iPhone intervention

Dear iPhone,

I care about you very much. So much so, that I have some hard things to say. Please take these things I am writing knowing that the words come from the deepest respect and have only your best interest at heart.

To start, let’s talk about background apps. You have always said that background apps aren’t appropriate on mobile devices. You have gone on and on about how they are bad for battery and difficult to manage. And I agree, for the most part. But we both know that these clear-cut rules don’t hold true. MOST background apps aren’t appropriate for mobile devices, but there are some that do make sense. For one… streaming audio.

The iPod app is very capable, but it isn’t my only source for music. I would love to have Pandora, Last.fm, Stitcher or any other streaming audio application should be able to run in the background. The reasons why I want this are the same reasons that you resisted video on the iPod for so long: music is something I do while I do other things.

And yes, you are correct, having Facebook (or any other application) running in the background constantly polling for updates is dumb and the push notifications that you have developed is a much better solution. The “hard” work doesn’t belong on the mobile device. It belongs on the server and it should be pushed much like it is now.

This brings me to my second point. Your notifications aren’t very useful. Yes, I get the message, but I need so much more than that. The way it works right now is that the push bubble comes up in the middle of what I am doing and I have to make a decision. Do I want to drop what I’m doing to responding to the push message, or do I want to lose that push message in favor of the task that it interrupted?

I don’t appreciate the way that you force me into that difficult decision. This problem is multiplied when I get multiple notifications: I only see the most recent. It is then up to me to fish back through all my apps to see which ones might have sent me a notification. This is very bad interface design and I really need to you to work on that.

Combining these two points brings me to my final point. You really need to come up with something clever for messaging applications. A push bubble telling me that I have received an instant message is not very useful unless it gives me a way to reply to that message.

Today if I want to respond I have to switch out of whatever app I’m working in to go to my IM app and I have to stay there as long as I want to carry on my conversation. If I do this, I’ve lost my train of thought from whatever I was working on in the interrupted app. This interrupt-driven usage model really hurts your usability. I would really like to see a better way of doing IM.

And please understand… instant messaging is THE killer app for you. If it can wait, I don’t need to carry it with me.

You can’t downplay these shortcomings and expect to remain competitive. There are other phones out there just waiting for you to make some stupid decision that they can exploit to take your place at the top.

Please keep in mind that I care very deeply about you and wish only for your success. Please read these words in the loving-kindness that they are intended and use them to better yourself.

Most Sincerely,


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