Apple - Fire Scott Forstall

Update 29 Oct - 2 weeks after writing this (Oct 15 2012), Apple do the two things I recommend in this post - Fire Forstall & put Jony Ive in charge of all ‘Human Interface’ design: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20132843

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I use an iPhone 5 & MacBook Air - both devices which I am very happy with.

However, Apple has a large and growing problem. Incompetence and lack of vision in iOS - means it is being overtaken by Android and Windows Phone.

Scott Forstall, Apple’s head of iOS software, should be fired, not because of his questionable taste in shirts, but because this is his fault.

Problems with iOS

Total lack of innovation

When iPhone launched, it felt new, it lead the pack in innovation & execution. But it feels like it’s virtually stood still while the competition overtakes it. Case in point - last month iOS 6 launched with a lot of new minor features (panorama, call back reminders etc) - but nothing big or innovative.

Windows phone, in contrast, with its active tiles, is looking more modern & more interesting. It looks active, iOS looks like a dull grid of icons. Why can’t I see the weather without having to load the app in iOS, for example?

Skeumorphism

"An object or feature which imitates the design of a similar artefact in another material."

Apparently there is a rift at Apple between Forestall & Jony Ive, the industrial designer who in league with Jobs transformed Apple from a company on the verge of bankruptcy to the most valuable company in the world.

Forestall loves Skeumorphism, Ive hates it - and for good reason.

Many iOS apps, such as notes, diary, podcasting & find my friends, use system resources to do things such as, show a reel to reel tape player playing a podcast, or have a stitched leather effect.

Form should follow function. At best this is a ridiculous gimmick, at worst it makes apps more confusing, bloated, cluttered & slow.

Very un-apple.

Podcasting App

Android has had ‘download directly to device’ podcasting for years. It took apple until 2011 to copy this functionality. Even then, their Podcasts app was unusably slow & crashy on my iPhone 4 at the time (only 1 generation old). 

In contrast, many 3rd party apps have been doing this better for years, eg Downcast. I wasn’t aware of these apps & thought you had to sync with iTunes for many years (I’m unlikely to be the only one).

Even with an iPhone 5, Downcast is comfortably better.

Basic iOS Usability Failings

iOS has had many minor but irritating usability flaws since launch. For example…

At least once a day, I want to turn my cell off - but leave WiFi on (eg before I go to sleep). To do this I have to first put the phone in flight mode, then go into WiFi and switch it back on.

When playing music or podcast while locked the forward/back buttons are so close to play/pause you often press the wrong one.

The keyboard is awful. Every time I write anything, I have to re-read then re-write it. On Symbian almost 10 years ago I was tracing letters with my finger (P800/P900) in a much more reliable, accurate way. Android has many input options, several of which seem more reliable.

iOS Notes syncing

I lost several important pieces of information that I noted on my iPhone - after setting iCloud up to sync notes between MacOS & iOS. This is BASIC stuff, and inexcusable in 2012 when you have Apple’s resources. I have heard other people talk about the same issues.

(this appears to have been fixed with iSO 6).

iOS 6 Maps

Much has been written about the problems with iOS 6 maps. I must say the application itself is well executed.

However, many people, me included, have had problems finding places. Addresses are marked in the wrong place in the street, businesses can’t be found, transit information is missing (I used Google Maps to find London busses daily).

Ultimately this is the right move for Apple, but they should have ensured Google Maps was available to users in parallel, or started their own maps project sooner.

Unlike antenna-gate, this is a real problem, and many people may actually decide not to buy an iPhone until this is fixed. 

Lack of iOS ‘Spotify’ style streaming music app

It’s unclear how central Forestall might be in the lack of this, but it seems bizarre Apple is standing still with iTunes & downloading music manually to devices - instead of streaming, caching & subscription.

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Responsibility for most, if not ALL these problems lies with Scott Forstall.

Many of them have been festering for years. For Apple to stay innovative they need a visionary who doesn’t make continuous mistakes. Forestall isn’t a visionary - and keeps making mistakes.

For this he must be fired & Jony Ive should oversee all design, software and hardware. iOS could benefit hugely from his minimalist, functional design ethos.



(Full Disclosure, I own shares in Apple)

Monday, October 15, 2012 — 2 notes   ()
  1. usabilityhell posted this