16 November 2015

ignore the code: “Is Usability on Mobile Getting Worse?”

3D Touch on the iPhone 6S, while technically astonishingly impressive, is only the most recent example. Apple, who steadfastly refused to add a second mouse button on the Mac, has now needlessly added one to iOS, a platform that never had a second mouse button, and where nobody ever asked for one.

I really think this can’t be overstated: Apple has added a hardware feature to the iPhone whose sole purpose is to help developers add hidden features to their apps. 1

I can’t get over the feeling that Apple added 3D Touch to the iPhone because it is incredibly cool, not because it makes the phone easier to use. It’s «wow!» design, not «it just works» design.

Lukas Mathis

When the iPhone 6s was announced, these were exactly my first impressions of 3D Touch. Maybe I will feel differently if I ever get to play with an actual device, but I have no plans of upgrading for it. You have to wonder how people will react when the feature starts failing or misbehaving after months of heavy use. My iPhone 6 is hardly a year old and TouchID has become much more unreliable lately; will the same thing happen to 3D Touch?

The issue of usability is complicated on mobile by the small screen size, so there needs to be some compromise one way or the other. And iOS was far from perfect in this regard: just look at obscure gestures like ‘shake-to-undo’ – it was cool to discover on my own, but it’s so awkward that I’ve only used it about five times in the four years I’ve owned an iPhone. Even more popular shortcuts like taking pictures with the volume buttons remain unknown for most iPhone users; just last week I demonstrated this to a colleague who also used iPhones for years and she wasn’t aware of it. Maybe people are just starting to realize that Apple is not perfect as so many fans seem to think.

Update: more criticism of 3D Touch:

It also seems strange that so few other contexts in the system offer extra options via 3D Touch. If I 3D Touch my phone’s wallpaper, wouldn’t it make sense to offer me a quick link to the Wallpaper section of the Settings app? Could Notification Center be improved by 3D Touch interaction?

This is, I realize, one of the reasons I stopped using 3D Touch so much. It seemed like so many places I attempted to use the gesture resulted in a whole lot of nothing. After a while, I gave up. 3D Touch needs to be pervasive. It needs to be a gesture that works all over the place, so that using it becomes second nature.

Jason Snell

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