My son managed to get his Android phone to make every icon, folder and background use the Twitter logo. In one sense this is an impressive feat.
It then made me think, “What’s the point?” I wondered when you would need to do this and how it helped the user be more efficient with their smartphone. My feelings are that there is no point, it can be done because it’s possible. Google, in designing Android, has decided that total freedom is more important that function and form. This would also assume that ths was actually a decision of design at all.
Since the days of Macintosh, Apple has always been criticised for controlling the user experience. I have known many techie people who have hated the fact that they couldn’t fiddle or tweak System 7 and more recently iOS. They enjoy computers for their own sake and enjoy engaging with the technical experience.
The thing that isn’t always understood about Apple is that they were always making technology to be used in life. This means that the freedom to fiddle is always less important than the experience. This is what Steve Jobs talked about in his famous talk about liberal arts being in their DNA.
It’s true you can’t make your entire iPhone repeat the Twitter logo everywhere, but the real question is, “Why would you want to?”
Recently Apple has been facing a lot if criticism for not keeping up and not adding features to their smartphones like HTC or Samsung. This article here is typical of the comment, http://www.thestreet.mobi/story/12033242/1/google-laughs-at-the-new-iphones.html.
In the criticism levelled at Apple, people seem to resent the fact that Apple products cost more. They also demand that the iPhone jumps through hurdle after hurdle to keep up. This is no different than the processor wars of the 90’s.
The thing about that competition was that in the end the ever increasing demand for speed reached a saturation point and any computer was fast enough to do pretty much all we ever wanted. We are now at a similar juncture. Apple have conclusively defined the features and appearance of a smartphone. Now we all we are doing is seeing slight modifications but nothing is really as significant as the initial iPhone look and feel. The world wasn’t crying out for a 41mp camera in their Nokia mobile phone.
In the end I bought my iPhone because of how easy it is to use and how it helps me do my job. There are many things I’d like to improve such as the camera or the battery, but if I went to a phone that had these it wouldn’t use iOS. I don’t want an operating system that lets me do anything to it and therefore prevents me from doing what I need to do with it.
The fascinating thing for me is the emotional response that so many people seem to have against Apple. They are angry about the cost, they seem irritated by the fancy design. They seem almost jealous of the Apple culture and want to upset the happy scene. As some sort of Luddite they seem to celebrate the inadequacies of poorer quality products. The irony is that they seem as devoutly opposed to Apple as the cringing Apple fans’ loyalty they mock.
To quote Simon Leys, “The need to bring down to our own wretched level, to deface, to deride and debunk any splendour that is towering above us, is probably the saddest urge of human nature.”