The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

A User Experience Analysts Take on the iPhone 5

As everyone is aware by now, the iPhone 5 released last week.  Along with it came an updated iOS in addition to a new charging cable.  We wanted to talk about the iPhone more simply and with less of an agenda, because as it seems a lot of places are trying to sway you one way or the other. So a few of our very talented team members wrote some things down about the iPhone 5.  We’ll be posting more of these as they come along. 

iOS 6:


I found the operating system to be a minor upgrade.  Past upgrades have included key, experience-altering changes such as third-party applications, folders, multitasking, home screen backgrounds, or notable applications such as FaceTime or Siri.  This upgrade hasn’t offered any significant alterations, and as such, almost feels like a bit of a letdown, especially if you’ve come to expect really exciting changes with each new year. That said, it’s a continuation of what works, refining certain aspects and improving.  For instance, the Share menu is much better, showing app icons rather than a small list of names.  Being able to post to Twitter or Facebook directly from the phone will surely be appreciated by many as their phone becomes an immediate extension of their social network, rather than having an app that acts as a portal to that network.  Granted, there are some changes to make the system feel fresh, namely the iPod functionality.  It has been given a new skin, but functions the same way.  Otherwise, the system feels instantly familiar, and one would be forgiven for forgetting that they had upgraded to iOS 6. Maps: The internet, as it is known to do, has framed this as an apocalyptic nightmare.  However, it’s simply not the case.  When the application works, it works amazingly well.  From a UI perspective, the application is much improved over previous versions.  The maps load much faster, zooming in and out can happen much more quickly, and text scales in much smoother real time.  The maps are attractive and easy to read.  Furthermore, the addition of turn-by-turn navigation (only in iPhone 5) is really nice.  Though I have rarely felt the need for a GPS device, and might not use a turn-by-turn system in general, trying it out to see how it works, it performed admirably. The problem, however, is that the maps aren’t quite as reliable as Google Maps.  Certain businesses and points of interest are hard to locate.  Additionally, Google Maps may correctly infer a particular street variant (N. Main vs. S. Main) based on the city, numbers, or other criteria, while the current Apple Maps might not.  This problem, unfortunately, is made worse simply by knowing it exists.  In other words, knowing the maps might not be as reliable, I almost feel compelled to cross check with Google Maps before proceeding, thus reaffirming that the maps are inferior and I have to do more work.

iPhone 5:

iphone5-image iPhone-5-300x219

The upgrade to a 4” screen is a welcomed change.  I was initially skeptical about a larger screen, as I despise the current trend in Android phones toward larger screens across the board (it is nigh impossible to find an Android that competes performance-wise but has a smaller screen).  I want a phone that comfortably fits in my pocket and I can forget it’s there.  The change in screen size here is done well.  The phone is only slightly taller than previous generations, as the top and bottom bezel are reduced in size.  Staying narrow and tall means the phone still fits comfortably in my hand and I can reach across the phone with ease for typing.  Additionally, by making the phone taller but not wider, content in list forms (email, messages, RSS feeds, etc.) can display more items because they stay at the same size and width.  Otherwise, the phone immediately feels very familiar.  I at once feel at home using this phone, as not much has changed from previous generations. Siri is also a nice addition to my phone.  Though not as intelligent or helpful as Apple’s commercials might make it out to be, it is very nice to be able to operate certain functions that might normally take several taps and swipes.  However, there are times that Siri stalls on me, as though my data connection is fluctuating. The quality of the camera means I don’t have to worry about owning a point-and-shoot.  I would still rely on a DSLR for quality photography, but I don’t have to carry a second device around for quick snapshots.

–Matt Daughtry,  Senior User Experience Analyst, Usability Sciences


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