Innovation Through Simplicity

John Gruber:

The utter simplicity of the iOS home screen is Apple’s innovation. It’s the simplest, most obvious “system” ever designed. It is a false and foolish but widespread misconception that “innovation” goes only in the direction of additional complexity.

Making something simpler is almost always harder than making something more complex because making something simpler requires more focus. The animated wallpapers on Android look nice, but the novelty wears off quickly. The live tiles on Windows Phone look nice, but constant updating eventually gets annoying.

Apple has done a fantastic job of keeping the iOS home screen simple, but if there were two things I could have those would be:

  1. Sticky app icons: Apps can be placed anywhere on a blank screen, like they can be on Android.
  2. Smart app icons: The Calendar app shows the current date. I like Haze, the weather app, but if the icon showed the current temperature I would like it more.

These two features add a little complexity to the simple iOS home screen, but I think the added complexity is worth the considerable upgrade in usability. Actually, rearranging app icon locations would be simpler with sticky ones. And isn’t it simpler to glance at the Haze app to check the current temperature than having to launch the app?