Category Archives: funny

Google Street-View on iPhone: a lesson in UX design

Today I finally discovered that the iPhone has StreetView.

That means it’s only taken me THREE YEARS to find this secret feature that Google has worked very hard to make sure no-one ever uses.

The best bit? The top two Google results for “iPhone Streetview” were both incorrect, and useless – but claimed to “solve” the problem (one of them was a Yahoo answer, the other a blog).

Eventually, courtesy of this amusingly-titled (yet poor in terms of Google hits) blog post, I found the solution:

  1. There MUST be a pin on screen – either because:
    1. you did a search for a place, and Google has found it and created a pin
    2. you tapped the curled paper in bottom right, then pressed the “drop a pin” button (incidentally: instead of letting you “drop a pin”, that button arbitrarily sticks a non-moveable pin in the center of the (now-hidden) screen. Terrible UX and GUI design. Google’s designers: what were you thinking?)
  2. The popup that’s attached to the pin has a standard button, and a standard icon – BUT THAT ICON IS NOT AN ICON
    1. …it’s an invisible button…

When we’re building iPhone apps for clients, this comes up typically once on every project: if you want to do custom user-interfaces, do NOT make them look like Apple standard interfaces. Apple has trained 200 million (total number of i* devices) to expect that (in this case: ) “a map-popup has exactly one button”. You are fighting against the work of one of the richest companies on the planet, a company famous for its marketing, interface-design, and visual-obsessions.

Worse is if you then go and break all the standards on what a “button” should look like, so that (in Google’s case), they:

  1. Put something in the place that is reserved for a non-clickable icon
  2. Used an icon-image instead of a button-image
  3. Provided no other ways of triggering the feature…even though this is usually NOT the place the user would want to click to get that feature

I laughed out loud when I discovered this – 3 years it’s taken me to get this to work, and me a professional iPhone developer too! How long is it taking the average “normal” user? If nothing else had convinced me Google is fundamentally f***ed by their refusal to design for anything other than “engineers who are exactly like us (and the rest of you plebs don’t matter)”, this would have nailed it for me.

Need help – anyone in SF next week with an iPhone hardware unlock?

(seriously – otherwise I’ll be phoneless thoughout GDC :( )

I’ve had no interest in cracking my iPhone, so I haven’t.

Until I discovered the other day that my incompetent network (O2) won’t allow me to make calls in the USA on the agreement I have with them, so I need to use a local USA SIM while I’m there. Unsurprisingly, all O2’s own staff openly advised this as the only sane course of action. They were apologetic that this was necessary. O2 loses nothing if I unlock the phone.

And then I discover that Apple’s undocumented 2.2.1 update which I was bounced into installing has disabled all known unlock processes except for the hardware ones. If I had bothered to do the unlock a few months ago, it would have worked perfectly. Now, with less than a day until I leave the country, there’s nothing I can do.

Help? Anyone?

(NB: I’m not on a contract. I’m not even registered with the network. I’m sure the EU commission will sue Apple’s ass over this sooner or later and force them to stop retailing locked phones in the UK. That is of no help to me *today*)

(NB2: Apple’s lack of respect for their consumer continues to impress me every year. I know *why* they did it (network operators forced them to), but that doesn’t excuse screwing the consumer without warning them what you’re about to do to them. Undocumented updates are vicious)