Help me help you help me

As I mentioned in a scant 895 words last week, our domicile is now home to two as-yet-undamaged iPhone 3GSes. Both my wife and I remain duly and dually impressed. Granted, we’re accustomed to simply using our cell phones to talk to people, so we’re somewhat easily swayed. Although that may also be due to our collective lack of calf muscle mass.

My wife has downloaded a few apps, but she has yet to go missing for days as she scours the App Store for the latest version of Boulder Dash or Doom Resurrection. And if you knew my wife, you’d understand what a suave bon mot that Doom comment was. Word Warp remains her iPhone addiction of choice, and she has managed to pimp the evil scrambled-letter game to her own kin. That would be me.

In between my bouts of letter-based rage, I’ve managed to install 48 apps. Wait, make that 51 (I took a little break between sentences). Many, naturally, are free apps like UrbanSpoon, the aforementioned smack-like Word Warp, Google Earth, Skype, etc. I’ve also cracked open the old PayPal account—funded by selling my multiple kidneys on eBay.jp—and purchased a few. Of course, I had to get Doom Resurrection. Very well done, id. AirCoaster was worth the price of admission—very smooth on the 3GS. I also rolled the dice and bought a $29.99 app called LogMeIn Ignition that allows me to control my MacBook Pro (or your Mac or PC if you’d like to give me access) via the iPhone. It is awesome. I realize there are other, cheaper VPN/remote access apps out there, but this one works without having to configure routers or begging IT overlords to open a port. Or something. Anyway, if you have the need of remotely controlling your computer, give it a look.

So, I’ve dropped a little bit of coin at the App Store in my first two weeks of iPhone ownership. I’m sure this is not an uncommon occurrence. And while I’ve snagged a couple of free apps that were summarily deleted after a brief, messy and unsatisfactory relationship, I’ve been pretty happy with my app selections as a whole.

If only I could say the same about the App Store.

Yes, the App Store has sold (or given away) over one billion apps since its inception a year ago. And it’s a revolutionary way to get applications for your cell phone. Assuming your cell phone is from Apple. And its integration with iTunes is pretty neato keen. I’ve even been told it’s been a boon to developers—and who doesn’t love a good boon on a Friday night?

Nonetheless, I have something against thee, App Store. How do I put this gently, tactfully, yet honestly? Your cataloging and search systems blow chunks of moldy chum chum. That’s right, chum of the chum.

Why do most of your major categories not have any subcategories? If I click on “Utilities,” what do I get? One hundred and ninety-farkin-four pages. Any subcategories to help me weed through the treasure? No. Sorry. Game over, man. I guess the programmers are too busy not adding a unified inbox to iPhone Mail to add a another folder or 12.

Using your logic, App Store, I should just dump all of my personal docs into OS X’s Documents folder and stop there. Because who doesn’t want a window filled with 21,658 files? I think I’ll change all the artist tags in my iTunes library to Rupert Holmes and the album tags to, naturally, Rupert Holmes’ Greatest Hits That Weren’t the Pina Colada Song. Should be easier to find stuff that way.

Mmm. Well, maybe I can least sort the morass of apps by customer rating. Oh, wait. Darryl Hall just popped up to tell me “no can do.” Thanks, Darryl. Big help.

I know, let’s try a search!

A search for “flashlight” brings up a full page of apps. With just their names, developers and prices. No short description. No rating. Nothing telling me how many apps my search returned or how many pages of apps I’ll need to flip through. Just “next” and “previous” buttons at the bottom of the window. And no way whatsoever to sort my findings. Once again, thanks for all the help.

Apple should take a cue from Amazon. While I find Amazon’s site design more than a little cluttered, I can nonetheless find the item I’m looking for in about five seconds. I can sort like an OCD-addled librarian (yes, that’s redundant). I know how many results my search found. In other words, it just flippin’ works.

Which is what one usually says about Apple products.

If I’ve missed some huge button or preference setting that would change all this counterproductive behavior, please inform me. I don’t mind my idiocy being pointed out if it means a better user experience. Until then, I’ll use Google for my app searches. “Best ______ iPhone app” works remarkably well.

Later,

Fox

Comments closed
    • oldDummy
    • 11 years ago

    Returned from Costa Rica not too long ago. My driver runs his business from an iPhone, I found that informative.

    • HammerSandwich
    • 11 years ago

    Tog complained about the same problem in §[<http://www.asktog.com/columns/075AppleFlatlandPart1.html<]§ & §[<http://www.asktog.com/columns/076AppleFlatlandPart2.html.<]§ You won't believe the part about moving pictures from iPhoto to his iPhone.

    • JumpingJack
    • 11 years ago

    As my LG LX died a month or so ago, and June was anniversary, b-day, father’s day and late may mother’s day — as a gift we took the iPhone plunge.

    I am with you, duly impressed. Pairs well with my mac, and though I remain a die hard PC user (12 functional systems at the moment) with one lowly mac on the desk — Apple get’s an A in one department, easy and stable. Some of the things you can do with an iPhone are truly remarkable — no other phone can touch it yet.

    • adisor19
    • 11 years ago

    Jeez, what did i miss here ?

    There’s like half the posts missing on this page.. i don’t even remember if I posted something to begin with..

    Adi

    • Palek
    • 11 years ago

    q[

    • l33t-g4m3r
    • 11 years ago

    this is exactly why I hate vista’s start menu, and desktop toolbar capabilities.
    When you have a lot of folders, scrolling is a PITA, and using search to find everything is ridiculous.

    Windows7 removing classic start, is going to drive me up the wall.

      • reactorfuel
      • 11 years ago

      I’m sorry, is English not your first language? Because I think you confused “ridiculous” with “glorious” there.

        • DrDillyBar
        • 11 years ago

        no, I think ridiculous is right there.

          • shaq_mobile
          • 11 years ago

          i second that notion. i have several terabytes of media and rarely use the “search” function. the indexing that windows 7 goes through each time you click on a hard drive is not worth one search a month.

          windows 7 control panel is also the most confusing thing of all time. ive been using and abusing windows xp for years (i remember the 2000-xp jump, and the confusion it entailed) and most other users have as well. they could have at least tried to make the control panel suck slightly less.

            • reactorfuel
            • 11 years ago

            Vista (and 7) use a fundamentally different philosophy. In XP, if you’re not sure where something is, you go looking for it. In Vista, you search for it. If you can’t remember where something is in the control panel (and Vista’s really isn’t any better or worse than XP’s – it’s just different and you’ve had 8 years or so to get used to the XP method), that’s why the search bar is there.

            If you’re only searching once a month, you’re not using Vista to its full extent. Hell, if you’re only searching once per day, you’re probably not using it to its ful extent. It’s probably been a month since I clicked on the “all programs” thing, because it’s simply not necessary. If I want to run some program I don’t use very often, I just hit winkey and start typing its name. It’s much easier than trying to remember just where a program is located in the menu hierarchy, especially since many software publishers put the menu entry under their name rather than the software’s name.

            Ultimately, refusing to use search in Vista is a bit like upgrading to Win 95 and demanding your Program Groups, refusing to use that newfangled start menu thing.

            • Skrying
            • 11 years ago

            Exactly. Vista and 7 are designed around the idea that you have much more applications, media, and stuff in general on your computer. Searching through rows of stuff makes no sense when you have a power and accurate search function to employ.

            Even then the Windows 7 Start menu is in no way inferior to the XP one. In fact it is basically the same thing without the ridiculous pop to the side Programs folders.

            People are just adverse to change. Even when that change makes perfect sense and is a improvement. They’re unwilling to spend a bit of time learning a new system.

            • l33t-g4m3r
            • 11 years ago

            Wrong. The Vista/7 start menu is inferior in every possible way, and using search for every single one of your programs is insanity.

            In fact, using search for everything is actually impossible.
            Let me repeat that, IMPOSSIBLE.
            You can’t search when you don’t remember the name of a program, and finding it in Vista/7 is much harder than using classic start.

            Not only that, but typing to run your programs is a STEP BACK TO DOS, in a GUI Operating System designed to run everything with your mouse.

            The Vista/7 start menu’s design is FUBAR, and gets harder to navivate with each additional program that you install.
            Completely unfunctional, it’s designed to look pretty, that’s it.
            Exactly how the “personalized menu’s” feature performed.
            The Pin feature sucks too. I’d like to completely remove it, and have my programs there by default.

            Another poorly designed feature is Games Explorer.
            I have 200+ games, and I always keep my favorites installed.
            Games Explorer has no organization feature that I can sort them with, so I don’t use it.
            I separate them into groups in the start menu, and that works great, or at least it did.
            Vista/7’s start menu is designed to force you into search, and it is a PITA to navigate normally.
            Not just games, but any other programs.

            Oh, I also used to sort my games in toolbars on my desktop, but Vista screwed that up too, by removing the ability to stack them.
            The ironic thing is, that you can still stack toolbars on the taskbar, but doing that screws up usability and screen space, not to mention it doesn’t save icon locations properly.
            I actually tried it, but after running a few games with resolution changes, and also logging in/out, I gave up.

            I am seriously considering object desktop and/or linux to regain the lost functionality of my computer.

            • indeego
            • 11 years ago

            My GF (and I) started off hating vista’s quirkiness. Now I watch her Winkey+type a few characters to get to cad drawings that would have taken much longer to do previously. We have a combined 60+ apps installed on our main machine, and winkey+typing it in is far faster than any other method short of spewing it across the desktop and remembering where the exact placement is for each appg{<.<}g

            • FubbHead
            • 11 years ago

            I agree with l33t to some extent.. The Vista menu (still haven’t tried W7 though) is a step back from even the XP menu.

            But the problem doesn’t lie with the menu per se. If they made it easier to sort and cathegorize the applications, you wouldn’t have that problem. But instead, there is NOTHING aiding you in that when installing an application, so everything just ends up in a submenu in the root of the menu, and you have to sort it yourself. And what’s even worse, in Vista this menu is sorted alphabetically. Some installs do give you the option to choose, but then only by asking for a path. And again, you and me understand this, but we’re a minority.

            Sorting (eg. cathegorizing) the menu, then, is tedious at best for people who grasp the whole concept of shortcuts, files and directories. But again, it’s completely out of the question for most people.

            This fill-up-the-start-menu-and-search scheme, makes the whole damn start menu completely redundant.

            • Skrying
            • 11 years ago

            What do you both expect when your entire post is about trying to use out methods on a new system? You can still organize your applications in folders. I have done this. All four of the browsers I have installed reside in Browsers. All my Adobe applications are in Adobe. Permission settings need to be changed but this isn’t surprising considering most people have no idea how the relationship between the uninstaller of an application and the short cuts work.

            If you’re installing programs that you have no idea the name of then you’re doing something very wrong. If you want a test bed than look elsewhere. Windows is designed for you to get something done. I know my applications deeply. I use them (mostly) every day.

            The command line is actually making a come back, btw. This is very evident in not only the use of search and the parameters you can place on it both on the desktop and on the web. But even in ambitious projects like the Ubiquity add-on for Firefox or how every media player now tries to include a powerful search function (which is incredibly useful for a large music collection).

            There is a difference between superior and superior-at-the-time. A GUI is superior but certain conventions that were established 7 years ago have become dated and don’t hold up as well in today’s age of more computer knowledgeable users. You two seem to be caught in the crossfire, unwilling to learn and figure out new methods for new systems.

            • FubbHead
            • 11 years ago

            Yes, I know all that. I keep my start-menu, aswell as application folders, neatly sorted and cathegorized. It’s tedious work, but it’s not a problem for me.

            But the huge majority of windows users barely even grasp the concept of files and directories, and to them this is not at all appearant. And for them, every application they install, will end up in the root of the start-menu. And a horrid mess will ensue.

            If there just were some nifty and accessable aid to organize the start menu, you wouldn’t need a damn search function to start your applications.

            • Skrying
            • 11 years ago

            How does that make the Vista/Windows 7 methods inferior to the XP? They haven’t removed anything. They’ve only provided another, quicker, option. Your feeling on the ability for users to grasp directories and files is supportive that Search is a superior method. It means I can tell mom “just type itunes and you’ll see it” instead of saying “Hit the Windows globe, hit All Programs, hit iTunes, hit the new iTunes.” I don’t think there is a rational argument about which one of those is easier and quicker.

            • Aphasia
            • 11 years ago

            Once you find out the works, the start menu is just like the start menu in XP, a folder structure that exist on the disc with shortcuts in them. How hard is it really.

            I Use all my most used apps in the short-links first thing that pops up, the rest of the start menu is under “All Programs” and is just like any XP start menu that i’ve ever had. Neatly catalogued. Although i use the search, i think its horribly designed in Vista since it just about never seem to catch shortcuts, only exe-files and files on disk. And that in a bad way. So going into properties and choosing searching programs only doesnt really help.

            What they should have is a separate control that you can enable what you want to search for. Say, shortcuts + program files + “something else”.

            As for the topic on hand. Interresting since im wondering if i should get a 3Gs or not.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 11 years ago

      Way to twist an Apple App store article in to a rant about Win 7 and to a lesser extent Vista! Your segue was incredibly weak though, if present at all, you really didn’t say anything about Apple products yourself, you’ve got to work on that.

      • flip-mode
      • 11 years ago

      I don’t like Vista’s start menu at all either.

      • ShadowTiger
      • 11 years ago

      I would like to point out that its not a fair comparison because you can easily customize the vista start menu. It actually maps to a folder and you can sub-categorize them, you can delete shortcuts you dont use…. and so on. You can also use desktop shortcuts or make an HTML map to your HDD… the latter is what i do.

      I think that large systems like this apple store need to do a better job because that is the only experience customers recieve, there is no way for a user to change it. The only problem i see is that they wouldn’t be able to put programs into subcategories unless they had each author update his program and assigning it a subcategory.

      • Boz
      • 11 years ago

      You realize that the Classic Start Menu is an option under Taskbar and Start Menu Properties, right?

      Coupled with the Windows Standard Theme under Display Properties you can make Vista’s UI practically identical to Windows 2000, if you’re usage model and habits are so stubbornly backward as to want it.

    • YeuEmMaiMai
    • 11 years ago

    there are much better alternatives to an I-phone……..and they are way cheaper when you buy them unlocked

      • tu2thepoo
      • 11 years ago

      hi i’m the guy who shows up to every party talking about how you could’ve bought better wine for cheaper if you’d just asked him.

      • Kurkotain
      • 11 years ago

      like what, a you-phone?

      (reply to #5)

    • Rakhmaninov3
    • 11 years ago

    I want an iPhone but am chained to T-Mobile for the next 1.5 years (which is okay, I love their service). Starting my rotations in the hospital next week and would like to not carry around a beeper, PDA, and cell phone if possible. That’s a lot of shit to keep charged up and I frequently forget about such things.

      • adisor19
      • 11 years ago

      Why not get an unlocked 1st gen iPhone for cheap ?

      Adi

        • indeego
        • 11 years ago

        Or a refurbed iTouch, and at least get the warrantyg{<.<}g

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 11 years ago

      What about the G1?

        • A_Pickle
        • 11 years ago

        Yeah. Android is actually fairly impressive, and it’s only going to get better thanks to it’s open-sourcedness.

          • End User
          • 11 years ago

          At the moment the HTC Hero is the Android phone to get. Sense is a sweet UI.

          That being said I will be sticking with my 3GS.

      • indeego
      • 11 years ago

      I believe you can leave all carriers for a prorated termination feeg{<.<}g

      • funko
      • 11 years ago

      the mytouch 3g, g1, and later in the fall, the htc hero will be options for you since allthe medical apps you need are also on android

    • Game_boy
    • 11 years ago

    “duly and dually impressed”

    Well done. Correct usage with a twist.

    Oh, about the actual content? No comment.

      • Jon
      • 11 years ago

      Grammar Nazi +1

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