By Stephen Hackett
September 30, 2018 7:43 PM PT
The Hackett File: iOS Needs to Grow to Meet the Needs of Big iPhones
This year, all of Apple’s flagship phones are over 5.8 inches in size. They make the iPhone 8 and even the 8 Plus the smaller phones of yesteryear, like the iPhone 5S before them.
When I first upgraded to an iPhone 6 Plus, iOS 8 was the latest and greatest, but it felt like iOS wasn’t really designed for screens as large as that found on the Plus. Even though Control Center was, at the time, revealed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, just about every app had its controls pinned at the top of the screen, as they always had.
At the time, I figured that by iOS 9 or 10, Apple would start migrating things to the bottom of the screen, and that Reachability was just a short-term hack until iOS could evolve to meet the needs of users with larger phones.
Sadly, I was wrong. Today, in iOS 12, most critical controls and buttons are still at the top of the display. Control Center is now hidden behind a swipe from the top of the screen, making it basically useless on my new 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max. I love this big phone, but between its size and iOS’s design, it is most definitely a two-handed phone.
Despite being burned before, I am hopeful that things may be changing, albeit slowly. Just take a look at these two apps:
All of Maps’ interactive UI elements are confined to a sheet that expands when needed, up from the bottom. It makes searching for a location while walking a lot easier than it would be if all of those controls were pinned to the top of the screen. Shortcuts uses a similar design, as does Music, even though it also uses the top of the screen for some controls.
Contrast this with something like Messages or Mail, where everything is far, far away from the bottom of the screen. These apps use the same basic structure they shipped with on the original 3.5-inch iPhone back in 2007. While functionally these apps are clean and fast, they haven’t scaled to a world of larger phones. I’d love to see iOS 13 usher in a new design paradigm designed with phones like the XS, XR, and XS Max in mind.