Control Center in iOS 7: Convenience at the Cost of Simplicity
Next to the radical redesign and neon coloured palette of iOS 7, Control Center was perhaps the next most unexpected addition unveiled during the WWDC ‘13 keynote. After several iterations of iOS to finally implement, at first glance it looks as if they are playing catch up with other smartphones. However, it isn’t in Apple’s nature to just ‘follow suit’; they’ve realized that the average smartphone user has matured enough to understand how to use these toggles under the influence of other smartphones. This small addition is a shift in Apple’s design philosophy in a post-Steve era.
Ideally, a user should never have to fiddle with these kinds of settings because controls and toggles always add more complexity to a system. This is on top of the other metaphors and paradigms a user must understand in order to operate a device. This includes the lock screen, home screen, recent apps tray, etc. Of course, we take our understanding of these abstractions for granted but at one point these concepts were very alien. More importantly, the introduction of Control Center is also the admission that the device isn’t capable enough to handle these settings on its own. For example, ideally a user should never have to be burdened with brightness settings, WiFi or data toggling— perhaps in hopes of preserving battery life by disabling cellular radios and by lowering display brightness.1 All of these settings should be managed by the system. These are reasons why this functionality did not exist in previous versions of iOS. 2
Granted, adding these toggles adds convenience but cost of simplicity. The iPhone is known to be a ‘simple-to-use’ device. This addition strays away from this perception.
Below is a quote from Steve Jobs when ‘multitasking’ was introduced in iOS 4 which showcases this philosophy:
People shouldn’t have to understand multitasking. Just use is [sic] as designed, and you’ll be happy. No need to ever quit apps.
Apple designed ‘multitasking’ on the iPhone such that the user did not have to worry about apps draining battery in the background.3 Similarly, a user shouldn’t have to worry about managing system settings.
The more options and controls a user is given, the more they become a slave and servant to the machine. A phone should be designed to serve; you are not a slave.
1. Orientation sensors and light sensors already automate these functions. See as an additional example to automate WiFi.
2. Some controls were present on previous versions of iOS such as music playback and screen orientation lock via the recent apps tray.
3. Battery life is not being saved in any significant way when apps are closed.