One-handed usability needs to be improved for big-screen iPhones

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by hipnetic, Sep 24, 2014.

  1. hipnetic, Sep 24, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2014

    hipnetic macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    Background: I've owned most of the iPhone models and just upgraded my iPhone 5 to the 6 (I wanted the 6+, but they didn't have any left - I'm still debating whether I'll return my 6 and try to score a 6+).

    Like a lot of people, I like to use my phone one-handed. I'll use it in landscape mode for watching videos, taking/viewing photos, and I could see a scenario where it might be preferred for in-car use (but more apps would need to support it better). But, most of the time, I'm using it in portrait mode, and I'd like it to work well one-handed. Well, as we know, the phones are bigger now, and it's harder to do that. It's not just with the 6+. The regular 6 is also harder to use one-handed. Even going from the 4-series to the 5 made things a bit harder.

    Reachability is a nice feature which I suspect I'll have to use for clicking on links at the top of a web page, etc. But it should *NOT* be the long-term solution for accessing icons on the top row of the app launcher, being able to swipe down the notifications screen, clicking on buttons at the top of apps, etc.

    I foresee a lot of smart developers figuring this out on their own and we'll see a lot of apps get updated so that all of the buttons will get moved to the bottom of the screen. And developers who were slow to support the left-to-right swipe to go back to the previous screen will finally update their apps to do that. But I'm very concerned that Apple has not led the charge and completely rethought the UI for this new world of large-screened phones. Examples:

    - Top row of icons on the app launcher out of reach
    - Swiping the notifications screen down out of reach
    - Too many official Apple apps have buttons at the top of the screen (e.g., 'Send' button when composing an email, URL box in Safari).

    So what can be done? Well, here are some simple ideas that I think would go a long way:
    1) Redefine the UI standards so that all buttons on a "menu bar" move to the bottom of the screen. The top of the screen should ideally be for information-only. This applies not just to a single row of buttons, but also when you've got lots of buttons. For example, the keyboard is on the lower part of the screen where we can easily reach it one-handed. But the phone numeric dialer takes up most of the screen, so hitting the #1 key is less comfortable. The numeric dialer buttons should be compressed a bit and moved down to the bottom half of the screen.
    2) Move the notifications swipe-down screen and integrate it into a single swipe-up control panel / notifications screen.
    3) The app launcher should ideally be rethought altogether, but a simple/easy improvement short-term could be to have the app launcher have apps gravitate to the bottom, instead of being top-justified, or to allow users to position app icons wherever they want on the screen.
    4) Lists (e.g., contact list) should allow for some extra white space at the top of the list so that you can drag the list down and easily reach the top items.
    5) Lock screen functionality needs to be revamped. When listening to audio, the controls are too high on the screen. Also, notifications which allow swiping left-to-right to jump into that app (e.g., an SMS message) are more uncomfortable to reach/swipe. Maybe change that functionality so that you now tap-and-hold on the notification to launch the Messages app?
    6) Move alert banners to the bottom of the screen.

    Any other thoughts/ideas?

    Also, does anyone know how the Android and Windows Phone UI's compare in this regard? They've been doing big-screen phones longer, and I'm curious if they suffer similar one-handed usability problems, or if their UIs are already better optimized for this.
  2. hipnetic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    Wow. So I guess no one is interested in engaging in thoughtful discussions here anymore? Maybe I should just start up a new thread about my phone bending or whether the iPhone 6 is superior to the iPhone 6 Plus.
  3. ToroidalZeus macrumors 68020


    Dec 8, 2009
    Former 6 Plus, now 6 user here.

    A) You are right about a lot of the changes. I feel Apple really dropped the ball when they had the keynote but failed to inform users and developers of what the changes needed to accommodate a 5.5" screen were. Steve Jobs would go into details instead of just releasing products with no explanation.

    B) While a lot of your changes would work I still eel they are inherently flawed. e.g. Why upgrade the screen just to display blank information?
  4. HelloMikee macrumors 6502a


    Jun 16, 2009
    San Diego
    But why would you expect phablets to be optimized for one handed use when that's not really what it's intended for?

    Sure there are things you can do one handed with the plus but that's not its strong point.

    You can't defy the law of physics.

    That's the problem with people complaining the iphone 6 plus is too big. It's not too big, it's just not the right size for you. Which is perfectly fine. Stop the bitching and get the right sized phone for your needs.

    You don't see Samsung note users complaining about the size because well... They bought it for that reason, the size.
  5. Steviejobz macrumors 68000

    Jun 19, 2010
    Arguably the Note does way more than the G5 relative to what the Plus does over the regular 6. The note is like a full on workstation. The Plus is just a stretched version of the 6
  6. hipnetic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    I don't think you have to fill the screen with "blank" information. It could still be filled with useful "read-only" information. So, for example, on the phone dialer, the buttons wouldn't fill the screen, but you would have the numbers that you're entering appear at the top.

    If you want to argue that the 6+ is not meant for any amount of one-handed use, you can do that. So, let's forget about the 6+, and just focus on the regular 6. Surely you'd agree that the regular 6 is supposed to be usable for one-handed use, right? But all of the issues I described are applicable to the regular 6 as well (just not to the same extreme as the 6+). You do remember when Apple released the 5 how they went out of their way to basically talk about how they expanded the screen size to the maximum ability to still allow you to use it one-handed. Well, the 6 is now bigger than that, and the only thing they've done to preserve one-handed usability is offer the reachability feature. Again, that's a nice fall-back feature for certain situations, but if they expect you to have to use that feature to click on buttons they've put at the top of their apps, then that's a usability design failure.

    Having to use the reachability feature to tap on a web page link in Safari that is on the top left of the page is an acceptable fall-back approach for that use case. Having to use it to tap the "Send" button when composing an email is not. The reachability feature adds an extra tap and added delay.
  7. HelloMikee macrumors 6502a


    Jun 16, 2009
    San Diego
    Hopefully developers will take advantage of the real estate but even the iPad doesn't do anything crazy creative other than utilize screen real estate and can be considered a stretched out iOS.

    Apple also wouldn't want to take too much away from their other lines of work horse machines. Perhaps one day though the tablet will be the extension to their MacBook lines.

    Besides, the debate is about one handed use on larger phones and not about versatility.
  8. sportello macrumors member

    Sep 6, 2014
    I do agree they could have pushed for new standards among iOS developers, but I think they're waiting to see what people come up with in these first few months before backing any specific guidelines.

    That said, I think the Plus is surprisingly useable with one hand. Even when walking around, I can text pretty well with it. I also haven't used Reachability even once yet.
  9. fishmd macrumors 68000


    Jun 18, 2008
    Sunny South Florida
    Also, as a Note user, I will say the one-handed mode implementation is much better thought out. And I admit that very grudgingly because I usually love Apple interfaces and how things work.

    But you are also right. I did buy that phone knowing full well I was getting a big device. I knew it would be difficult to use compared to a smaller phone such as my old iPhone 5.

    Somehow I think people forgot what they were buying into when the were choosing between a pre-order of the iPhone 6 or 6+. They just heard all the reviewers saying get the one with the better battery, HD screen and with OIS and said to themselves, "that is the better iPhone so I will buy it." They probably all forgot how they used to look at all us Note users and thought, that phone is ridiculously huge. What a dumb idea for a phone. I would never buy that. (I know that is exactly what I thought before I actually used one). :cool::D

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