Apple UX Regressions

These past few years have been a somewhat turbulent time for Apple. Its market dominance in the smartphone race diminished, its profits holding strong, but investor and analyst confidence evaporated, its once infallible strategy, product line, image and appeal gone and its appeal lacklustre compared to the past.

The post-Steve Jobs Apple gradually shifted its culture as new executives took the reigns and old ones departed. Much publicised was Tim Cook’s change regarding the company’s relationship with analysts and shareholders with the company giving out dividends for the first time in many years, after Steve Jobs steadfastly refused to do so. Also widely reported was Scott Forstall’s firing back in 2012, allegedly for refusing to apologise for botching Apple Maps.

And while Apple’s products are probably as polished as they ever were, there are issues here and there that are more subtle, less obvious and less publicised than Forstall’s joke of a Maps application; issues that differ significantly from Steve Jobs approach of releasing feature-limited versions of extremely polished software cheaply and slowly building upon it until it became a class-leading product with an extremely solid foundation. iOS 7, with its revamped UX and √¶sthetic was initially riddled with an insane amount of bugs, but also with subtle usability regressions that Apple has been struggling to fix these past few months with its numerous point releases. Design issues like the fact that e.g. in the Calendar application you cannot slide your finger over dates and quickly see events scheduled for the date under your finger, as you could do in the iPhone calendar since the very beginning. Or the moronically coloured shift key in the iOS 7.x keyboard that is way less usable and whose state is not as obvious as it were in the classic iOS keyboard. Or in OS X on the menu bar where the Time Machine icon changes so subtly when a backup is in progress, in stark contrast to earlier versions where an animated icon clearly indicated backup activity. UX regressions that are not merely bugs; they are design decisions.

We have not heard much about the next release of OS X, other than the fact that many of iOS 7’s ‘revamps’ are coming to the Mac. Hopefully the slew of iOS 7 issues and usability regressions will have taught Apple a lesson and 10.10 (or whatever they may number it) won’t suffer from usability issues, regressions and ‘rushed’ releases that were previously not part of Apple’s playbook.