Rant: iOS Doesn’t Need More Stupid Gestures

Rant: iOS Doesn’t Need More Stupid Gestures

How many gestures can Apple implement in iOS? Apparently not enough! These new gestures, detailed in a recent patent may end up in your iPad or iPhone in the future. Please no.

The first patented gesture is “Swipe and Hold”, designed to allow users to navigate faster through a series of photos, instead of having to flip your finger from photo to photo. Whatever. The second patent involves using the accelerometer to perform a similar task, increasing or decreasing the speed of your browsing. Sounds maddening. Both patents seem conceptually interesting, but really these are just complications to a very simple gesture language that works. A language that is the main secret of Apple’s iOS success, one that everyone intuitively understands and learns within seconds.

There is no need to complicate things. If Apple keeps adding gestures to this simple language, it will become a mess. Just like the Macintosh itself and the rest of the graphic user interface operating systems.

The original Mac, released in 1984, was a perfect example of equilibrium between simplicity and power. Everyone got it. Very few things to click on. A very simple set of possible operations. It worked beautifully.


But, as the Mac (and the Windows PC as well, to be fair) became more advanced, its capacity to process files and information increased. Instead of refining the interface to make it easier to handle the increase in information, Apple and third parties developed new user interface add-ons: patches added to its original language.

In theory these patches — much like the recently patented gestures — were designed to increase your productivity. In practice they only increased the productivity of those who decided to learn them: so-called power users. At the end, all those user interface patches, all those press command plus press this key plus mouse click that to open this other thing made our modern operating systems too complex and arcane for most people. Eventually, we ended up with a pastiche of user interface stupidity that is not more powerful–just more complex.

The Mac became a brown paper bag full of pain, a complex mess that betrayed its origins. One that people like Steve Jobs himself hated. This is why iPhones and iPads are so successful. It’s not only the portability or the pretty design. It’s the simplicity. They are computers for the rest of us.

If Apple decides to keep adding gestures to the simple language of iOS, it will kill what made these devices successful in the first place. It will kill the joy of using something that doesn’t require any knowledge, something that doesn’t require users to be hobbyists or power users. Something that just works.

After all, remember the Steve’s original motto for the Mac: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Whoever is running the show now, I hope you never lose sight of that motto.

Image: Shutterstock/Norma Cornes