Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A 'where's the feature?' report: iPhone 3G

Interface changes with Apple iPhone 3G ...

"Since Apple is rumored to be releasing the next major iPhone firmware update today, I thought I'd run through the list now, and then see how the new firmware changes things. Many of these comments apply to the iPod touch as well.

The things I like are, generally, the same things everyone likes. The iPhone is feature-rich, well integrated, well supported by independent software developers, and fun to use.

The things I don't like are, generally, software features that ought to be present but just aren't.

Each time I discover another one of these missing features, I jot it down in my iPhone WTF list. WTF, of course, stands for "Where's the feature?"

Muting and sounds
For example: Where's the feature to mute the phone? You may point to the little toggle switch on the left side, but no, that just mutes the ringer and certain audio alerts, not the whole phone. On my old Palm Treo, the mute switch darn well muted everything, as if the switch disconnected the speaker wires themselves.

On the iPhone, there's no way to predict which sound sources will respect the mute switch. Calendar alerts do; alarms don't. These are good choices--I like knowing that the alarm function will still wake me up even if I mute the phone before going to sleep--but hardly intuitive.

Alarm volume is controlled by the ringer volume, but even the minimum ringer volume is still audible.

Application-generated sounds have a separate volume control. If you're not in the iPod application, which has a volume slider, I think the only way to adjust this control is to use the volume rocker switch while an application is making sounds. Sometimes, that's after the phone has already started to annoy the people around you.

Bottom line: I can't find a way to make the unit completely silent without going into multiple Settings panels and applications, and even that isn't completely effective because some applications (as exemplified by the otherwise valuable Phone Aid) will turn the volume back up when they run.

Alerts and Calendar app
While I'm on the subject of alerts: in the Calendar application, where's the function to set an alert for the exact time of an event? Sometimes I just want to beep myself at 10 a.m. to make a phone call, for example. I don't want to have to set the time for 10:05 a.m. and the alert for "5 minutes before." I love the fact that Calendar supports up to two alerts for the same event, but I wish I could set them to, say, 15 minutes and 0 minutes respectively. This problem could be solved by providing a "Custom" time choice for both of the alerts.

The Calendar app also has the worst user-interface design in the whole iPhone, I think. To select the date and time for an alarm, you spin three wheels apparently stolen from the game show The Price Is Right. The minutes wheel is so easy to spin that in going from :00 to :30, I commonly spin right past :30 and back to :00. Apple has developed many ways to select dates and times for other systems and applications; this is by far the worst."    (Continued via CNET News, Peter Glaskowsky)    [Usability Resources]

Apple iPhone 3G - Usability, User Interface Design

Apple iPhone 3G

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