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Steve Jobs Hates Buttons 713

ElvaWSJ writes "While many technology companies load their products up with buttons, Steve Jobs treats them as blemishes that add complexity and hinder their clean aesthetics. The iPhone is Steve Jobs's attempt to crack a juicy new market for Apple Inc. But it's also part of a decades-long campaign by Mr. Jobs against a much broader target: buttons. The new Apple cellphone famously does without the keypads that adorn its rivals. Instead, it offers a touch-sensing screen for making phone calls and tapping out emails. The resulting look is one of the sparest ever for Apple, a company known for minimalist gadgets. "
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Steve Jobs Hates Buttons

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  • Problem is.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:50AM (#19983263) Homepage
    Buttons are intuitive.

    I design high end interfaces for home theaters (where the remote it's self costs around $2500.00US or more.) and the number one thing my customers like is not the fancy graphics, cool animations or nicely laid out controls on the touchscreen.. but the VOLUME CONTROL HARD BUTTONS built into the side edge. They like being able to without looking press volume up or down or mute instead of having to look at the screen and press a non tactile feedback graphical button.

    Buttons have their use, you cant get rid of them.
  • Buttons as Features (Score:5, Informative)

    by martyb ( 196687 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:54AM (#19983353)

    While many technology companies load their products up with buttons, Steve Jobs treats them as blemishes [CC] that add complexity and hinder their clean aesthetics.

    I see his point, but OTOH, there are times when buttons ARE preferable. I can text a message on my cellphone without looking at the phone because there is a tactile reference to where each key is located. This is quite handy (pun intended!) Try texting a message inconspicuously at your next boring meeting.

  • by qualidafial ( 967876 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:59AM (#19983427) Homepage
    The hard part for me was that to type a letter you have to cover the letter with your finger; I'm used to palm pilot so tended to type with the tip of my finger and got the key below and outside the one I was aiming for. It takes a little getting used to but after a few days use you can type nearly as fast.

    What would really help is if all of iPhone's apps used the widescreen keyboard when you turn the unit sideways. For now it only does this in Safari (and it has to be in landscape mode before you bring up the keyboard).
  • by mrseigen ( 518390 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:03AM (#19983497) Homepage Journal
    Like it says on the Apple support page for the iPod and in the manual: hold menu + select for five seconds and the device will reboot.
  • Re:Problem is.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:10AM (#19983605)
    I agree. There's a saying for it already: 'There's a time and place for everything.' Buttons, like everything else, have proper uses and can be abused. It's up to the designer to design it properly.

    I just checked with my friend who has an iPhone, and it -does- have hard buttons for volume on the side. So as much as he hates them, he didn't go crazy.
  • Re:Problem is.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by hcdejong ( 561314 ) <hobbes&xmsnet,nl> on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:26AM (#19983835)
    design high end interfaces for home theaters (where the remote it's self costs around $2500.00US or more.) and the number one thing my customers like is not the fancy graphics, cool animations or nicely laid out controls on the touchscreen.. but the VOLUME CONTROL HARD BUTTONS built into the side edge.

    A $2500 remote, and you make do with +/- buttons to adjust the volume? Augh! +/- buttons are a miserable way to adjust such an analogue function. Adjustment is either too slow (going up/down 1 dB per keypress) or too fast (when you hold the button down and the acceleration function kicks in).
    A linear slider or a rotary knob is much better: it allows both fine control, and huge, fast adjustments (without too much overshoot) when needed.

    As far as I know, there are only two remotes that get this right: the Philips SRU 9600 [], and Quad once had a remote like this.

    I'm using a Griffin Powermate [] to control the volume when watching TV on my computer. It's brilliant.
  • by DreadPiratePizz ( 803402 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:30AM (#19983897)
    Mouse -- keeps on pushing the minimalist single button. I detest this, and know many people (linux, mac, and pc users) that feel the same. Another button simply adds to the functionality -- I right click several hundred times per day, and don't want combo presses or holding down to approximate this. Overall, I view this as a bad move.
    The new apple mighty mouse (which comes with macs) does in fact come with two buttons, and the right one can be enabled my going into the system preferences and telling os x that it's a right click. It's there, so don't complain!
  • by smitty97 ( 995791 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:33AM (#19983935)
    I hit the wrong buttons all the time. The beauty is, the iPhone corrects me. As long as you type real words, not abbreviations like wtf, omg, brb, and c u l8r, the software will get my sentence right. Don't stop to correct your mistakes. Don't even look at the typed words, look at the keyboard. Just keep typing, and you can be very fast. Use the force.
  • Re:Buttons!? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hijacked Public ( 999535 ) * on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:37AM (#19984005)
    By the time products like iPhone become ubiquitous for the general public it will probably be illegal to use a mobile phone while driving, nearly everywhere.

    As for your texting with the phone in your pocket.....I'm not one to question the habits of others but that is a new one on me.
  • Re:chicken or egg? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:41AM (#19984081) Homepage
    You may be joking, but the first few generations of Apple's LCD monitors really didn't have buttons. They had touch-sensitive symbols printed on the plastic with lights behind them for feedback.
  • Re:Problem is.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by CaptDeuce ( 84529 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @12:23PM (#19984735) Journal

    Buttons are intuitive

    The iPhone, just like the Mac, has plenty of buttons.

    There are just not many hardware buttons. Really. Bear with me...

    Compare the number of buttons in MS-DOS (or other CLI) interfaces against those on the Mac. The "menus" of a CLI interfacer are like menus at Chinese restaurant. Except, of course, with a CLI you can't point and say "I want this."

    But wait! There's more! A standard Microsoft alert dialog box -- Windows and Mac OS -- typically has a longwinded description of the problem and the same two buttons to respond with: No and Yes. I have an example right here from MS Word for Mac OS X:

    Continue with Save?

    This document may contain formating or password
    protection which will be lost when save in Text Only
    format. To preserve the original document, click No, and
    then save the document in Word format before converting.

    No Yes

    The line "Continue with Save" in itself is rather vague; the user must plow through a lengthly bit of prose (for a GUI) to ascertain just what is going to happen. I'm convinced that Microsoft if using FUD to bully the user to always save their documents in Word format. Changing from any other format to Word format never generates a scary warning.

    Contrast Microsoft buttons to Mac buttons using TextEdit. Changing an RTF document to text the dialog reads:

    Convert this document to plain text?

    If you convert this document, you will lose all text
    styles (such as fonts and colors) and document

    Cancel OK

    The differences are striking:

    • The buttons Cancel and OK are used throughout the Mac interface and the meaning is always clear: OK means go and Cancel means stop.

      The meaning of Yes and No are only clear within context. In many, if not most, Microsoft applications, if you choose No, it may not stop, it may go on and do something different. I find most everybody tends to stop and read that lengthly prose to make sure what is going to happen if it's something they haven't done in a while; there's just too much information to gather in at a glance.
    • "Continue with save?" What's that going to do exactly? (This is one of the clearer Microsoft title question so it's not the best example).

      "Convert this document to plain text?" Ah, it's going to... well, the answer is in the question.

    Buttons? It's not how many that's important, it's how soft and clear they are.

  • You'd think so... (Score:5, Informative)

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @12:31PM (#19984837) Journal
    You'd think so, but ask any woman who has breastfed a newborn baby, and she'll tell you that you have to teach them to get it right...It's just that it's a...hem..."one button" interface, so it's pretty easy to learn.

    Pretty much every interface is a learned interface, but the simpler the interface, the easier it is to learn.
  • by soft_guy ( 534437 ) * on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @12:49PM (#19985089)
    It doesn't fix bad spelling. It fixes imprecise typing. These are two VERY different things. For example, if I am typing the word "example" and I'm a bad speller and I think it is spelled "exampal" the iPhone doesn't fix this - I get "exampal". However, if I know how to spell it correctly and I press down in the exact same spot for the p and l, I get "p" and then "l". In fact, when I tried typing this word in a very sloppy way, it was hard to get the iPhone to not recognize it correctly. I even intentionally missed the x by typing c instead and by the end of the word it had auto-corrected it. So, no, the iPhone doesn't ruin (or fix) your spelling.
  • Re:Buttons!? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Yahweh Doesn't Exist ( 906833 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @12:59PM (#19985285)
    >...those of us who are able to drive and talk safely...

    scientific studies have proven that talking on a phone while driving is dangerous even when completely hands free. even more so than a real life conversation because the lower quality signal requires more concentration to process.

    these are scientifically proven facts. I notice that you, on the other hand, only seem to offer the fact that you haven't killed anyone yet as evidence of your super-human brain functions.
  • Re:Buttons!? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @01:30PM (#19985699)
    "I want a few dedicated buttons for important functions like volume, power, and send/hang up"

    The iPhone has dedicated buttons for volume and power.... and the send hang up buttons are big and large when you're using those functions that require them.
  • by syphax ( 189065 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @01:43PM (#19985875) Journal
    Check this out: []

    These data demonstrate that the phone conversation itself resulted in significant slowing in the response to simulated traffic signals, as well as an increase in the likelihood of missing these signals. Moreover, the fact that hand-held and hands-free cell phones resulted in equivalent dual-task deficits indicates that the interference was not due to peripheral factors such as holding the phone while conversing. These findings also rule out interpretations that attribute the deficits associated with a cell phone conversation to simply attending to verbal material, because dual-task deficits were not observed in the book-on-tape control. Active engagement in the cell phone conversation appears to be necessary to produce the observed dual-task interference.

    The principal findings for this experiment are that: (a) SPs that engaged in cell phone conversations missed twice as many simulated traffic signals as when they were not talking on the cell phone, (b) SPs took longer to react to those signals that they did detect, and (c) these deficits were equivalent for both hand-held and hands-free cell phone users.

    In sum, we found that conversing on either a hand-held or hands-free cell phone led to significant decrements in simulated driving performance. We suggest that the cellular phone use disrupts performance by diverting attention to an engaging cognitive context other than the one immediately associated with driving.

    Our data suggest that legislative initiatives that restrict hand-held devices but permit hands-free devices are not likely to reduce interference from the phone conversation, because the interference is, in this case, due to central attentional processes.
  • Re:You'd think so... (Score:3, Informative)

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @02:29PM (#19986511) Journal
    Uh huh. Out of my wife and the 10 of her friends who've had kids in the last 2 years, about 7 of 'em had nursing problems. In the damn breastfeeding class I got guilt tripped into going to, they talked endlessly about how to "teach" a newborn the correct way to breastfeed. Searching for breastfeeding books on Amazon nets me 9,314 hits (4000 more hits than searching for "home theater"), which would seem to suggest that it's not quite as easy as you seem to think it is.

    You can actually get a job as a certified [] "Lactation Consultant" and there are nursing degrees up to the goddamn Masters level that specialize in this stuff.

    But really, I'm just full of it, and these are problems that no one has.
  • by hcdejong ( 561314 ) <hobbes&xmsnet,nl> on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @02:48PM (#19986745)
    But having no separate volume control really harms the usability of the device. While I'm listening to music, I don't want to have to look at the screen.

    And you don't. The default function of the click wheel is to change the volume. No looking necessary. Also, the click wheel offers much better control over the volume setting than +/- buttons would. With the click wheel, I can pretty much instantly set the correct volume for a song, unlike +/- buttons (see my other post [] in this discussion)

    Want to select a song and start playing it in a fresh on-the-go playlist and, while it's playing, add more songs to the queue? Navigate down to select the song, up to the root, down to play from the playlist, back up to the root, back down to select your next song.

    Why go back to the root between songs? You can just keep selecting songs from any playlist to add to the On-the-Go list.
  • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @03:31PM (#19987267) Journal
    No, in fact, you are missing the point. People have lots of reflexes. Having a reflex is not the same as being able to perform a task that depends on that reflex. They most certainly do not have a reflex for breastfeeding...They have a reflex for suckling, which is not the same thing at all.

    As you are clearly speaking from zero experience, and just as clearly, have never breastfed anything, I'm going to treat your Wikipedia knowledge with the contempt it deserves, doubly so, because you didn't even bother to look up the correct article []. Read down to the "Conditions that interfere with breastfeeding" section, then have a nice big glass of STFU [] on me.

    I suggest you inform yourself before you talk to an actual girl.
  • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @04:07PM (#19987727) Journal
    I call bullshit. You've got no credentials to put on the table in this forum, so the fallacious appeal to authority, is, as usual, trumped by the "appeal [] to [] actual [] sources []"...Your claims that there are never problems with breastfeeding are trumped by tens of thousands of pages saying you're wrong.

    Even if you have the experience you claim, which I find highly unlikely, the only other possibility is that you're one of those La Leche style breastfeeding nazi's who refuse to accept that there could ever be a problem with breastfeeding...Equally deluded on the other side of the fence.
  • Re:Buttons!? (Score:3, Informative)

    by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @04:35PM (#19988051) Homepage
    "However, I want a few dedicated buttons for important functions like volume, power, and send/hang up."

    You're in luck. There's a sleep/wake button, a home button, volume up/down buttons, and (in the headset) an answer/hangup switch.
  • Re:Buttons!? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Ohreally_factor ( 593551 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @05:08PM (#19988471) Journal
    I know I shouldn't be, but I am still amazed that they give mod points to retards. I've drunk the koolaid since 1992 (I think. The early 90s are a haze of drugs, booze, hookers, and quadras), and I've got the fucking right (dammit) to make fun of Steve Jobs, Apple, and the Macintosh.

    I'd like to think this is just WMF fucking with me in a friendly way, or that I'm important enough to have a mod troll stalking me, but the sad truth is that some Mac users are Mac users because they're mentally deficient.

Information is the inverse of entropy.