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iPhone Built-In Application Design Issues

As a regular iPhone user, I do certain things over and over again. Mostly, Apple gets the design of their common applications pretty spot-on, but a couple of issues trip me up regularly that could be easily addressed with small interface design changes.

Placement of the Send button in Messages

iPhone SMS Send button

iPhone SMS Send button placement

I have a couple of trouble spots in general with the touch keyboard, which I’ve mostly overcome by always typing in landscape mode. However, this one gets me all the time. I am typing away at a text message, and I accidentally press Send rather than a key near the upper right corner of the keyboard. This is more than annoying; it can have a big impact on a conversation (which, granted, doesn’t necessarily conform to the standards of in-person conversations) and it adds to your tally of sent SMS messages if you don’t have unlimited texting.
Though the placement is thoughtful in the sense that it is right next to the input box — controls should be placed near the element with which they are associated — I think in this case it’s worth making an exception and putting the Send button up where the Edit button is.
This begs the question of where to put the Edit button. In portrait mode, there’s really only space for one button in that location. Two potential alternatives are to use the iOS Toolbar pattern at the bottom of the screen to show additional options, or to replace the Edit button with the Send button only when the keyboard is displayed. Usability testing would help to determine the best alternative.

Camera Zoom Feature

iPhone Camera Zoom Slidebar

iPhone Camera Zoom Slidebar

In iPhone 3GS, Apple introduced the option to zoom in while taking a camera shot. The pinch and spread interaction patterns seem like the obvious design choice for this feature; these are the same gestures used when zooming in and out of a picture, a web page, a map, and various other places. However, Apple chose to use a finger-tap reveal of a slidebar (see image).
It took me a while to remember how to reveal the slidebar, and I still find myself trying to use the spread gesture to zoom in on an image. The only thing I can think of is that the designers thought a person’s fingers may get in the way of the image as you try to zoom in and out. I really don’t think that would be a big usability issue, and the fact that the pinch and spread gestures are used almost ubiquitously for zooming in and out in other applications makes it a learned behavior that is violated in the Camera application. I’m curious whether they have any research behind their design choice here.
Does anyone else deal with these user experience issues with their iPhones, or have others they’d like to share? We’d love to hear about it.

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Molly Malsam

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