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iOS needs a better launcher

August 31, 2020

I still divide my time between iOS and Android phones to keep tabs on both ecosystems, and although there are many things I like about iOS, the launcher is not one of them. These days my preferred launcher layout is the one I have on my Pixel phone:

  • Most of the screen is empty. I have 8 icons on my primary home screen, all arranged at the bottom, leaving plenty of space for me to enjoy my home screen wallpaper (currently a picture of Zumwalt Meadow in Kings Canyon). I have fast access to the apps I use most, while still providing a calm experience on my home screen.
  • I have a further 6 work apps available at the bottom of a second home screen.
  • Everything else I access through the All Apps drawer. That puts everything else on my phone available through a quick gesture, without it impinging on my regular use.

So what do I dislike about iOS’ launcher?

  • You still (!) can’t put app icons anywhere; you’re forced to fill the screen left to right and top to bottom. Never mind the fact that it’s easier to reach the bottom of the phone than the top.
  • They’re still sticking with 4 columns of apps. Never mind that phone screen sizes have gotten substantially wider since the original iPhone. That forces me to suck up more screen real estate for the app icons I want.
  • No app drawer. Yes, I know that with iOS 14 you’ll be able to hide app screens and have those apps available via an additional screen, but Apple seems to be forcing you to use category folders they’re generating for those apps. I’d rather just have a flat, alphabetized list, thanks anyway.
  • The interaction is kind of a mess. I spent some time rearranging my home screens (getting rid of apps I was no longer using), and it’s harder to trigger jiggle mode than it used to be. A long-press used to be sufficient, but now Apple apparently really wants you to long-press and then trigger editing via a menu selection. You can still long-press and drag to start re-arranging, but it’s kind of finicky. And iOS kept thinking I wanted to create a folder and then not letting me cancel it, so I’d have to drop the icon and then remove it from the folder as a second action. This was on iOS 13, so maybe it’s better on iOS 14, but I’m not holding my breath.

Yes, I know, iOS incredibly popular so Apple must be doing something right blah blah blah. But in my opinion the current launcher design isn’t one of those things.

From → Design, Software

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