Google secret iPhone settings and you’ll be treated to a list of pages that tout the same things. Hidden features. Secret settings. Tips and tricks you don’t know. If iPhone, iPad, and Mac are so user friendly then why all the secrets?
Color me a Mac user for three decades and an iPhone user since the beginning and still I run into a few tips and tricks and features and settings I didn’t know about. Why not? I scour each new iOS and macOS version to find new ways to improve usability.
Here’s what I think. iOS is more complex than it needs to be for the average iPhone and iPad customer. Too many highly visible features, settings, and options can make it overwhelming for the customer. That explains why Android’s smartphone customer base falls mainly into two groups. The geeky techies who love fiddling with every possible feature and function, and the rest of non-iPhone humanity that just wants the basics; camera, phone, text, photos, Facebook, email, and some games.
A friend recently handed me their iPhone to look through some photos, and I pressed in to pop one open with 3D Touch. What I’d done surprised them — not because of the photo choice, but because they’d never seen this feature before on the phone they’d been using for months.
Jeffrey: “Jesse, do you use 3D Touch?”
Jesse: “What’s 3D Touch?”
I asked around and my unofficial, unscientific survey of friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers yielded a similar result. Only two of 10 knew what 3D Touch does, and the other eight were surprised when I showed them how it works.
And even the people who knew it was there had no way to tell which icons supported it without just 3D pressing everything to see what happened.
That’s a usability problem, Apple. Features might be cool to show’n tell in a keynote event introducing a new product but not every human on earth watches those or checks out details on the Tips app or Apple’s website.
Apple does a crummy job explaining such useful features to their customers.
Apple pundit John Gruber commented earlier this year that it was “baffling that there’s no visual indication of what can be 3D touched,” while linking out to a simple design proposal that suggested a way for Apple to move forward, if it really wanted 3D Touch to take off.
3D Touch made it to iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max, but not to iPhone Xr which receives something similar called Haptic Touch which clicks when you press and hold a button.
Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller:
Engineering-wise, the hardware to build a display that does what [3D Touch] does is unbelievably hard… If it’s just a demo feature and a month later nobody is really using it, this is a huge waste of engineering talent.
That’s 3D Touch, a feature that is very cool, highly useful, but not at all obvious to anyone or even experienced iPhone customers. That isn’t the only problem as the aforementioned secret tip and hidden features search results in Google will attest. Apple seems remarkably adept at creating excellent usability features and remarkably inept at showing customers how they work.
Yes, that’s a usability issue, but it’s something Apple could address if executives, engineers, designers, and managers would leave Cupertino more often.