Apple’s User Interface Incoherence is Beginning to Show


| Editorial

Face ID, Touch ID and the Future

Ever since the launch of the iPhone 5s in the fall of 2013, we’ve had Touch ID. That’s the fingerprint recognition system that’s been on all new iPhones ever since. Except the iPhone X which uses Face ID.

Face ID is the future? For iPhones only?

As Touch ID evolved, Apple thought about how it could be a feature of not just iPhones but the new MacBook Pros starting in late 2016. That resulted in the Touch ID section of the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar.

We naturally wondered what would happen to Macs without built-in keyboards, like the iMacs. But at WWDC 2017, Apple introduced new iMacs with standard keyboards, The Magic Keyboard family. Okay, we thought, Apple wasn’t ready with a new keyboard with a Secure Enclave and an encrypted link to the iMac. We’ll wait.

For awhile, there were rumors that only the iMac Pro would have this kind of advanced, possibly expensive, keyboard. That would be a shame. Or maybe the standard iMac would models would ship with a Touch ID keyboard in the future. A recent demo of the iMac Pro had the same keyboard showed at WWDC. Maybe the advanced keyboard will never appear. Maybe it will be unveiled in December.

But then Face ID came along, and that, Apple says, is much more secure. It looks to be the best authentication system going forward on iPhones. And so. If it’s so great, will Face ID be implemented on future MacBook/Pros? Will future MacBooks get a simpler Touch Bar but have Faced ID? Alternatively will the Touch Bar, which hasn’t set the world on fire, disappear altogether from MacBook Pros— which will sport a FaceID system above the display as in the iPhone X? (The “notch.”)

Worse, what about the imminent Mac Pro? It doesn’t have a built-in display and may well sit hidden under a desk. Will Apple offer a custom display with Face ID? That would greatly annoy technical professionals who like to select their own special purpose displays. They’d hate to be forced to chose between an Apple display with Face ID and their own favored 3rd party display.

Finally, don’t get me started on the Apple TV remote.  I’m out of room.

Challenges

Apple sells a lot of different devices for differing user needs that have different sizes, roles, and operational profiles. Syncing all these technologies, like 3D Touch and Face ID across platforms is tough. On one hand, the iPhone X could be the progenitor for all the new technologies going forward, and subsequent Apple products will inherit its features. On the other hand, new technologies often mature on one platform and then don’t find a practical place on the other offerings.

It’s a decent problem to have, but it can also introduce user confusion about how to operate their various Apple devices. Keeping the naming conventions consistent and offering upgrades to make devices work the same, when feasible, is always welcome.

That would be a touching gesture by Apple.

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webjprgmpjs_bostonJamieOld UNIX GuyMike Weasner Recent comment authors

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pjs_boston
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pjs_boston

Apple has always had UI fragmentation across the apps in its platforms. This is a side effect of the speed with which Apple innovates compared to other OS vendors. It would be nice if Apple had all of their apps ready on launch day for new device form factors and OS releases, but I’d rather have fragmentation than wait for the apps teams to catch up before getting new features. As I recall, Ui fragmentation in Mac OS X was much worse back in the days of OS X Jaguar, Panther, and Tiger. Stripes, brushed stainless steel, faux aluminum, and… Read more »

Old UNIX Guy
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Old UNIX Guy

webjprgm – never said that was new … just that it’s a very bad idea that goes against Apple’s own human interface guidelines. And the fact that TMO needs to have tip articles about stuff like this only proves my point…

Old UNIX Guy

Jamie
Member
Jamie

Agreed, Old UNIX Guy, and I think most of us are well aware of what modifier keys do, webjprgm. 😉 That wasn’t the point. I can’t remember a time post-OS X transition that there has been so much inconsistency between not just Apple’s various products, but even between versions of the same products, not to mention the vague release notes and poor documentation that now accompany them. There’s definitely a flinging spaghetti at the wall feeling about certain things over the past several years where there used to be extraordinary focus. I didn’t get interested in Apple’s offerings due to… Read more »

webjprgm
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webjprgm

This is probably just my opinion, but I don’t think needing to hold option key for some things is necessarily bad design. Theoretically those extra options are things that would only confuse users who didn’t know about the option key trick anyway. I would agree with you if the buttons that are shown/hidden are hidden “for no good reason” which I think in some cases is true. My point about it not being new is that I don’t think it is evidence that Apple’s design is becoming incoherent. If so then their design has always been incoherent for the last… Read more »

webjprgm
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webjprgm

A funny story related to this article’s topic: My 2 year old watches Daniel Tiger on You Tube on the iPad and she knows that when one video ends she can start tapping things on the screen and sometimes get another one to start. When we got a DVD of one from the library we played it on the laptop (with external super drive) and at the end she started tapping on the screen trying to get it to play another one!

webjprgm
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webjprgm

@OldUNIXGuy Holding the Option key is not new. There are lots of features in Mac OS (er, macOS) that are hidden because they are for expert users and only show when holding option. I believe TMO has had tip articles about this.

Old UNIX Guy
Member
Old UNIX Guy

How about this one … on a Mac launch System Preferences and go to the Displays section. Take note what’s there … then press and hold down the Option key. Yep, a previously hidden for no good reason button now appears!

So much for either ease of use or discoverability … if you didn’t know about that and someone didn’t tell you how in the world would you ever discover that (someone told me)???

Everybody needs to get over their man-crush on Craig Federighi, Apple needs to get rid of him, and we need Betrand Serlet back.

Old UNIX Guy

Mike Weasner
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Mike Weasner

My biggest IOS UI complaint is with the Mail app on the iPhone vs the Mail app on the iPad. To my mind there is no logical reason to change the location of the various button icons (new message, trash, etc) depending on the device being used at the moment. For those of us with BOTH devices this seems like the app and devices came from two different companies. The rearrangement always means I have to relearn the app when I switch devices after using the Mail app on the other device. So non-Apple. Or at least, it used to… Read more »