I’m pretty hardcore when it comes to products carrying an Apple logo. I pretty much own them all (Cinema Display, iPod touch, shuffle, iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, and Mac mini). If that’s not drinking the kool-aid, I don’t know what qualifies today. Before I get a host of comments asking, every single one of those devices solves a very real problem in my life.
But, spending 98% of my time on Apple devices gives me some credibility to say that iOS needs a lot more refining than just iOS notifications. Today it leaked that Apple’s looking at picking up a company to completely rebuild Push Notifications. Keep in mind that a little while back Apple also hired Rich Dellinger, the guy responsible for the fantastic notification system built into webOS.
If you’re not sure what notifications are, ask yourself this, “have I every been interrupted by a blue popup while using my iPhone?” If the answer is yes, then you’ve seen a Push Notification. If the answer is no, consider yourself lucky. They’ve been driving most of us absolutely nuts since they were released.
We’re going to leave the prognosticating about notifications to others today (there’s a lot of it currently). In my opinion, the problem here isn’t iOS notifications on a whole. It’s afterthought additions to iOS. If you remember, Push Notifications were Apple’s original answer to multitasking. According to Apple, iPhone users didn’t need multitasking because we’d be able to manage information from other applications with Push Notifications.
Push Notifications had a lot of problems. Apple announced them on June 9, 2008, and expected to release the technology in September 2008, but the release kept getting delayed. 2008 turned into 2009, and by the time it was finally released, it was September 2009. It turned out that Apple had to completely rebuild the APNS services because of scalability problems.
Apple thought Push Notifications would solve battery problems associated with background processes. Turns out they were wrong. Apple introduced multitasking soon with iOS 4.0.
Starting to notice a pattern here yet? Apple has a history of solving new problems and giving people what they want, while forgetting about the technologies of the past. Multitasking was introduced because people kept asking for it, and Apple seemed to abandon Push Notifications. Now that people have multitasking, people are complaining about Push Notifications.
Apple keeps providing patch jobs because people ask for them, instead of taking the time to sit down and design the best solution available.
Folders and multitasking are just as bad as Push Notifications
Folders and multitasking fit into the same category as Push Notifications. All three of the technologies are afterthoughts, and all three are seriously lacking the polish they need. iOS’ handling of folders is laughable, and completely unintuitive. I don’t know about you, but most of my apps in folders get lost in a vortex never to be seen again. If an app finds itself being shunted to a folder, I might as well be telling it, “it was nice knowing you,” because once it’s there, it rarely makes an appearance again.
Multitasking was a pretty lame attempt at quieting the complainers. Can someone please explain to me why we need applications remaining in a hidden toolbar that have no business multitasking? Out of the hundreds of applications I’ve seen go into the multitasking bar, about 1 percent of them have any business being there. Again, multitasking was a patch job. It wasn’t well thought out, and it’s a joke. Why can’t we turn multi-tasking on and off like a notification on an app per app basis? Heck, if there’s no reason for an application to multitask to begin with, why is it even going into the multitasking bar? If an app isn’t built to take advantage of multitasking, why’s Apple letting it rear its head in the multitasking bar? Let’s fix this already.
Are you seeing what I’m seeing? Most of the dropped balls that have come as a result of iOS are being dropped on the back of functionality being added because of customer pressures. Apple didn’t spend time optimizing either of these other processes, just like they didn’t get iOS notifications right. Apple set out to quickly quell the tide of complainers instead of fixing the problems properly.
The problem doesn’t end with iOS either. There’s a pretty long list of OS X functionalities that were added, and then abandoned. Most notable for me: Spotlight. Apple heralded Spotlight as a game changer. Filesystems were dead, and Spotlight was going to find our files for us. What’s been done to Spotlight since its release? Alfred, Quicksilver, and other 3rd party applications and launch bars already do a better job than Spotlight.
It’s happening a lot more than I’d like, and it’s nice that Apple’s finally doing something about notifications, but I hope that they’re not abandoning the giant honey-do list of problems that still exist. It’s easy for Apple to innovate—they excel at it—but lately the sustaining isn’t going so well.
New and shiny is easy—tried and true not so much. We need a little more focus on the latter moving forward.