launchpad similar to iPhone and iPad. Familiarity is a good thing. But with a few hundred new features coming in iOS 11, how will those who have fallen 400 features behind ever catch up?
For the longest time it seemed as if Android was the new Windows; a mobile OS that bolted on every possible or conceivable feature because someone has to win the feature wars, and we know Apple doesn’t go there. Yet, here we are, with more new features in iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra, and no easy way to learn them all sufficiently to use them all.
Cupertino, we have a problem.