Let’s call it like it is. Or, was. Apple reinvented the smartphone. Nearly every smartphone on planet earth these days resembles the original iPhone. Flat slab of glass, rounded corners, large display, apps as icons, touch buttons to navigate. Not much has changed in more than a decade. Stale, right?
What’s better than lifting up a handheld device and touching the screen to make something happen? Voice activation? Location-based reminders? Artificial intelligence in a personal assistant that understand common phrases to accomplish tasks?
Suddenly, the whole mess became more complicated, yet there is someone out there trying to reinvent the iPhone’s drop dead simple interface. It’s magic. Or, rather, Magic UX.
Let’s take a nostalgic trip down buzzword lane.
Magic UX is a new smartphone interface inspired by the physical world. It uses your view of the real world to help you navigate computer generated content in the digital world. It’s a practical, subtle use of augmented reality.
Is it easier and more intuitive than tapping a screen with a finger? Is there a better way?
The moment when you move between apps, copying text from a webpage into an email, for example, is more complex on a small screen than it would be in the physical world, interrupting flow and increasing the cognitive load of a simple task.
I don’t agree with the premise because mimicking what we do in the real world isn’t always intuitive– macOS Desktop, I’m looking at you!– but let’s see how such changes work in the real world.
We discovered that this was a problem many people experienced across all apps – it didn’t matter if you were writing a report for work or booking a holiday. The problem lived in the space between the apps, a sort of no man’s land.
This doesn’t happen when you work at your desk. We found that people often lay out their work tools, such as notepads, pens, and reports in specific arrangements in front of them, allowing them to move between tasks by simply shifting their gaze and moving their hands.
Spoiler alert. Most of us do not work on a desktop. But I understand the sentiment of gazing vs. finger grazing. Desktops are big, hold plenty of information, and simple to navigate (not always easy, though; desktops be messy). iPhones remain simple to navigate but contain so much information that grazing around is a necessity, too.
So, what did all this research come up with? A new user interface for iPhone that makes moving content between apps more intuitive.
The difference between Magic UX’s new movement interface and iPhone’s sharing button and extensions is where augmented reality meets visual interface. Fewer steps. But it also requires that applications and the operating system be able to manage both– a new Magic US interface, and the current iOS interface.
If iOS 13 came out with a massive change in the user interface than a billion iPhone customers would get frustrated and many would howl with protest in front of their nearby Apple Store. Change happens, yes. But change can be painful, so any such massive interface change must be done in more subtle steps. Apple’s original iPhone interface exists today because it was a simpler improvement upon the smartphones of a generation ago. The same requirement exists today.
Nothing improves without change.