Phone Calls Need to Stop Taking Over the Screen

Yesterday was frustrating. I’ve been having issues with Discord on my computer, which we use to record our podcasts. I fired it up on my iPhone instead. So far so good. Except in the middle of recording, I got a robocall. Suffice it to say I was mad…at Apple.

Andrew's mockup of phone calls coming in as a banner
Andrew’s mockup of phone calls coming in as a banner

In 2007, Apple gave us the iPhone, which was marketed as a phone with an iPod and internet access. Since then, it has evolved from “A phone with other features” to “A computer in my pocket that can also make phone calls.” This fundamental shift seems obvious to consumers, but not to companies. It’s hard to imagine what Apple would include next that makes everyone want The New Thing. What if it wasn’t a new feature, but a new approach?

Phone Calls as a Notification

It’s annoying that when someone calls your iPhone, it takes over the entire screen. When you’re using the phone, you get a “Slide to Answer” button. When the iPhone is locked, you see a Decline button and Accept button. Since I was using it at the moment, all I could do was glare in impotent rage.

In a future version of iOS, Apple should change how phone calls are received. The concept of a call taking up the whole screen needs to go away. Instead, it should be treated as other notifications: A banner that unobtrusively slides in at the top. See my mockup on the right.

If Apple treated all things on the iPhone with the same priority, it would be a fundamental change in how the company thinks about both the hardware and the software. Removing those constraints could lead to more innovation and interesting ideas to make people want new phones again. Mobile devices are a reasonably mature platform, and our phones can do so many things now.

Treating phone calls like just another thing your pocket computer can do instead of The Reason You Bought An iPhone would mean that Apple understands how people use their devices on a level unmatched by competition.

Further Reading:

[Apple Glasses Could be the Company’s Next Health Device]

[Now We Know Why The 2019 iMac Was Late]

6 thoughts on “Phone Calls Need to Stop Taking Over the Screen

  • This probably needs to be allowed by the carriers. `when I was working on earlier smartphones (such as the Treo), there was a directive from the carriers that phones had to subsume all functionality in favor of phone calls; AFAIK that requirement has never been taken away and the iPhone seems to embrace it.

    1. Wrong. Android has had this feature since I don’t know when, at least since 2011 when I got my first one, but probably longer than that. This might have been a directive from way back in the day though, as the treos were starting to phase out as the iphone came into prominence.

  • Once the call is connected the full screen should recede3 to a tab till its functions are needed. The functions of a phone have no more priority during the call than any other service

  • I strongly disagree. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a telephone first, last, and always. While it may be used for many, many other things, the telephone functionality is foremost.

    Besides, the quickest way to dismiss a call if the phone is locked is to hit the right side button twice. The first will silence the ring; the second will reject the call. It’s not hard.

  • Phone calls also should not stop anything else that you might have been doing on the phone. I was recording an argument in a parking lot between two people (in case something bad/violent happened) when my wife called. The recording stopped so the phone could ring. Nothing bad happened, but I found it ridiculous that what I was doing on my phone was less important than someone calling (most of my calls are robocalls these days).
    Your notification suggestion would also take care of this problem.

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