Scott Forstall's Most Heinous Crimes Against Software

Scott “Wild West” Forstall is dunzo at Apple -- and for good reason. Everyone except Steve Jobs hated him, and his design ideas were appalling. However, as an Apple alum he’ll still spend the rest of his life unimaginably rich. There will never be justice for what he did to us. Below, the worst of his terrible software horrors.

Forstall cherished the idea of making software that resembled real-life objects that people felt comfortable around. Like making iOS’ never-used Game Center app look like a pool table or something. Green felt -- never a good idea.

Better, but still bad, Siri was touted as the reason to buy an iPhone 4S. A year later, and the software still doesn’t work very well.

Hold on -- searching the web for “Where cran die find a train to glue fork.”

If you ignored the hilariously bad 3D component, Apple Maps was never that terrible. But it remains inexcusably subpar and was the laughingstock of the entire internet for a few days. If you search for a coffee shop, it will still point you to a landfill or something.

Find My Friends was maybe the worst of the worst of the worst. Just look at the icon -- the stitching! The rawhide! It made us want to avoid our friends, because our friends might be wearing embossed leather assless chaps.

Bookshelves in iOS have always had to look like an actual IKEA shelf. The idea that we can’t grasp reading books made out of pixels unless there’s an illusion of a physical bookshelf is insulting. Also, you can’t hide the Newsstand app, which also looks like a dumb wooden thing, in a folder.

This idiotic, functionless faux-cloth texture pervades iOS. A smartphone should never look like it needs mothballs. Stop making phones out of fabric, Apple. Or leather.

There are like two places on the planet to actually use Passbook, but take our word for it -- virtually shredding a virtual document is silly.

Remember podcasts? Maybe. Remember reel-to-reel tape recorders, which Apple’s Podcast app resembles? Maybe. I bet your grandpa does.

Ugly things that didn’t work well. Make sure that isn’t your legacy.



    Half of these that you mentioned aren't nearly as bad as you suggest.. sounds like you're nit picking and trumping up the charges.. I'd like to see another article on the good things this guy did.. because if the above is the worst you can dredge up on this guy's design ideas, there must be some good stuff.


      +1. Siri is actually pretty impressive. Sure it makes some funny mistakes but to be able to simple say "Play some Journey" or whatever as I am driving along is pretty awesome. It gets it right 4 out of 5 times on the first go (depending on the complexity of the name e.g. Jason Mraz it has never got right).

      Voice recognition is incredibly hard stuff to cater for all the tones and accents. People need to appreciate the effort that goes into some of these technologies (including Kinect and Android speech recognition).

      Agreed, I think the bookshelf looks kinda nifty.

      Agreed. An article on the positive designs this guy left behind would have been more interesting.


      You realise you could use simple voice commands like 'play songs by Journey' prior to Siri? iOS 5 and if I recall correctly even iOS 4 had the functionality baked in. Apple, and indeed most phones, have had voice commands for a while, Siri is just an extension of it.

      But I agree its not that bad- I use Siri periodically- mostly to send text messages when I can't be bothered typing one out, but it isn't revolutionary, or that useful- more of a gimmick.

      It's a pretty rough end though for the guy that was virtually responsible for iOS. He might have been a dick, I don't know, but aesthetic choices aside, he made some pretty cool mobile software.

    Maybe he couldn't get a job working on Microsoft Bob... And this is his revenge?

    The only really bad thing on here is maps. And maybe not being able to hide Newstand.
    Everything else is personal opinion. I have no negative opinion on the game center design, or the notification center background.
    You opted in to Find my Friends. If you dont like it, just delete it.

    It is a bit annoying that Siri does not work as well in Australia as it does in the US, but that is hardly one guys fault. You would be complaining that they didnt give her to us if they held her back from Australian Customers. This is a bad story.

    "It made us want to avoid our friends, because our friends might be wearing embossed leather assless chaps."

    Well done - if you can make an apple fan boi like me laugh you're doing well. I agree with most of the textures not being so great except I've always liked iBooks for some reason!! Its nice.

    Last edited 02/11/12 10:30 am

      I like the bookshelf in iBooks. I've seen reviews for Android reading apps, and they use the bookshelf format too, so I don't see what the problem is there.

      But the green felt in Game Center? Unforgivable.

      Last edited 04/11/12 4:33 am

    So, did Sam pick on this stuff previously, and genuinely hated it? Or has he just changed his tune now that Forstall got the boot?

      Haha was thinking the same thing, avid fanboy hating.. or maybe he just hates these things he mentioned. Who knows..

    What a well balanced article! Whilst I agree with your take on his UX decisions , I think he did a tonne of good work too.

    I really like the Podcast, Reel to Reel interface. It's logical, clever and works just right.

    This is absoloutley ridiculous and way over the top. So you don't agree with the designs he came up with (or approved) and for that you rip him apart. Yet you mention that Steve Jobs was an ally for him and you would also know that Steve Jobs would have approved all these designs and yet I don't see any article ripping Steve like this. Far from it.

    That's WP8's biggest advantage over iOS and Android. Cohesion in design. Admittedly, right now, it's probably it's only major advatage.

    Lucky I'm shallow as hell.

      Being consistently ugly is sometimes worse than being inconsistant with terrible skeumorphisms.

        Apple's software is consistently the ugliest of all software developers. Windows 8 is gorgeous...but it offers too much customization to it's users - most of whom turn it into a messy, tasteless wall of tiles. My Start screen on Windows 8 is elegant and beautiful. There's no way to make an iOS home screen look less than horrific.

    Ha..! Nice summary and i totally agree with all of it... Can't wait til iOS gets a visual overhaul...

    I now feel dumber for having read this article. Thanks.

    I agree with most of those statements, aside from the Notification Centre. It's always appeared to have some sort of brushed-metal look in my eyes. A marked improvement on a drab plain black look instead.

    I'm actually rather fond of the tape reel UI of the podcast app. When I first encountered it I was stunned at the level of detail that had gone into recreating the antique process, most noticeable from the tiny bumps and shudders of the reel as you start and stop the track.

    I enjoy Apple's use of metaphor in UI design by referencing real world objects (even one's I'm not familiar with) as it provides a layer of abstraction between the user and the underlying digital process (i.e. play track), which overall seems less harsh. It is far from necessary, and not uniformly successful across apps, but I like it, it adds character.

    So it was HIM! I hate all those things except the linen texture.

    Was he also responsible for the skeuormomorphic stuff in osx?

    So after continually trumpeting about how great Apple's design is you now claim it isn't so great and, wait, its because of one baddie. Though, except for Apple Maps, all of the design flaws you mentioned were released under Steve Jobs' tenure. Why aren't you blaming HIM?

    I'm not a fan of stitched leather on my phone, but you forgot to mention that Forstall championed the cut down Mac OS X concept rather than the iPod v1 menus for the iPhone OS. Which coincidentally, is the basis for 90% of all smartphones sold today (iOS plus Google's "inspired" Android OS). Steve Jobs was also a fan of skeuomorphic design, so it's a bit harsh to tall poppy one of the architects of the smartphone revolution for a few interface decisions. Still, I bet Scott will be weeping into his mountain of money for the next six months before landing at Google as a big FU to "Apple under new management".

    The surprising thing out of all of this, is holding back the release of iTunes by a month, to de-texture the interface. Smacks a little bit of pettiness.

    I am not an apple fan but this is stupid. U hailed these very things as what made iOS as user friendly as it was when each new feature came out and then u hate on them when he gets fired?

    Get over Urself.

    On a side note, personally I think the tactile approach works on phones as an introduction. But they need to move on. Its just cluttered now.

    Time for iOS to move forward and join Android and WP7/8 in the real world of modern design where old things you buy as an actual antique, and not downloaded as a 'hip' app. Seriously anyone who designs apps like the ones mentioned in this article deserves some heckling. I studied Architecture at university and I would have failed my course if I had designed a music shop like a guitar (in fact I know students who did). Plain and simple it is lazy design thinking. Clean simple design should always be the way forward. I imagine it is people who like this rubbish, who also said modern architecture is too cold and went back to building their repro mcMansions.

    Stitching and rawhide..
    That smacks of Steve Jobs rather than Forstall.
    He was the one with a stitched leather fetish from what I've been able to discern.
    Jobs had the decorative taste of a hillbilly at best.
    Seen his yacht?

    Apple's "most heinous" crime against software is still iTunes.
    Ugly things that don't work well? - Pretty much sums it up

    I always enjoyed his enthusiasm at apple keynotes.

    Ridiculous and one sided article.

    Gotta agree with that cloth. I didn't even know it was supposed to look like cloth but it's so ugly. I really don't like looking at the notifications centre because of that weird grey pattern.

    I actually thought the document shredding in Passbook animation was pretty cool. Am I the only one there?

      And here i thought shredding in PB was its only function, apparently you do other stuff with it now, albeit just not very well.

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