Setting aside the absurdity of longtime Apple users arguing in favour of this kind of almost impenetrable complexity, John Gruber’s recent piece on the behaviour of the button inside the Apple Watch’s crown is telling.
Here’s a better way to think about it – and without thinking about it, the reason why I think most people aren’t frustrated or confused by the crown button after a week or so. It’s best to think of Apple Watch as having two modes: watch mode, and app mode.
You do not need to understand this to use the watch. Most Apple Watch owners will never really think about this. But this idea of two modes is central to understanding the design of the overall interaction model.
The UI complexity problem of the Apple Watch stems from two sets of overlapping user interface elements: applications/glances and the homescreen/watch face (which are both, in turn, overlapped by the communications application and its dedicated button). For reasons that I do not understand (okay I totally understand why), the designers of the Apple Watch UI couldn’t say no and couldn’t make any decisions, leading to the clusterfrick of a UI it has now.
What puzzles me the most is that untangling this mess would not have been complicated – just copy the iPhone. Homescreen with application icons, and a (centered!) crown to act as a home button. Bam, done. Everything else is needless complexity, especially on such a small device you’re not supposed to stare at for longer than a few seconds at a time anyway.
Gruber’s piece is telling, because as a longtime Apple user, you should never need that many words to explain something that could be as elementary as the homescreen/home button combination of the iPhone. Needing this many words should raise all kinds of red flags that it’s just not intuitive.
There’re several reasons why it’s easier to pick up an iPhone than an Android device, and the simplicity of its homescreen/home button is a big one.