Letter To iPhone/iTunes Dev Staff At Apple


I’m sure this letter will never see the light of day at Apple HQ, but I feel it really needs to be written. If not for me, for all the other iPhone/iPod touch owners out there that collect AppStore Applications like philatelist collect stamps. You see, we have this unique problem with our beloved device. Organizing our applications in the devices SpringBoard.

I’m sure there are not many of us. Otherwise, Apple would be selling 20,000,000,000 (Billion) applications by now instead of just over 1 billion. That said, there is an average of 25 purchased applications per iPhone/iPod touch.

Now, 35 (10 Applications by Apple that can’t be deleted and come with an iPhone or iPod touch taking into account various OS versions and device versions) applications can easily be managed by existing means. In fact that’s barely 2 full pages on the SpringBoard.

However, there are a few of us crazy people that have way more than 25 purchased apps. I’m currently just 5 shy of 500 in iTunes.

(Link to full image of all apps in my iTunes Applications list)

Clearly, not all of those apps are in my iPhone. Here is what my SpringBoard looks like currently:


You’ll notice that several of the SpringBoard pages have only 15 of 16 icons on them. This is because, even with the 3.0 OS, moving icons in the SpringBoard app causes all kinds of problems with other pages as you scroll from one page to another to another.

In the 3.0 OS update, Apple allowed users to take an icon, drag it over to the right or left edge of the screen which causes SpringBoard to move to the next or previous page. If you don’t move your finger while on the edge, SpringBoard will continue to move to the next/previouos page until you move your finger back into the screen. This should allow a user to move an icon from page one to page 9 without messing up icons on pages 2 through 8. However, this is not the case. I don’t understand why, unless they just have a bug, but it causes all kinds of problems with the intermediate page icons.

Say you have all your pages full from page 1 to 11 except for one space on page 10. Also, you want to move an icon on page 1 to that open space on page 10. You hold your finger on the icon you want to move. SpringBoard starts jiggling all the icons. You drag your finger and the icon to the edge of the screen and SpringBoard starts sliding pages from left to right. For some reason, when sliding past page 3, SpringBoard gets confused and thinks you moved your finger back into the screen. This causes the last icon on page 3 to move to page 4, the last icon on page 4 to move to page 5, etc all the way to page 9 which moves its last icon to page 10. It stops on page 10 since there was an open spot.

Now you have a problem. You still want to get that icon to page 10, but doing so will knock the last icon on page 11 off the SpringBoard completely, assuming you are able to get the icon to page 10 without further incident.

Leaving an empty space on most pages allows for this weird error to happen and not mess up your organization.

A very bright person setup a Keynote presentation showing his/her ideas of how to use iTunes to help organize applications in the SpringBoard app:

Now, this video only shows two SpringBoard pages, but it would still save much time using iTunes to layout your apps and then sync to make the adjustments in your iphone/iPod touch.

Apple, you have made some great strides in the iPhone OS to make our beloved device the best that there is. However, there is always room for improvement. The SpringBoard app is one place that definitely needs improvements. Please, do something to make organizing applications on the iPhone/iPod touch as easy as the rest of the functions of the devices are to use.

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  1. I agree that Apple needs to work on the springboard, but I would have a different suggestion that’s not related to this. I think they should have the ability to make folders. Kind of like the way we sort recyclable things, except we can make our own categories and put app in that. I would make a folder for: default apps, games, utilities, and miscellaneous.

  2. Folders might be OK, but if you have seen any of the videos from Jail-broken iPhones, you might get an idea of how they might work. With Jail-broken phones, the folders can only go on the “Dock” part of the Springboard (last 4 icon spots that stay on the page when changing pages). They work like Leopard stack folders. Not really ideal in my opinion.

    Putting folders anywhere would mean that they would work similar to the way folders work in the Finder. Tap a folder and it opens. There would have to be some screen element to allow the user to go back a directory. Possibly an icon labeled “..”, but that’s too much like Linux/Windows.

    If using iTunes is out of the question. A possibility might be Tags. Something similar to the way Gmail works. Put in a keyword in Spotlight and it displays all the apps that have been given that keyword. You could use similar names like you would with folders. Editing the Tags would be tricky. You would have to get the icons to start jiggling, then tap the icon. That would bring up a page that would allow you to add Tags, maybe rate the app. Something similar to what is happening with some apps in the OS X and Meta-tagging files and applications.

    Another possible method might be what a new OS X Widget is doing. The Widget is called AppScreen Widget: http://www.shareappscreen.com/

    It brings up an interface that looks like an iPhone/iPod touch screen with all the applications you currently have installed displayed in it. It uses 11 horizontal pages as well as a number of vertical pages to accommodate all the apps that are installed in iTunes. You drag icons around just like on the device. It also has an “inbox” that it puts new apps into when it finds them on a new scan. You can use that inbox as a temp holding zone to move apps from one page to another.

    One way or another, something has to be done to allow us to use more than the 180 apps spots that are available now.

  3. Pingback: 2010 in review « Dave Metzener's Weblog

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