Editor’s note: Yesterday, we ran a feature about 15 features that Apple must add to iPhone OS 4 to please developers and consumers. One of them was a unified email inbox, that includes ALL of your email addresses, and potentially other types of messages. Here, Siteworx founder and president Tim McLaughlin explains why he wants a unified inbox.
I Want My Unified (iPhone) Inbox
UI fundamentals simplify the complex and eliminate repetitive tasks
So why does my iPhone have three different applications that I have to check in order to find my most recent communications? I’m talking about the “Phone” app, the “Text (SMS)” app, and the “Mail” app (not really sure that’s what they are called, but you probably know the icons). Anyway, it seems it would be a relatively easy jump to aggregate all messages sent to me in one “app”, regardless of channel—Facebook; i.e., Facebook, LinkedIn, text, or email. Yet, Apple, the market leader in interface design, is persisting in making me click through multiple applications to follow my chain of communication across mediums. And better yet, since the Apple iPhone App Store is a walled garden with even bigger walls around the core applications, nobody will be permitted / able to make this innovation except for Apple.
To further confound my wish for convenience, most social networks have their own messaging as well. As a result, I have Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn apps that I need to check for messages. What would be even better? Suppose Apple unified their communications. The irony is that if Apple were to follow one of the core design principles put forward by the designer of the original Mac interface, they would have already unified these apps. In The Humane Interface, Jef Raskin points out that user interfaces should avoid “modes” and the current iPhone’s communications applications are just that – Phone, Text, and Email modes that as implemented currently hinder a user’s ability to communicate easily across those channels.
Taking this a step further suppose they allowed third party developers to add additional channels as they are created; can you say, Google Buzz? Then I would have a communications device that is actually designed for easy, seamless communication.
So while I thank Apple for waking the mobile market from its languid slumber, I feel that there remains plenty more room for improvement simply at the interface level with no new technology required. I suspect that Apple researched this and found that the world is not ready for a unified inbox (or at least I hope they did), but it sure would be nice if they offered the option to develop one for those of us who are ready. I know that I for one spend more time clicking into and out of apps that are all fundamentally messaging apps than I would like to.
Now check out the rest: 15 features Apple must build into iPhone OS 4 →
Tim McLaughlin is founder and president of Siteworx, a Web design and development firm based in Reston, Virginia.