Usability is usually measured by examining the efficiency of the software user interface for achieving the user’s goals. Recently I’ve been working on a long user interface presentation (more details soon), and while working on It I came to realize there were 3 significant improvements Apple did with latest iOS and iDevices (iPhone/iPad) that most people rarely talk about, probably because they are not directly related to the software’s visual design.
And still, talking about usability as a whole, here are 3 significant usability improvements implemented by Apple with latest iPhones, iPads and iOS7:
1. Touch ID
Regardless to how secure it really is – Touch ID provides a usability boost to iPhone users.
Most of us unlock our phones over 100 times a day. Given that you have a password protecting your phone, it takes around 3-5 seconds to unlock it, reaching up to around 500 seconds which stand for over 8 minutes per day, 4 hours per month in which you are wasting your time unlocking your phone.
With Touch ID this can be reduced significantly: the ease of unlocking the phone allows you to do it much faster than with a password lock, and it’s easier too, especially when you are on the move.
For the sake of the discussion – let’s assume this usability boost can result in around 2 hours per month. Not bad for busy people…
2. Lightning Cable
We are all spoiled and seek for the simplest way to get things done.
It takes 3 attempts to plug in a USB cable (try once, fail, rotate, fail again, realize the second failure was more definite than the first one, rotate back, done), and with micro USB it takes 1-2 additional seconds to plug the cable to the phone. With the new Apple cable this task is easy. Given that you charge your phone at least 2 times in 24 hours – this is another usability improvement when dealing with with Apple’s devices.
3. Back Button
Well, no, I am not hallucinating. iPhone did not add a back button, probably the biggest missing feature in the history of iPhone (the top left corner back buttons are simply not usable). However, iOS7 brought something much better than a back button: a back gesture (along with a bunch of other useful gestures).
Why do I think it’s better? because when gestures are well implemented they create a superior experience to any button (virtual or physical). Buttons require accuracy, and when you are on the move it’s easier to perform a quick swipe (all over the screen) than to locate the accurate location of the button, especially when dealing with large phones where the back button might be hard to reach.
Switching from Android to iPhone always required some adjustment to the fact the back button is not there, but now with the back gesture, using a Windows Phone or an Android feels like the back button is simply outdated.