Tog on iPhone apps

I’ve always been a fan of Bruce Tognazzini. In this post he looks at what’s wrong with the way the iPhone manages apps, and brings out some really interesting points:

  • Most people buy an app, use it for 3 days or so, then abandon it.
  • Apps are as much about entertainment as anything else. At 99 cents that’s pretty cheap entertainment.
  • But the iPhone isn’t designed for that kind of app usage.

Apple designed Springboard – the iPhone equivalent of the Finder with an eye to Apps being, well, apps. You buy them, you use them, you keep most of them. But if we treat them as sources of entertainment too, then we want something which helps us categorise them just like we might do songs etc. because we’ve got a lot of them.

I’ve found myself having two classes of apps – core, serious apps, and fun stuff which I might play with for a bit and then forget about because I’ve had my fun. I now search for apps more than using Springboard. I tried the new iTunes App organiser but it doesn’t really help – no labelling, and apps still organise themselves when you add new ones.

So it’s a bit of a UI mess, ironically routed in the (probably) unexpected emergence of iPhone apps being more than just iPhone addons, but entertainment just like movies or music.

And that’s the interesting thing. We all thought iPhone Apps would be like Desktop apps and in fact they’ve turned out to be a mix – some are Apps in the Desktop sense and some are entertainment in the Music/Movie sense. I wonder if Apple are taken a little by surprise by this.

Ironically as I wrote this, Alex (6 years old) got bored of “Johnny Test” cartoon and asked to play with my iPhone. He’s happily playing some little game I downloaded a while ago. Interestingly his Nintendo DS is on the table, untouched…

Interestingly when I’m with an iPhone user, it’s not uncommon to play the “What iPhone apps do you have” game, and to discover a whole bunch of new and interesting ones.