Poorly done things
Your life is worth less than fifteen minutes of the time of a good programmer within Apple. At least for Apple and a lot of other people. Learn how.
Shake it off?
Shaking your iPhone in 2007 to undo some action while walking dazzled through the streets of San Francisco could even seem funny and fun. Doing this in 2021 with an iPhone that costs 14 times the value of a monthly minimum wage in Brazil, especially if thrown to the ground during the act, can be quite the opposite (not that it was not like this already).
Of course, there was a better interface solution than this and Apple, now thinking of giant iPhones only, implemented it. The result is that today, additionally, you may try to touch the screen with three fingers1 and wait for the software to understand the same as you and the hardware had already understood during the gesture.
Now, have you tried in 2021 to set up more than one timer2 on your iPhone?
Like… While cooking you need a timer for cooking the carrot and another for cooking the zucchini. In parallel, you need to know when it is time to give your child another medicine. Trivial, but your US$ 2,700.003 iPhone can do nothing for you. Only one timer has always been available for happy iPhone owners.
The whole thing can be even simpler.
Imagine that at the turn of the year you may want to set up an alarm at 00:00 to know when to hug and fraternise with your neighbours. All this while your iPhone is filming the joy of a fresh start and a new stage in the history of humanity that uses this calendar.
You will find, in the worst way, that the alarm as soon as it starts automatically will turn off the video recording without even asking you or giving you any signal that this happened at all. You lost the record of this moment and there’s no way to ask the whole world to come back at midnight to re-record everything. The truth is that we are not in a Hollywood movie and not all of us are in Las Vegas.
The alert of death
Going a little further, leaving countless other examples aside, we finally arrived at the modal low battery alert4.
It’s your son’s first step. His first attempt can really work. It’s exciting. It’s beautiful. It’s a unique moment in his story, yours, and of all the people there who love him. You really want to leave this on record for posterity. And it deserves to be registered for posterity. It’s your son. Nothing more important than your son, right?
Not for Apple. If you have an iPhone and want to shoot your child’s first step, or even just take a picture, it’s good that your battery is not percentage triggered to show the alert of death (which can be very literal as I will explain later).
Phone call yes, battery alert, no?
What is the criterion anyway?
Phone calls are so cringe
One thing that was perfectly normal in 2007: the announcement of a phone call occupies the entire screen and takes priority over everything else. After all, the name of the device is the iPhone. It was supposed to be a phone. Remember what that meant? But it’s 2021, and I think the current solution where the person can choose between a full screen or just a notification is much better.
I opt for notification. I hardly make conventional phone calls anymore so I set up my phone to receive phone calls from those in my phone book only and, even so, when I’m not in some focus mode (the old “do not disturb”).
Thank you, Apple! From the bottom of my heart. (This even makes me want to pay almost R$ 800,00 to have the privilege of being able to put a free app in your store for another year. Just kidding, I don’t feel like that.)
“Modal” and “system modal”
The term “modal” is currently used when software, in this case, an app, wants your attention to something and swears to the grave that it will not be able to continue at all if you do not stop everything you are doing in life and in the world and give it your full and immediate awareness. Of course, the app is more important than anything and whoever did this thing, I mean, this app, knows more about your life than yourself.
But there is something worse than “modal”: it is the “system modal”.
(Yes… Now the article is really starting. So wake up the person next door because now comes the best part!)
“System modal” is an abrupt intervention that requires your immediate attention and nothing can be done just like the “modal” described above. But at the system level! Yes… Your cell phone is completely hijacked until your answer5. This also means that nothing else anywhere on your phone will work until you respond. As you already know, if it were just “modal” it would just close the thing and distil some adjectives complimentary to the creators of this plague. I mean, of this app. But now it’s the operating system. The f operating system!
What to do when it’s the operating system that crashes your whole life just because it thinks it’s much more important than you or anything you’re doing? I wonder what goes on in the mind of those who idealised it to strongly believe that your life is worth less than a battery of a phone about 20% to run out.
When it’s “just” an inconvenience
Having to stop everything in your life to tell the computer what it should do to continue something so commonplace can be inconvenient. (Yes, your iPhone is a computer, running UNIX on top of that. Or would it be underneath?)
“Do I put it in energy-saving mode or do I just leave it as it is? For the record, nothing can be more important at this time throughout the universe than you knowing that I have 20% battery life and giving me immediate full attention. In fact I kindly stopped everything else on this phone while you don’t answer me, okay?” — says your beloved iPhone (although I hear Craig’s voice, kind of coughing “disguised” sometimes).
If it were your little children asking you to go to the bathroom to clean them, it’s part of parenthood. But… A telephone? Is that serious?
When it can be fatal
Many of us cannot enjoy the “luxury” of having a car with Apple CarPlay from the factory or adapting a third-party sound or multimedia system in our car that makes this functionality accessible6. All that can be done is often to buy one of those cell phone holders at the nearest pharmacy and attach it to the air outlet of your car (yes, in the pharmacy… have you seen how much it costs in the Apple Store in Brazil?). We have to remember that in Brazil many people depend on delivering food on motorcycles, where adaptation is even more complicated 7.
Then you put Waze8 to run there, which even speaks Brazilian Portuguese well and you don’t even have to change the language of your entire cell phone for this, to help you on the way. And, for the record: I always thought it should have been Apple that bought Waze; Apple “Maps” app should only work right in the blocks around Tim Cook’s house; I still think a more humble Forstall missed and keeps missing on this pie.
The problem is that no matter what map app you use, it seems nothing in the world is more important than the damn 20%, 10% or 5% battery of your iPhone. Not even your life. It will show a tiny dialogue box, with tiny action buttons, purposely designed so that they cannot be pressed, much less easily. Much less with the car moving. Much less with lives involved. Yours, those in your car next to you, those on the road and those in other cars.
Several people can literally die because you genuinely need to know whether or not to leave the highway, but the iPhone still wants you to pay attention to the most urgent and important thing in the world at this time: the percentage of the battery. It can’t be a notification, it can’t be a status bar with another colour.
Even a flashing icon or percentage up there would already solve it. But Tim and Craig think it doesn’t matter, that your life doesn’t matter and they need you, maybe at 80 km/h9 or more, to stop everything, look at the phone, try to press a button that doesn’t want to be pressed and take the real risk of killing your family, a person on the street who doesn’t even know what an iPhone is and, of course, yourself.
Who can do something?
I could say that you could if you stopped buying iPhones yourself. But then I can’t program apps for iPhone (another passion of mine since Steve was all proud while delighting us saying that it was not three separate devices), trying to follow the Human Interface Guidelines that Apple itself does not follow, trying to serve and be useful in the best possible way to the person to whom I actually provide service and I want to see truly happy and satisfied: the user who needs, downloads and uses an app and, in the end, is the one who pays, not only financially, the entire bill and all the wheels of the gears of this trillionaire industry.
Asking to use the other operating system10 (unfortunately and still the only competitor) would be something even worse. And stopping to use cell phones in 2021 is almost like totally disconnecting from the world around you. (Maybe it wasn’t a bad idea, on second thought.)
How much is life worth?
Insistently, year after year, I repeat appeals for something to be done.
“It shouldn’t be so difficult”, I imagine talking to the demigods. “Put the code in my hand! I even know more or less what to change and where”, I think to myself11.
Yes… It is very likely that it will take longer to find out where it is, and then go through all the giant bureaucracy (automated or not, necessary or not). Changing this to show a graceful notification instead of the alert of death should not even take fifteen minutes.
This brings us to the sad conclusion that, deep down, your life is not even worth fifteen minutes from one of the programmer elves within Apple. And her or him didn’t even have to be an elf. Not least because each of Apple’s members, no matter what position they think they are in, are exactly people just like you and me. With the same difficulties and with the same abilities. Just as neither you nor I are better than anyone there, no one there is better than you or me.
“Sorry for the inconvenience…”
Speaking of those who behave like elves or demigods: in one of these years, I tried to see if someone more influential in Olympus was sensitised and sent the message to those who could at least consider it. One of these demigods once granted me the grace of his answer, saying that tagging random people on Twitter would do nothing more than annoy them uselessly. Well, what is annoying for you, my dear cynical, can mean avoiding the literal death of someone else that is a person just like you. (Oh, and this affectionate admonition also applies to you, Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi and Tim Cook.)
Anyway… Now that I’ve made this “small” outburst with a multitude of footnotes, touches of sarcasm and ironies, quite valid, however, I must say that the subject is really serious. And I would like you to pay attention to this. How much a poorly made interface can not only bring a bad experience to the person who uses it. You can, in fact, kill her or him. And there is no company in the world, there is no device in the world, there is no operating system in the world that is worth more than a person’s life.
Try to do this on an iPhone SE, the first model. Yes… I know it’s sad, Phil Schiller, people don’t always buy the latest device models from your “long fellow” Apple: of course, they do it just because they’re inconvenient people. ↩
As far as I saw Apple did not translate this into Brazilian Portuguese, keeping the term in English. ↩
No case, no charger and no Apple Care included. ↩
Whatever 20%, 10%, 5% or other number Apple thinks it should be. ↩
Or restart your phone. Which is very fast, but not, right? ↩
Sorry again, Phil Schiller. ↩
Oh, did you know that there is a Brazilian company (which says it does not work in the food delivery business and that did not have the creativity to have even a interesting name) that thinks that food delivery people, unrecognised by it as its legal employees, do not deserve to be in the “caste” of people who have iPhone? Do they think that only those who can order food in this country deserve to use iPhone and who delivers that same food does not? Anyway, ask one of these employees of… do you know the name… if the delivery app runs on iOS. You may also ask them about the entire security network they don’t have. ↩
That will sell even my breath to advertisers and every location where I was to governments. ↩
“Kilometres per hour”… Yes, I know it’s a very crazy business, being very difficult to understand for a certain part of the world. But for the other part is what we use to measure the speed of a vehicle. And look what a “disruptive” and “innovative” thing: 10 millimetres is 1 centimetre; 100 centimetres is 1 meter; 1000 meters is 1 kilometre. How come no one thought about it before? ↩
That one was bought by Google to become a BlackBerry copycat when they realised that they were looking in the wrong direction and then decided to copy iOS instead (which at the time was known as Mac OS X running on mobile phones and in the next year was named iPhone OS). ↩
Who knows the day Apple “allows” me to live where I want to live and not where it wants me to live ↩