Susie Ochs of Macworld published a handy, 10-step guide on what to do with your new iPhone 7. It’s the right list for semi-experienced iPhone users, and it’s exactly the steps we took when upgrading my wife’s aging iPhone 6 Plus to an iPhone 7 Plus. The interwebs be full of such handy tips to uncomplicated the complicated. If you know where to look.
The reason I say computers are too complicated– that title coming from a guy who’s been doing computers since VisiCalc ran on a CP/M card in an Apple IIe– isn’t because using a computer is complicated. It’s not. Point and click and a Mac becomes a useful tool. Touch the correct buttons on an iPhone and iPad– both far more powerful than personal computers from barely a decade ago– and many good things can happen.
The problem with computers being complicated isn’t the how, it’s the what. What today’s crop of computers can do– from Mac to iPhone to iPad, and to a certain extent Watch– is an enormous and growing list of functionality not dreamed of even a decade ago before the iPhone revolutionized mobile computing.
Ochs list of things to do to get a new iPhone up and running is extensive– a good list to have, yes– but simply points out how complex our devices are these days. It’s not just the applications. Just setting up a Mac takes plenty of time, knowledge, a little guesswork and experimentation, and that’s advice fit not just for the average Mac user, the new Mac user, but also experienced Mac users.
Look at System Preferences on my Mac.
Look at that mess of options. To those with little accumulated knowledge and experience it must be overwhelming. 32 different categories, each one with an average of perhaps 10 settings each, which builds quickly to a few hundred different settings, many of which are not exactly self explanatory.
Useful? Yes. Beneficial to a good computing experience? Certainly. But easy to digest without the requisite experience or accumulated knowledge? Nope.
Today’s iPhones can do more than most of us do on our Macs thanks to 2-million or so applications, tools, utilities, games, and a list of functions that should be awe inspiring, but instead most seldom get used because Instagram; and other applications of dubious worth which take up time but don’t add much to our lives; FaceTime being and exception, text messaging the the obvious example.
Now, look at Settings on an iPhone. Good grief what a mess. Android OS is worse, what with all the carrier applications, Android OS apps, and Google’s mess-o-apps collection. I know friends, family members, and experienced iPhone users who have had their devices for many years already, yet do not know what even half those settings do or why they’re needed, let alone why Apple has them available. Too many of these devices are little more than phones with a camera that also handles text messaging and plays games.
Yet, these handheld devices are, in many ways, more powerful, useful, and certainly more mobile than personal computers circa 2016. With hundreds and hundreds of settings to remember, as well as many dozens of applications to be learned so an app can be used appropriately, I’ve come to the realization that iPhones are more of a personal computer than a Mac, and in some ways– thanks to a few million apps and a longer list of settings– more complicated, yet Apple has a few tens of millions of Mac customers, and perhaps a billion iPhone and iPad customers.
So, what’s the next great thing? First, I don’t think it will be here for awhile; if not many years. Second, it will be an easier-to-use artificial intelligence interface; maybe Siri-like, maybe something else. But point and click and touch as the way to navigate an increasing labyrinth of settings and options isn’t the future. At least, I hope it’s not.