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Steve Jobs Wanted the First iPhone To Have a Permanent Back Button Like Android (bgr.com) 208

anderzole shares a report from BGR: Brian Merchant's new book, The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone, provides a captivating and intriguing look at how the most revolutionary product of our time was designed and developed. Through a series of interviews with Apple engineers and designers who played an integral role in the iPhone's creation and development, Merchant maps out how the iPhone came to be after more than two years of non-stop work at breakneck speed. One of the more interesting revelations from the book is that the iPhone design Apple unveiled in January of 2007 might have looked vastly different if Steve Jobs had his way. According to Imran Chaudhri, a veteran Apple designer who spent 19 years working on Apple's elite Human Interface Team, Steve Jobs wanted the original iPhone to have a back button in addition to a home button. Believe it or not, the original iPhone could have very well looked like a modern-day Android device. "The touch-based phone, which was originally supposed to be nothing but screen, was going to need at least one button," Merchant writes. "We all know it well today -- the Home button. But Steve Jobs wanted it to have two; he felt they'd need a back button for navigation. Chaudhri argued that it was all about generating trust and predictability. One button that does the same thing every time you press it: it shows you your stuff. 'Again, that came down to a trust issue,' Chaudhri says, 'that people could trust the device to do what they wanted it to do. Part of the problem with other phones was the features were buried in menus, they were too complex.' A back button could complicate matters too, he told Jobs. 'I won that argument,' Chaudhri says."
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Steve Jobs Wanted the First iPhone To Have a Permanent Back Button Like Android

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  • Do one thing? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vylen ( 800165 ) on Monday June 19, 2017 @08:12PM (#54651279)

    Except the Home button now does multiple things depending on if you long-press, double or even triple click it?

    • Re:Do one thing? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Chris Katko ( 2923353 ) on Monday June 19, 2017 @08:25PM (#54651325)

      Call me an old fart, but I absolutely hate that about mobile interfaces.

      How am I supposed to know that a menu needs to be swiped, then double pressed then held. At least with desktop UI's you can hover the mouse over a button and get a caption.

      I had my Samsung S5 for over a year before I realized that the drop down top bar with the wifi/location/etc buttons can actually be HELD and it'll go into a sub-menu for configuration. Whereas just pushing the button turns them on/off.

      And, furthermore, the second you utilize TIME in your clicks, you're now forcing time to be a component in their usage. I can press as many radio buttons on my car radio as I want... as fast as I want. I don't have to press one button, and then HOLD IT to have it move radio station. I don't have to watch for the "Context" to change.

      If you ask me (and nobody is), user interfaces have gone ass-backwards and keep getting worse. When I had a flip phone, I could send text messages on the FULL KEYBOARD without even looking at the phone. I knew people who could hold conversations AND send text messages like some sort of dual-core human savant. Now, I have to freaking type texts with my fingers pressing ON THE SCREEN that I'm also supposed to be reading from. (Enjoy playing a game where 1/4th to 1/3rd the screen area is your fingers.) Moreover, there's no haptic feedback. So much so that "haptic feedback" is some new age buzzword research field for what we used to already have... a freaking audible/feelable CLICK when you depress a button, and ridges so you can place your fingers in the right place.

      Stare at your keyboard right now. Notice the bumps on the F and J keys? They're notches so you can place your hands... the same place... every time. And they work so well you probably never even noticed them.

      Meanwhile, how many times have you tried typing manual keys (or god forbid a PASSWORD with special characters) on your phone, and looked down and realized you slightly missed a key and hit a completely different letter as if you're hands are made of fat, unwieldy sausages.

      • by Known Nutter ( 988758 ) on Monday June 19, 2017 @08:33PM (#54651349)
        My hands are are made of fat, unwieldy sausages, you insensitive clod!
      • How am I supposed to know that a menu needs to be swiped, then double pressed then held.

        What menu operates like that?

        • What menu operates like that?

          The exaggeration menu.

          It's a language setting under the "trying to make a point" menu, next to YELLING and expletives.

          • So the made up, convoluted mobile platform that doesn't actually exist is less efficient than the desktop paradigm...wow, what a revelation. Let's just invent things to complain about!
        • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

          What menu operates like that?

          well. a couple. take current s6 firmware for example. draw down from the top and you see quicklink options that you can long press or quick press. if you want to see more of them you can drag down on any of them and you'll see more icons. do a long press on the wifi icon and you're taken to wifi actions. inside which you can do long presses to get more.

          in the notifications area under those before mentioned icons if you drag a notification left or right and you can set settings f

      • I had my Samsung S5 for over a year before I realized that the drop down top bar with the wifi/location/etc buttons can actually be HELD and it'll go into a sub-menu for configuration.

        In the stock Android version, you don't long-press. Instead, there's a bar and below that a section which is a separate "button" which you tap to get into the settings for that. There's a "pulldown" arrow in that section that clues you into the fact that you can tap there to get into other stuff.

        IMNSHO, most of what Samsung does to the Android UI damages it, rather than improving it. The stock UI also has its share of non-obvious controls, but I don't think there are nearly as many. An example from Nougat

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

        And, furthermore, the second you utilize TIME in your clicks, you're now forcing time to be a component in their usage. I can press as many radio buttons on my car radio as I want... as fast as I want. I don't have to press one button, and then HOLD IT to have it move radio station. I don't have to watch for the "Context" to change.

        That's kind of a horrible example, because on old car stereos you would pull the button to set a preset, and on most car stereos of today you hold the button to set a preset, while you simply touch it to select one. If you hold the button down too long, you'll reset your preset.

        • I was boggling at some inexplicable moderation... but someone with modpoints has apparently become quite offended by me personally. Must still be on Slashdot. People get grumpy when you point out facts here.

      • by Xenna ( 37238 )

        "And, furthermore, the second you utilize TIME in your clicks, you're now forcing time to be a component in their usage. I can press as many radio buttons on my car radio as I want... as fast as I want. I don't have to press one button, and then HOLD IT to have it move radio station. I don't have to watch for the "Context" to change."

        Mmm, I've had quite a few car radio's (when they still had physical buttons), where pushing the button changed the channel, while press+hold stored the current channel under th

      • Have you tried long pressing a car radio button? I mean time has been a component of car radio interfaces since at least the 90s for storing channels. For me every button on the radio does something different related to time. Stand by be power down, mute Vs menu, station select Vs station search, store Vs retrieve. Call Vs enable voice activation.

        Sure it hasn't always been that advance but the last car radio I used which didn't have time as a component relied on those mechanical levers to move the tuning me

      • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 )

        The swipes, short swipes, swipes from the top, left, right, side, corner, taps, gestures, long-presses, double-taps, tap presses, or whatever secret knocking code needed to activate a feature with no menu or visual indication of the capability is horrible.

        Throw on the visual restrictions of the narrow phone displays preventing well-organized data, and the clunky size of everything so that it can be touched...

        The awfulness has been translated badly into other user interfaces and now I'd kill for a keyboa

      • by MoogMan ( 442253 )

        Intuitive really doesn't exist in the computing world. It's all about familiarity.

        How are you meant to know that moving the plastic thing with a wheel corresponds to moving pixels on a screen? Or caressing the touchpad on your laptop. You only know about the F/J keys because you were told (in some way).

        The Mac and PC HIDs are sufficiently different enough that PC people really struggle with Mac keyboard/Mouse shortcuts and use (and vice-versa).

        • Intuitive really doesn't exist in the computing world. It's all about familiarity.

          How are you meant to know that moving the plastic thing with a wheel corresponds to moving pixels on a screen? Or caressing the touchpad on your laptop. You only know about the F/J keys because you were told (in some way).

          The Mac and PC HIDs are sufficiently different enough that PC people really struggle with Mac keyboard/Mouse shortcuts and use (and vice-versa).

          Actually, the hardest thing to get used to going back and forth between Windows and macOS is to remember CONTROL-C/X/V/Z vs. COMMAND-C/X/V/Z, depending on which system you are using at any one time.

      • I can press as many radio buttons on my car radio as I want... as fast as I want. I don't have to press one button, and then HOLD IT to have it move radio station.

        Chris,
        You better sit down because I am about to blow your mind.

        Your car radio works like that too for resetting a station to the current one. "Not mine! My car is 30 years old, I still have the original radio. It has mechanical buttons" you say. Well, if that's the case, that's a hard press, not a long press.

        And that little black triangle next to your fuel gauge icon, it's an arrow to remind you which side of the car is your gas door. And that fuel cap, there is actually fuel cap holder built into the gas d

        • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

          The auto complete thing depends on keyboard. Its a common way of doing it, but there's 0 enforcement. Keyboards on Android don't even share dictionaries, so there's no way they could enforce it.

        • And that fuel cap, there is actually fuel cap holder built into the gas door flap

          Holy crap! I had no idea.
          Thanks.

      • my Samsung S5 for over a year before I realized that the drop down top bar with the wifi/location/etc buttons can actually be HELD and it'll go into a sub-menu for configuration. Whereas just pushing the button turns them on/off.

        Wow, thanks for the tip! Wish I'd have known that a couple years ago.

        I appreciate how many phone features are simple, but can't stand how the features are so non-obvious or otherwise poorly communicated to phone users.

    • Re:Do one thing? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 19, 2017 @09:08PM (#54651497)

      Oh, it's way more than that.

      It now does different things depending on state (whether the phone is locked or not), where you are in the phone, which model of phone it is, and of course how many times you click it. And I think the button on the iPhone 7 is even pressure sensitive, so that's something to look forward to as well.

      It's part of the way Apple's lost its way since Jobs died. The iPhone that Steve Jobs made had a Home button that did one thing and only one thing. Here's a small list of things the Home button does today:

      1. Single click when unlocked: Bring you to the Home screen
      2. Single click when locked: Bring you to the PIN screen
      3. Hold but don't click while locked: Unlock but remain on the lock screen. (As I recall this is only really useful if you have notifications set to only display when unlocked and don't want to dismiss them.)
      4. Double-click when locked: Brings up Apple Pay.
      5. Double-click when unlocked: Brings up the task switcher.
      6. Double-tap (that is, do not click the button, just rest your finger on it twice) while unlocked: pushes the screen down to make reaching the top easier (only on 6/7 models). While locked this does nothing.
      7. Press and hold: Activate Siri (whether locked or unlocked, certain Siri functions only work if the phone is unlocked)
      8. Hold without clicking while an app requests TouchID authentication: authenticate with TouchID
      9. Triple-click: activate an accessibility feature, assuming you have it enabled

      And those are the ones I'm personally aware of. I can't wait to discover ones I don't know about because I'm pretty sure there are other weird combos of pressing versus touching with clicks and holding variation to activate various features.

      Post-Jobs iOS is an amazing mess of features that are impossible to discover on your own. It's a great example of how one of the things Jobs was good at was saying "no" to ensure that the user experience remained as easy as possible.

    • Re:Do one thing? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MangoCats ( 2757129 ) on Monday June 19, 2017 @09:40PM (#54651617)

      This, from the company that brought you the one button mouse, that you can click three ways.

    • However most Computer users and especially for Mac users with the traditional 1 button mouse, the clicking of the home button is rather intuitive.
      Single click. Has the core action. Double click has the extended action. The hold click gives you a bunch of options.
      So with a standard windows interface a single click on a file will select it.
      A double Click on the file will open it.
      A right click (or a left click hold On a mac) will open the additional options for the file.

  • The iPhobd at first was going to have a keyboard also, and probably lots of other useless crap.

    But as the article states, they realized it added too much complexity - which I find is true even today when I use an Android device. It seems like back rarely does what you expect.

    • It seems like back rarely does what you expect.

      Yeah, because clever script kiddies keep breaking it (like on just about every Javascript-heavy web page). It's not the button itself that's the problem.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The back button on Android is one of the greatest UI innovations this century, because it does exactly what you would expect: it goes back to the previous screen. Doesn't matter if that screen was another app, it goes back to it. And it forces app developers to design with the ability to go back always available, meaning you can easily back out of anything with one tap.

    • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      The iPhobd at first was going to have a keyboard also, and probably lots of other useless crap.

      Yeah, I can't see one reason why you'd want a physical keyboard!

  • and he's 100% correct. That back button is nice.

  • by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Monday June 19, 2017 @08:30PM (#54651333) Homepage
    Apple users just can't handle more than one button. Hell, even an Apple mouse has only one button. Two buttons would leave Apple users curled up on the floor crying their eyes out. "Decisions! Decisions! I just can't deal with decisions right now!"
    • FYI, the reason Apple stuck with a one-button mouse is to discourage relying on context menus. Reportedly, Jobs hated context menus because they hid functionality in unpredictable ways, i.e. it's often hard to know exactly what will be in a context menu when you right-click on a particular object, until you right-click and see what pops up.

      Also, they kind of gave up on that a while ago. Apple mice have had a virtual second button for years.

      Sorry, I know you're just making a joke, but I just thought I'd

      • I also sit with people like my parents and see them double-click on everything. When I say "left click" on something it always takes two tries to get it right. I guess it's all about who you're designing it for because I'm glad 3-button mice have been the norm since scroll wheels became popular.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Jobs hated context menus because they hid functionality in unpredictable ways

        Yeah, like Ctrl-Click...

        • Yeah, like Ctrl-Click...

          Early Mac keyboards didn't even have a control button on them.

          Picture of Mac Plus Keyboard [grinnell.edu]

          I remember what a weird arcane experience it was the first time I used a Mac.

          • They still don't (or do, depending on your perspective) - the command ("Splat") key (also seen on the Mac Plus keyboard) is the equivalent of Ctrl for Macs. And is the same key if you're using a USB or Bluetooth keyboard, just with the label changed.
            • They still don't (or do, depending on your perspective) - the command ("Splat") key (also seen on the Mac Plus keyboard) is the equivalent of Ctrl for Macs. And is the same key if you're using a USB or Bluetooth keyboard, just with the label changed.

              Wrong.

              Although several Command-Key Keyboard Shortcuts got translated to Control-Key Keyboard Shortcuts when Microsoft stole them from macOS, the Mac has always recognized the Command and Control Keys separately.

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        > Also, they kind of gave up on that a while ago. Apple mice have had a virtual second button for years.

        No, not really. It's much like the single user zero security underpinnings of Microsoft. They tried to move on by they remain mired in their own past and can't really get away from it. People are too used to doing things the old way.

      • I never understood his thinking. I don't find context menu's counter-intuitive at all, in fact just the opposite --well, at least, on Windows. Since the main menu bar on a Mac (old Macs anyway) is application/context sensitive and changes depending on which app is open/ has focus, I guess in a way it fulfilled the function of a context menu. Still, a one button mouse feels completely alien to me.
        I've used a personal iPhone for the past several years, it would be nice sometimes to have a back button, it

        • I don't find context menu's counter-intuitive at all, in fact just the opposite --well, at least, on Windows.

          When you've been doing something a particular way for a long enough time, it'll end up feeling intuitive, almost no matter what. But anyway, the objection wasn't exactly "It's not intuitive", but rather "it makes functionality hidden and unpredictable". It's less of a problem when there are a set of conventions around what's in context menus, and you know the conventions, and developers follow those conventions, which is the case often enough these days.

          I think it might help to go into a fairly concrete e

          • I just look at it as a "most commonly used" quick list of menu items. If what you want isn't there, then sure, you have to go to the full menu and dig, but more often than not, what you're looking to do will be there.
            There are far worse inconsistencies... the current split between Control Panel and Settings in Win10 for example, that seems evident of really poor GUI project management.

            • I just look at it as a "most commonly used" quick list of menu items. If what you want isn't there, then sure, you have to go to the full menu and dig, but more often than not, what you're looking to do will be there.

              Yes, I think that's the intention. I think it really helps to think about the issue in terms of how all this was developing in the 80s and 90s. Early on in personal computing, a lot of people had trouble understanding even things that you might find brain-dead simple. It took people a little while to understand the mouse, and it wasn't uncommon to run into computer novices who had a hard time keeping track of the difference between left-click and right-click. GUIs were often far less refined, and much m

          • PERFECT example!

            And I believe the Apple Human Interface Guidelines state that Contextual Menus (which have existed in MacOS since System 8.1, IIRC) should contain ONLY Items that are accessible in other places. However, (or course) Apple themselves breaks that "rule" whenever it is convenient, like in the Finder, where Right-Clicking on a Document Icon will give you a Contextual Menu that includes "Open WIth...". I haven't scoured the Finder's Menu Bar; but I'm pretty sure that command doesn't exist up ther

            • "Open With" does appear under "File" in the menu at the top of the screen, when Finder is active. There may be some other example of Apple breaking their own rules, though.

              • "Open With" does appear under "File" in the menu at the top of the screen, when Finder is active. There may be some other example of Apple breaking their own rules, though.

                Sorry. I was at work, away from my Mac.

                Thanks for the correction.

                And yes, there are other examples; but I've already embarrassed myself once today, thank you!

    • Jobs wore black every day to avoid having to decide what to wear on that day. That is the trouble with the young whippersnappers without culture and upbringing. Hire some Jeeves to lay out the trousers, belt, undershirt, shirt, jacket, hat, socks and the walking stick on the bed while you take a bath belting out Sonny Boy. Except for some minor dispute involving a smoking jacket from the French Riviera there is never a problem of having to decide what to wear.
  • Windows Phone has always had one. It's super useful. It's also used for showing all currently open applications, too. Much better UI than iOS.
    • Any idea if Windows Phone has the same implementation as Android? They used the back button to navigate inside the application as well as changing to the previous application...I never knew which it would do. Also, the back button doesn't do anything when your at the back of the "stack" and being a physical button there's no indicator. Browsers grey out the back button (or in the case of Firefox omit the forward button). But I believe Android moved from a physical button to a software button...not sure
      • by DogDude ( 805747 )
        I don't think it's the same. The back button on Windows Phone is universal, whether you're in an application or not. It's software or hardware, depending on the phone. If there's nowhere to go, then the phone just does a little vibrate thingy. If you hold it down, it shows you the currently open applications, and you can switch to them.
  • Having used both Android and iPhone OS I can say that the user experience with Android is superior with regards to navigation. The home button on iOS has far too many functions right now - one click for home, double click for multitask switching, three times for something else, hold for Siri, etc. It tries to be too much at once, which totally complicates things (the irony!)

    I fully expected in a future release there will be a dedicated back button and maybe more, similar to Android - Apple's current imple

    • I can't imagine Apple adding another physical button. Didn't Android ditch the physical button for a software button a few years ago? Looking online (in general and the Pixel specifically), it looks like the "home" button is software now as well. I would expect Apple to do that, if anything.

      I haven't used an Android as a daily-driver in years, but I never liked the physical back button (I agree the IOS solution is a kludge). Reasons being is that "back" navigated both in the app and between apps and

      • by Sebby ( 238625 )
        I didn't actually realize they were referring to a physical button - I was actually thinking the "soft" buttons (triangle, circle and square at the bottom of many Android devices, which I prefer over Apple's implementation). I agree that a physical button (any physical button, even the iPhone's) is an inferior experience on a touch device. In my view, Android got this navigation behaviour right, whereas Apple desperately wants to "keep it simple" at the actual cost of simplicity by making it a "Jack of all
  • I never though Steeve Jobs could admit being wrong. That story suggests he was less blunt that what I usually heard.
    • Nah, he's admitting being "right" (I'm making no judgement here on whether it is right, but to Jobs it was.) If I'm following the argument correctly, the conversation is something like:

      Jobs: We need a back button.
      Designer: But we're trying to make everything consistent and a back button wouldn't be *gives examples*
      Jobs: Oh yeah, that. No back button!

      The bit that's missing from the conversation above, as reported in the summary, is who gave the order for every user interface component to be consistent

  • >"how the most revolutionary product of our time was designed and developed."

    Oh what marketing-driven pompousness! Shall I barf now or later (or both)? In whose time? Mine? I can think of a zillion "revolutionary" products/inventions/technologies in MY time, none of which include the incremental step of the iPhone over the many PDAs and smart phones before it. Here are a few-

    Unix, LED, computer mouse, GUI, MRI, GPS, Ethernet, ATM, Tesla Roadster/S/whichever, solar panel, pocket calculator, DNA seque

  • I have to say that I like the recent set of Android buttons: back, home, tasks. Three icons, they look reasonably logical, and they are all useful.

    But Android tried many permutations on the way there, and on phones with hardware buttons you often see the back button on the right. You may also have a menu, camera or search button, again included in a random permutation. They really should have come up with a more sensible way of organising the buttons than in a straight row.

  • Seemed like the perfect trio: Back, Home & Menu.

    Unfortunately Android (apps) seems to be moving away from there as well...

  • I like trust and predictability. I started out with an iPhone and initially, it was really cool. I then switched to Android after 4 years of the iPhone's tiny screen to a larger Samsung screen. And it turned out that the same trust and predictability that was on the iPhone was found in Android too. Go figure. Apple doesn't have a corner on the market of trust and predictability.
  • Just look at the BlackBerry 10 devices. Completely touchscreen, no buttons on the front of the device. Only power and volume buttons on the side. Swipe up to wake up the device or go back to the home screen.

    I miss my Z10.

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