Why do so many of us love the iPhone? Because of the great user experience. But some iPhone apps–and even built-in tools–really ruin that experience. Apple is touted as the king of design, but it missed some very basic things that we’d like to see fixed. For example, do you really need to know who created the app you're using every single time you load it? Do you need to see that company’s logo? Do you need reminding that this game has music that sounds better on headphones, when all you want to do is start playing it? Because iPhone apps don’t run in the background, switching away to check your email and then going back to the app means restarting it. If there’s a splash screen at the start, you thus feel like you have to wait for that app every time you open it. Stanza, the e-Book program, takes you back to the page you were reading, but not to the contents or the library. Tweetie, a Twitter app, lets you know what you’ll be able to do when it loads by showing the basic interface, which is much less irritating. These two developers got it right–but others did not.
It’s a phone, it’s a pocket computer, it’s a tiny Web browser–but the iPhone is also an iPod and when you're playing a game, you might want to listen to your own music. Well, too bad. Games are the worst offenders here but there are other apps that completely take over the iPhone’s sound. If you play two sounds at once on the iPhone, then they get blended together so apps that play sounds should always ask you if you want to hear just their audio, your own music, or a combination of the two. And they should make it very clear which one you're choosing. But do they? Nope.
Twitter-heads really hate this one: First you open Tweetie to get some tweets and then switch to another app while losing your connection. But when you go back to Tweetie, you don't see any of the tweets you just downloaded because it doesn't cache them. Information that is downloaded should be there whether you're online or not. A map you browse today should be available without a network connection, even days later. It should be possible to use a WiFi connection to get a route from Maps and then follow it without needing to be connected as you drive. There’s no reason for an app to load all its data from the Internet every time you start it. Developers, take heed of our advice, or else iPhone owners will lose patience with your app.
There are some things that are hard to do on an iPhone. We understand, for example, that you wouldn't be able to set up something as complicated as hosting for a blog with the iPhone. But it is the simple things that are not possible that bother us. For example, LinkedIn or Facebook do not offer login screens that let you open a browser and create an account directly from the iPhone, although there is no technological reason preventing them from offering this option. However, Loopt or Evernote let you sign up and start using their services right away. Maybe LinkedIn and Facebook are so important that you’ll remember to go sign up on your computer later, but there are probably some users (and potential users of lesser-known social networking sites) who will simply forget all about it.
We have a real beef with the LinkedIn application for the iPhone. Typically, if you get your user name or password wrong when you log onto a Website, you’ll be prompted with the login page again, sometimes with a hint as to which bit you got wrong. But the LinkedIn app takes up the whole screen to tell you that you got it wrong, and makes you tap “OK” before you can try again. This is not very helpful when you probably just mistyped something on that darn touch keyboard. There are other apps with equally annoying notifications—we don’t mean to pick solely on LinkedIn. Listen Apple and developers: the iTunes Store app doesn’t make a fuss when you don’t have an Internet connection or make you touch the screen to get rid of a dialog before you do anything else. Why do other apps have those annoying pop-ups?
When your iPhone rings you have to put your finger into the bottom left corner, push down, and slide across to answer it (most users leave their phones locked this way). To ignore an incoming call, you can double-click the power button on the top of the screen (or press the volume button to turn the sound off). But if the same call comes in when your iPhone is unlocked, putting your finger in exactly the same place and clicking will reject the call. Yes, it’s a big red button, but if you're the kind of person who answers your phone by touch, you’re going to have to stop and look at the screen–or get used to calling people back. Human behavior has to be considered here, Apple.
When you swipe your finger across the screen in most iPhone applications, you get the option of deleting the item you swiped across, such as a message in Mail. Some apps change this gesture to do something else and that can work really well. In Maps, for example, swiping across the screen moves the map. But with an application like Tweetie (yes, sorry to pick on you again, Tweetie), which looks like Mail and has a list of items like Mail, things can become difficult. Tweetie can become confusing, for example, when the swipe gesture brings up multiple options, like replying or opening the profile of the author. There should thus be more uniformity across the apps when it comes to swiping. With Tweetie, the swipe motion should do something similar to deleting.
Almost every app puts the Back button in the top left corner. The Facebook app certainly does, except on the front screen where the Logout button is in exactly the same place. If you've been tapping through the various screens inside Facebook and you want to go back up a couple of levels, it’s far too easy to keep on tapping enthusiastically on the Back button and find you've logged yourself out by accident. Why not put the Logout button on the other side? Logging out is a big step compared to simply wanting to go back a page. Indeed, since you're not supposed to have more than one Facebook account, why does the app need a Logout button at all?