two examples of bad app design

This is a continuation of my last post about how I was “feeling” about Apple. This drills down into two applications I depend on a lot, Apple Maps and Google Maps.

I configured my iPhone for Dark mode (Settings | Display & Brightness) when it was first released with iOS 13. I turned it and and I’ve kept it enabled since. There’s an Automatic switch setting which I have turned off, thus it’s always in Dark mode. And that, it turns out, is a problem with Apple Maps. It follows the same setting as iOS overall. It’s readable in any light except out doors in the bright Florida sun. Here’s what it looks like with Dark mode enabled.

Looks kind of hip for all of five minutes, until I have to look up something while out of my vehicle and in the sunlight. Then the map almost totally disappears. My first reaction was to try to turn off Dark mode just for Apple Maps. You can’t do that because the Apple software geniuses made the decision not to add it because they probably thought you would never need to do that. I beg to differ on that. But anyway, I decided to install Google Maps and work with that. That was a mistake, and here’s an example to illustrate why.

It’s bright and readable, and it’s covered with crap. What kind of crap, you ask? Why those lovely category buttons at the top underneath search and the option selections running along the bottom. Guess what? You can’t turn those off either. Since plan ‘A’ wasn’t working, I went back to Google to search for a plan ‘B’. And I didn’t like what I found there. One suggestion in one of the forums was to go to the Control Center (Settings | Control Center) and add a Dark Mode button. The reasoning being that when you wanted to see the map in light mode, you’d pull down the Control Center and hit the Dark Mode toggle button. And that, unfortunately for me, is what I’ve done. For example:

The Dark Mode toggle button is the very right lower corner, and Dark Mode is active. When inactive the button goes black. This is of course how Apple Maps looks in non-Dark Mode. To be honest it’s a bit washed out in illustrating secondary roads. I’m just glad that more of the map surface is given to the map, and not to extraneous buttons and non-critical illustrations.

This work-around reminds me of what I had to do to add autodial back onto my iPhone. The only reason I continue to use Apple Maps is because its interface is much cleaner than Google’s. I don’t know how long that will last.

The principal of least astonishment states that a user interface should behave in a way that most users will expect it to behave. In this case I expected to find a control (a toggle) in Maps Settings (the circled ‘i’ in the upper right corner) to enable or disable it. Having to add a toggle to Control Center to turn off the iPhone’s Dark Mode just to turn it off for Apple Maps is, as they say, quite astonishing.

the current state of ios 14

That’s not my iPhone 12. I still have my iPhone 11 Pro Max.

It’s been a while since I penned my mini-screeds about iOS 14 and what I disliked, nay despised, about iOS 14. My biggest gripe was and still is about the lack of a phone speed dialing widget. That’s still missing and looks to be gone forever. That’s why I turned to Shortcuts in an attempt to create a replacement.

Until 14.4 landed, which is the current release, I was still having the occasional problem where my Shortcuts’ speed dialing would stop working. Touch a shortcut to dial, and it just hung. I removed the widget when it did that one time, then put it back. The Shortcuts’ widget was blank; no speed dial buttons at all. The only way to correct it was to reboot my friggin’ iPhone. As of 14.4 that seems to have been fixed.

Another problem was with Apple CarPlay. I now drive an Acura 2020 MDX because I discovered that my 67-year-old ass wound up in a world of hurt if I drove for any amount of time in the Toyota Prius. My wife was having the same issues as a passenger. So six months ago we traded in her Prius for the MDX, and have been in a lot better physical shape since. We don’t drive very far in retirement, so I believe, barring any unforeseen catastrophe, we’ll have that vehicle for a very long time. It was meant to be our travel car before the pandemic, but you can see how that worked out…

One of the MDX’s features was the ability to use Apple CarPlay. That has been something of a mixed bag. When it works, it’s wonderful. Getting it to work consistently is the issue. Too many times I’ll plug in my iPhone into the MDX, and the MDX will say it can’t see it. I’ve used multiple cables to no avail.

Another odd problem with CarPlay concerns Siri and hand-free dialing. On more than one occasion Siri would enter a state where she could not dial out. I’d ask her to call someone, and she’d hem and haw around and come back saying she couldn’t complete it. Those faults are fixed with iPhone reboots as well. But like I wrote earlier, when CarPlay works, it’s wonderful. And that problem seems to have been fixed in iOS 14.4 as well.

I’m not about to sing the praises of iOS 14. All I’ll say is that considering the alternative, Android, iOS 14 is the lesser of two evils.