Complexity Creep

I used to think that simplicity of mobile applications and smart phones was the future for applications. The simple buttons and simple processes behind most applications make them very popular as a way to get things done. They had to be simple because there was little real estate on a screen to make it complex.

However, I’m starting to think the mobile phones (smartphones) are creeping(racing? soaring?) further up the complexity ramp. The screen content might be simple, but applications have settings scattered (notifications, sounds, in the app settings and under settings settings) and the platform has settings (notifications, power, network, roaming, sounds, etc.)

My iPhone 5 running iOS 6 (and the prior platform) has become more complex.

  • To minimize power consumption, or stretch a low battery further, you’ve still got to go turn off bluetooth, locations services, Wi-Fi and maybe data services on the cellular settings page. There isn’t one place to go. I wrote about this ages ago and it seems Apple could really simplify this with one page/tool that allows you to power up and down key services from one place. Android does this better.
  • International data roaming has the ‘data roaming’ setting which can be turned off, but the Cellular Data button still allows update to come through. I noticed this while in Spain last month.
  • Siri takes some setup including identifying relatives and key contacts. It is not clear how to do this.
  • If you have more than one mail box, there are complexities around outbound mail to specific which mail system to use. I keep getting that wrong and sending personal email on my business account and the reverse.
  • iTunes Match and syncing. Not understood by most mortals.
  • I’m delighted that notifications are in one place, now every app wants to make sounds to get our attention. If I add a new app, I need to go change its notification settings to turn off sounds.
  • Passbook is great, but you seem to have to have each app post whatever on the passbook page. Boarding passes from United or AA need to be moved there from the United or AA app instead of just appearing there.
  • Read this hysterical rant about iMessage and group messaging here. You’ve got to read it. You can’t unsubscribe from large group messages!

These wonderful, simple tools are creeping up the complexity curve just like we’ve seen with Excel and Word and Powerpoint in the past.

Is this just inevitable?

And trying to smartly manage your account with your wireless vendor is another challenge. I was considering moving to their shared plan where the family smart phones would share a common pool of data and I’d save money in the process by giving up unlimited on 3 of our phones. They have a worksheet to calculate how much data you need to ‘buy’ but instead of taking your usage patterns for the last 6 months, it asked you to list out your devices and enter how much each one needs. Hello? They already have our usage! Why can’t just recommend a level? Dumb and complicated.

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