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gwen
gwenix
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April 2011
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gwen [userpic]
Dear iPhone App developers..

I may not be the most typical user of the iPhone*, I suspect most people don't put a pterm (putty) app on their phone in the first day so that they are sure they can get SSH access to their UNIX servers. However, I do suspect I have a lot in common with most iPhone users in what I consider to be the primary uses for it:

1) This is my primary, and perhaps only, phone. (This one does not apply to the iPod Touch users.)
2) This is my PDA (Personal Digital Assistant); I depend on my calendaring app, and I also use the notes and other life-utility apps frequently to keep my life in order.
3) This is my music player. I also listen to podcasts on this.

Given these three primary uses, I often go through apps in an almost ADD fashion as I need them. I might also be in the middle of using an app when I receive a phone call... or perhaps just a need to check on something more important than what I'm doing right then ("Am I late for my dentist appointment?")

Typical things I do with my iPhone:

-- When I am at lunch, I want to check into Foursquare about my location, and then use my ShapeUp app to record my calorie intake, then perhaps I'll check the weather to see what I should expect from the day.
-- While commuting by bus, I check into various news/blog sources and games while listening to my podcasts in order to pass the time.
-- When waiting somewhere (doctor's office? at a restaurant for a friend? at the bus stop? etc), I might idly flip through a few apps, often games I can easily put down when my wait is over.
-- When I am in bed, about to sleep, I often make a final check of all of my Words With Friends games, and perhaps read a bit in my Stanza ebook reader.

Rarely I find myself:

-- Dedicating time to the pursuit of finishing a serious game. I've had Myst on my iPhone for over a year now, and I've barely made it past the first level.

So here is why I am posting this. I recently went through a purge of apps I never used, and realized why I might never touch them, even if the core idea of the app is solid:

The app presumes I want to dedicate my time and resources to that app.

For instance, online game play apps that require you to continue playing your opponent until the game is done. I can't leave this game if my bus ends its route, my friend comes to the table, or even if I receive a phone call.

I think the developers of these sorts of games presume that their market is the same as flash players on the web; but the situational demographic has changed enough for this to not work. Yes, I am guessing that there are people who do treat their iPod Touches (more likely than the iPhones) as a gaming console, but they would be a minority. The larger monitor most people have on their laptops and desktops allows for easier staring for hours on end at flash games. And yes, there are people who like small portable consoles; those people tend to buy the Nintendo DS or other such devices, all of which are cheaper than the iPod Touch.

The app decides to take over my music.

I find this one particularly presumptuous; it is almost like the app is personally telling me, "I don't like your podcast listening ways with its diversity! You must listen to my looped internal music until your ears bleed!" OK, perhaps that is not what the developers were actually thinking... But really, when you are developing for a platform that boasts a music player as one of its primary selling points, why would you not allow for that music to continue when someone opens your app?

A corollary to this: I removed an alarm app (iAlarm) that boasted being able to play your music to wake you up! This sounded great... until I realized that it would overwrite whatever I was listening to with whatever "playlist" I had set up on that app. So if I accidentally tapped that icon instead of the one next to it... well, I was suddenly listening to my morning playlist instead of whatever it was I already had playing.

Apps that forget that I sometimes don't have network.

This was more of an issue when I was using the iPod Touch; but sometimes even the iPhone runs out of network. Hell, I lose network at least twice every work day just getting into my office building's elevator. It's a pain to try to use apps that act like their feet have just been cut off when the network goes away.

I am not all complaint though! I would like to point out some shining stars of my app life (other than the native apps), and why I find them so marvelous:

Words with Friends. This is a fantastic game for the iPhone and how I use it. I can take my turn at my leisure for any of the games I have running that are waiting on me. This means that I can get on the bus, input a few words, send them off to my friends, and continue on with life. Perfect!

Shape Up is a very well developed calorie tracking app in how it manages moving on and offline. If you are on the network, it will allow you to search the online database of foods you are eating. However, it does keep a locally cached set of common foods, which you can add to from the online database when you have network. This is a very commendable approach, in my opinion.

The GeoDefense series for their graphics. They took vector graphics and turned them into a defense game. The effect is a visually easy to see and parse in the small screen. It also just looks pretty. Kudos to them for their presentation.

None of these apps stops my music/podcast listening when I start them up too!

Thank you for reading my $0.02. I hope it was informative, at least on some level.

* Please note that I also mean the iPod Touch, I did start out with one myself! However, I am not going to laboriously list it explicitly in every sentence. Consider this justice for your eyes!

Comments

Oh, now that the comment comes up in the thread, I see you were responding to Eolh... meh, he was going off on a tangent being unhappy with the user experience of his iphone, actually. :)