Friday, September 28, 2018

on the iphone x and ios 12 gestures

I upgraded to an iPhone Xs, mostly seduced by tales of the superior lowlight camera.

Seeing people adapt pretty easily to "no home button" over the previous year had allayed my fears about the transition and learning the new gestures - I'd always been a fan of physical home buttons; to quote Gruber writing skeptically about removal of the home button (admittedly it was 2011)
The physical Home button is impossible to miss. That it is the one and only button on the faces of these devices is a big part of why normal people are able to pick them up, start playing with them, and figure out how to get around with no help.
The PalmPilot had a prominent silkscreen button for "home", and I've always thought it was similar to the convention that clicking on a website's name at the top right will bring you back to the top of the site.

In practice, the iPhone X's Face ID has a simplifying effect - since unlocking is passive and automatic, there is now one gesture predominant, the upward swipe. This movement is identical when opening the phone from the lock screen or from any app - not quite the case with Touch ID, where the "rest and wait for fingerprint" felt a bit different from clicking from with an app.

UPDATE: my sweetie Melissa points out I'm missing a crucial gesture - swiping right or left on the "Home indicator" bar - this is a fast task switcher, a way of getting to apps you've recently been using without going to the whole card-app carousel. From a UX perspective, it's an interesting choice: always returning to the homepage, then letting muscle memory telling you where to go for the app you have in mind, vs keeping in mind what apps you've recently been using (and/or rolling the dice that the app you want is recent- an interesting attention span challenge)

Conceptually, I still miss the home button a bit - there was something nice about how it was "out of band" from every app-interaction  - it was kind of reassuring that to know you were communicating directly with the device, and unlike a gesture it was tough to do accidentally. Also, the home button was always trivial to locate, no matter how you were holding the phone - if an app has switched into landscape mode, even though there's that marker line, the direction to swipe might not be instantly clear.

One additional improvement: the lock screen quick camera access is now a virtual button (See the screenshot below for an example) - it requires a "hard press" but is MUCH more reliable than the "swipe to the side" gesture. (That gesture is still supported on iPhones with Face ID - and the swipe seems to be the only option for iPhones with home buttons, for some reason.)


Over the years I've become rather vain about making my own cases via Zazzle - I figure the silver lining to phones becoming so thin, even at the cost of durability and battery life, is that you can kind of think of the case as a form of customization rather than mere external protection.

I think illustration is a much better bet than photography, and so I go to the work of my artist friend James Harvey (who did the illustrations for my self-help-about-mortality comic So, You're Going to Die) -

In retrospect, I think the wood cases were a mistake - they had a nice warmth (and I could knock wood no matter where I was) but lacked durability.

Also I think my James Harvey lock screen also rocks:

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