iOS 7 flat design – WTF?

iOS 7 flat design is a disaster to me. Did they fire the QA / PM’s and just not rehire?

The main difference for me is not ‘getting rid of skeuomorphism’, that is just a buzzword everybody throws around, the big difference is decline in usability, because an apparent original goal ‘minimize effort to get to needed information’ has been compromised:

1. stock market display in notification area and in standard app – you can barely read the grey on red/green, what formerly was easy to see at one glance now requires a lot more focus to decipher. Much harder to use than before. I have no idea how they could get that past QA.

2. you can barely tell anymore if a phone is charging, the tiny arrow attached to it is barely visible.

3. I had to google it to find out how to get the input field for searching (swipe down in home screen) which is consistent with email search now at least, but was a pain to find out initially as well. But there is no reason why that input field should not be already shown in the sliding current apps view that you get to by double clicking your home button, thus minimizing the path to finding. The space above the app-screenshots is empty. Am I the only one to whom that is obvious?

4. double clicking home button now shows a sliding view of the icons plus screenshot of current apps instead of paging icons, which means that I now take longer and have to focus more to navigate to the specific one I had in mind. Before I could just page through and click on the fixed spot it was at. I knew exactly what icon I am looking for as that is how I started it originally, the screenshots are cute but don’t really help finding the app.

Now I have to make it flow by swiping until it shows up and then get back to it until I can hit it. A lot more mental processing and back and forth is necessary.

5. here comes the ugliest part: the drop-downs in safari web dialogs like bart.gov schedule are no longer drop downs in the page but have this ridiculously large carousel view with dark grey on medium dark grey below some weird less/greater sign next to a done-button. The text is more distorted for the lines below and above the current selection, more unreadable the more far away from currently selected item. It is incredibly hard to read, and swiping up and down does not allow for a precise selection. Then clicking on what you have selected actually does nothing, instead you have to navigate your finger over to the done-button, again an unnecessary extra step. Just a complete failure in usability.

6. inconsistencies – the first time I tried to share a contact it took me a while to figure out that I had to scroll down the actual contact to find a ‘share’ link on the bottom, I was looking for the funky share icon that is used everywhere else and would be immediately in view on the bottom without scrolling. Its there for photos, notes, maps, but its missing from calendar entries, and contacts.

Of course there are other things about iOS that I like. But none are related to look and feel. I like the flashlight app, and sharing contacts through airdrop, and the fingerprint sensor of the 5s almost makes me want to upgrade the hardware too as I can see how it would streamline use of the phone (unlocking and app installation)

Aesthetically the redesigned icon colors are not as appealing to me as before, and the flatness just looks boring. I gave it some time to get used to, but honestly, its November 7th now and I still hate it. I take this especially hard since I come from an Android background and have hoped to never have a reason again to go back to android. But this is  really pushing it.

I really hope some day a PM at Apple is reading this and claiming some of these thoughts as his own and pushes for fixing the issues, today we are on 7.0.3 and nothing has improved from the list above, and I don’t have high hopes that 7.0.4 would be any different.

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iphone5 review – verizon LTE rocks

I finally switched from Android to the apple iPhone5 with iOS6, and I am loving it. I was eyeing the iphone 4s for a while but it’s internet speed was just so ridiculously slow compared to a state of the art android phones that it was out of the question. Well that concern has been lifted with the iPhone5, I got 30Mbit down and 10Mbit upload on Verizon the other day. Of course that means I burn through my shared 6G dataplan quickly if I don’t watch it, i.e. uploading 150 birthday party photos in one swoop to facebook 🙂

Battery life is excellent, especially compared to my my HTC G2 and my wifes myTouch. This morning I intentially let the iphone run to 1% after not charging it for 1 day and 8 hours, with 8 hours talktime. A friend of mine had issues with short battery life and identified the google voice application as the culprit. I have not been using that so I am fine, even with intense facebook / email / web browsing. Maybe because at home as well as at work I am close to a wifi network, unless I want to leverage the LTE speeds for downloading or uploading large amounts of data in a short time. 

The maps problems I have not run into yet, maybe living in California makes that easier to be accurate. 

Siri is excellent, I use it all the time from dictating SMS’s while in the car to starting music, navigation, initiating FaceTime… facetime is fun, like skype but better quality and easier to get going. Also it does not use the voice network, so it does not interrupt data on the verizon network.

Video recording and picture taking is awesome, I so hated it on my G2 that by the time I got the photo app going and pressed the button to the time that the shutter action actually got executed, the subject already walked away.  Or all the mafunctioning moments.  On the iphone it’s so perfect and so immediate, that I am actually able to use it happily rather than just try and hate.  

And the screen is fantastic too, colors are true, unlike the Samsung S3 that I had toyed with before the iphone5 came out – I am surprised that not more people seem to care, but when I tried it in the t-mobile store, photo and video on the S3 had way wrong colors, even watching a movie on netflix would be affected. I guess the specs are great but the color representation makes it look broken to my eyes.

And the apps are just awesome, and they are the same I am having on my ipad already, without extra effort they just got synced on and work. 

Airplay of my music to the living-room stereo while making breakfast in the kitchen is another highlight of how I enjoy it. 

 

So what do I not like? 

Email notification does not seem as immediate as I am used to from Android. I miss swype as a keyboard method, but not as much as I thought I would, since the predictive correction method is actually highly effective on the iPhone). I slightly but not really miss USB mounting the phone SD card as a usb drive. Since I use itunes on a macbook I am actually happy about the ease with which I get to carry my recent music with me via syncing rather than having to manage files or deal with the offline/online google music stuff.

Really trying hard to think here, but I guess one downside to the great games and apps is that my kids constantly ask for it 🙂

t-mobile G2 review – first impressions

 

G2 has arrived

 

The good:

– super fast delivery from t-mobile. I ordered it on the 4th and was able to select it for a plan upgrade. It arrived on the evening of the 5th. This time t-mobile got the launch process right, perfect user experience.

– compared to the G1 its very fast – feels like the Nexus One, but with a physical keyboard.

– android 2.2 with gmail supporting more than one google account is a plus, but a nicer mail app comparable to what apple does could be better…

– H instead of 3G is noticably faster. According to speedtest.net I get about 2Mbps download, and 1Mbps upload on average. That is more than my $40/month AT&T DSL… mhm… maybe I’ll cancel AT&T’s DSL, add a line to keep using my G1 as a phone and leave the G2 at home as an internet hotspot? But I’d miss the speed on the road then…

– did I already say it was fast? 🙂 So not just from a network standpoint, but also from a cpu standpoint, working with the web browser, firing up navigation etc does no longer invoke a half a minute wait as on the G1…

picture quality is actually better than I first thought! See photo below…

The bad:

– keyboard does not have number row and stuff in non-qwerty places, and so it is a lot more cumbersome to type on that the G1 that had a real qwerty keyboard.

– While it is real cool that the gallery on the phone now includes photos from picasa and other sources (I really like that actually) it also appears to be much slower to bring up a picture in full resolution than expected?

The ugly:

– in-call volume is very low. I was able to make phone calls directly from the handset with the G1 that I cannot make anymore with the G2, i.e. from a bus or car… with the speaker it is fine.

I’ll post more as I use it more 🙂

I want a hardware refresh of the G1 (original google android phone)

I see all those new android phones come out with faster hardware and better camera, but no real keyboard and other deficiencies…

After having lived with the shortcomings of the G1 and comparing to that for a while, I feel that I really just want a hardware-refresh of the existing G1 phone and not the new droid nor the N1.

I want to have the faster cpu, more RAM, better camera (led flash, light sensitivity) and faster USB read speed (12MB/s instead of 5MB/s) of the N1 but I do not want to give up the hardware keyboard of the G1, the hardware buttons of the G1 (accept call/home/back/hangup). I actually love the slide-out keyboard design, it allows me to switch to real typing mode real fast.

The droid hardware keyboard is a joke, it is worse than the on-screen keyboard in terms of accuracy.

I love htc’s special usb cable that allows me to connect any headphone as well as my car stereo to it, with a microphone on the connector plus a button that allows me to skip mp3 songs and accept calls mostly hands-free while driving.

The G1 is a pretty good smartphone, just the cpu and ram deficiency makes it painfully slow.

I even like the form-factor, fits well in my pocket.

Can I just get a hardware refresh instead of a new broken design please?

Michael

Review Nexus One (N1) comparison to G1 android phone

What I like better on Nexus One (N1) compared to my G1

+ faster cpu and more RAM make web browser and switching between apps much more responsive. However, once you do your day to day things you will notice that some of the apps depend on remote resources and those will be as slow as the network, i.e. Where, so more CPU+RAM is NOT a cure-all for performance. It is now easier to open lots (15+) of web pages in the browser and leave them open in the background.
+ reading files (i.e. importing images from the phone) from SD now is 12MB/s instead of 5MB/s. Writing is the same 5MB/s.
+ battery life twice as long (not measured)
+ flash on camera actually works, it is finally possible to take pictures while clubbing. However whitebalance is expecting flash, so if you take without flash then the colors look off. As usual having more megapixel does not improve the picture quality which depends largely on other factors (light sensitiveness, sharpness, color truthfulnes)
+ android 2 features like facebook / contacts integration is nice
+ can take backside off and battery-out much easier than on G1
+ normal audiojack, but thats not only a plus, see below

What I don’t like on Nexus One (N1) compared to my G1

– some apps are not ready for it, i.e. commodore 64 emulators who would direclty benefit from faster cpu only use a small portion of the screen as their framebuffer size is hardcoded. (tested two of them). Moxier Mail (enterprise quality exchange email) just force-closes while authenticating and is not useable.
– no hardware keyboard. While the onscreen keyboard does work somewhat nice it still is a major drawback when trying to type larger amounts of text or while doing other things… it just consumes more percent of your attention to correctly enter text.
– voice dictation not a real substitute yet, integration into keyboard only available in some apps? Sometimes loses connection to servers while waiting to upload data for interpretation and aborts, does not work offline. Quality varies, between garbage and suprising accuracy.
– no hardware keys for phone pickup/hangup. You now actually have to navigate through the touchscreen keyboard to hangup a call when you navigated to say the contacts to look up or take down a new phonenumber.
– oversaturated colors
– new screen technology (better viewing angles) does not have as natural colors?
When comparing photos displayed on g1 and on n1 then the g1 ones look a bit desaturated and the ones on the n1 looks overly saturated in a bad way. Maybe I have a bad engineering sample, but if it is representative then I am less excited about it then everybody else.
– connector for charging now no longer standard micro USB, means you forget the special cable and you are out, but at least when you forget your special usb2audio cable you can now use it without the in-line microphone and accept/hangup/skipsong button from HTC.

Overall I am less excited than I thought I would be and will probably hang on to my G1 until I get something drastically better.

Mobile application development middleware?

I am the author of an ExtJS based cluster management web-application (Scyld IMF at Penguin Computing) that allows controlling a high performance compute cluster from any web-browser, be it from your desktop or from a mobile device. This works fairly well already even without writing a special view for the mobile devices as current smartphones (iphone, android) come essentially with a full blown javascript capable web-browsers and lots of processing power. However performance still could be better by having a native app that uses the same data sources / api as the full blown web-application (javascript app running on the browser being the client to the webservice-api on the server side), but implementing the view natively.

After hacking up a proof of concept for the iphone (thanks John for your awesome iphone JSON flickr tutorial and xcode example for download) and thinking of how to do the same for android without duplicating effort, I realized that it would be nice to be able to have some kind of middleware that allows me to create and populate native gui components without code duplication.

One such middleware is phonegap which requires you to write your application in javascript and html, and allows accessing phone specific features through javascript calling the middleware. It then is bundled as a native application that can be submitted to the app store for purchase and can run completely offline once downloaded, unless the programmer chooses to access remote resources. Their initial focus seems to have been allowing access to smartphone specific features like the address book, vibrate and sound, gps location and such, but there also is code in there to use native gui components as well.

I have two problems with the approach:

1. development of javascript – while palm pre developers might tout this as an advantage, I find javascript development and debugging rather tedious and would prefer writing my code in java or objective-c and be able to run it through a full control debugger on my desktop before deploying it to the simulator. I know about and am actively using firebug, the javascript debugger for firefox, but a lot of the bugs I had to deal with were incredibly hard to hunt down and rather than the debugger it was the forums and interacting with developers on #extjs chat, as well as using jslint and manually analyzing code, that helped me figure out a root-cause, workaround or fix.

2. performance – developers report that the phonegap version of their app appears to consume more resources rather than less compared to a remotely hosted javascript app, accessed through the mobile devices web-browser. Apart from the overhead of having to parse javascript at runtime, developers sometimes need platform specific knowledge and implement different than for a web-application, i.e. iphone onclick events being much slower from the touchscreen than ontouch events.

The advantage on the other hand appears to be that it is relatively easy to add new mobile platforms to phonegap. So far they appear to have iphone, android, blackberry and some nokia platforms covered, with palm pre being on the horizon to be added beginning of next year.

And according to phonegaps website, there are already several real-world phonegap powered apps in the marketplaces of both the iphone and android.

Thoughts?

G1 android phone app ShopSavvy saves me money

I was shopping for wireless pci cards at best buys and narrowed it down to a netgear marked $59. Out of curiosity I scanned it with shopsavvy and it listed several local alternatives starting at $35 at walmart. After clicking on that it offered to call the store or get directions.

Wow if this happens more often I will save the cost of the phone in no time…

I wonder if once this is more common stores will cover barcodes for products on the shelves, but I guess then we can just type in model numbers…

PS: posted from my G1 with wptogo application 🙂