Apple: Terrible at User Experience

The conventional wisdom is that Apple’s forte is user experience.  Sure, their pricing is premium, sure, they aren’t necessarily great at integrating new technologies, and sure, they may not be terribly developer-friendly, but their products are a pleasure to use.

This is crazy.

I’ve bitched about the iPhone keyboard before (though, to add to the laundry list of complaints: you have to press the shift key to type a period.  What the hell?), but when my fiancée and I took a divide-and-conquer approach to our Target shopping yesterday, we came face to face with another fundamental problem with the iPhone: she can’t hear hers ring (in noisy environments like Target).  Why?  Because it’s really quiet, that’s why.  And also, its vibration is anemic, so she can’t feel it ring either.

Apple is awful at this kind of core basic user experience stuff.  A phone with a ringer you can actually hear doesn’t lend itself to sleek monochromatic advertising or get mentioned in hip tech reviews, but it’s vitally important to being able to use the phone as a phone.  So how come Apple, the user experience company par excellence, isn’t all over it?

Because they actually don’t give a rat’s ass about user experience.  Apple cares about their devices.  They want beautiful, sleek, unified, silky devices — and they routinely produce the most beautiful devices in their class, on a hardware and software level.  Sometimes, this obsession with making the device look and feel like it’s an alien artifact produces great user experience (such as the insistence on common interface designs that produces an intuitive “iOS feel” to most apps, or scrolling being super-smooth, or the screen being glowingly gorgeous).  But understand that to be a happy side-effect of the core goal of making their devices beautiful.  Not functional, not usable, but beautiful.

An audibly ringing phone isn’t any more beautiful than a quiet one, so it gets sacrificed.  Their keyboard looks sleek and pretty, so who cares if it’s massively less usable than current-generation Android ones?

My android phone definitely has clunkier screen transitions than my fiancée’s iPhone.  But I know when people are calling me, and I can type twice as fast as she can.  That’s not sexy and beautiful, but it’s a far better user experience than the iPhone.


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