iOS 10: Stickers, Awkward Gestures, and More

Available for download this past Tuesday, iOS 10 promises to be “the biggest release of iOS ever.” Even though this sounds exaggerated (iOS 7 introduced more drastic, exciting changes), the changes made in the newest OS are still pretty neat. But like any kind of change, it won’t be welcomed everywhere, at least not immediately. There is always room for improvement, and iOS 10 is no exception.

First, here are some of the features I’ve been waiting for for a long time, and some that I didn’t even know I wanted:

Clear All in Notifications Center

This was a missing feature from day one, but finally, we no longer have to painstakingly clear each notification one by one. Those who get way too many notifications will most likely appreciate this.

Boy, does it feel good to clear it all away.

Boy, does it feel good to clear it all away.

Square Cash for Messages

Let me preface by saying I was not paid by Square to write this. I honestly love Square Cash and wish more people knew about it.

Square Cash lets you send and receive money electronically for free. First, it’s dead simple. In the app, you can pay, request, or view past transactions, and nothing else. Sending money is free of distractions, as it should be.

Second, there’s no signup required. If your friends want to pay you but they haven’t yet discovered Square Cash, they simply go your unique URL and enter their payment information. Tear down that login wall!

Send money without signup.

Send money without signup.

With iOS 10, Square Cash has an app that lives in Messages. Now you can send money to friends without leaving the conversation. Hopefully, this exposure helps more people discover Square Cash and use it, so I can stop putting up with other apps. *cough* Venmo *cough*

Cash built into Messages.

Cash built into Messages.

Built-in Features Replace Third-Party Apps

Many iOS updates introduce features that replace (or attempt to replace) third party apps.

One of them is the ability to search through photos. There are several apps this could replace but the one I’ve been using is The Roll, which tags photos with keywords and scores them on an aesthetic scale. I don’t actually use the aesthetic scoring very much because their algorithm needs a lot of work, so the only thing useful to me is search. But now that I can search in the Photos app, The Roll becomes obsolete to me.

New search feature in Photos.

New search feature in Photos.

Another app that could be replaced by a new feature is Markup for photos. Again, there are a number of apps with similar functionality, but the one I’ll talk about is Annotate, which lets me add text and annotations to my photos. In other words, it does everything Markup does. However, Annotate has stickers, which I’m unlikely to use, whereas Markup has a magnifying glass, which I’m more likely to use. The choice is a no-brainer.

My only concern about Markup is its lack of discoverability and the number of taps it involves. Despite being brand new, this feature is tucked away in the three dots (“more options”), which users may overlook. Here is the process to access Markup: Tap Edit (shown as three sliders) >> Tap three dots >> Tap “Markup”

Weak discoverability

Weak discoverability

Whether these built-in features are for our convenience or to have a monopoly over all the apps is a topic for another article. ;)

Raise to Wake

I wore an Apple Watch for a little while and one of the things I really enjoyed was that the display lit up when it detected that I turned my wrist to look at it. Now, my phone does it too! Granted, this is not too good for the battery life, but it can be switched off in settings (oddly enough, the function doesn’t turn off automatically in Low Power Mode, maybe saved for 10.0.1?).

Ability to Delete Most System Apps

I’m sure there’s someone out there who uses Apple’s Compass or Stocks app, but for those of us who don’t, we can now take back our homescreen and memory space by deleting unwanted system apps, with the exception of a few. Or, if you’re like me, get rid of that folder you’ve exiled to the very last screen.

The “Shit I Don’t Need” folder can now be deleted!

The “Shit I Don’t Need” folder can now be deleted!

Stickers and Gifs for Messages

Stickers and GIFs aren’t new in messaging—they’ve dominated communication in apps like Line and Facebook Messenger. However, if you wanted to use stickers or GIFs in Messages, you had to download a third-party app that used your iPhone’s keyboard as a platform. This meant you had countless keyboards to switch between if you wanted to slap a Michael Scott GIF into your conversation.

Not anymore. Stickers now have their own set of apps on the App Store offering a plethora of sticker packs, both free and paid, that will likely continue to grow. GIFs are built into Messages, in the same place you find your stickers. For now, the GIFs are limited to a keyword search, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see categories introduced in the future.

Search results for “puppies”

Search results for “puppies”

Now, here are the features that aren’t so user-friendly and need a lot more development:

Oversized Notification Cards

I don’t mind the new card style of notifications. I don’t even mind that they’re so big on the control center or the lock screen. What I do mind is when I’m in the middle of doing something and almost a third of my screen is obscured by a notification that used to be a small, unobtrusive banner at the top.

Left: iOS 9 (made with a UI Kit from UXPin); Right: iOS 10

Left: iOS 9 (made with a UI Kit from UXPin); Right: iOS 10

Unintuitive Touch Messages

Another thing I liked about the Apple watch was the ability to send drawings and heartbeats to other watches. iPhones can now do that, plus a bunch of new gestures.

Although they’re fun and add variety to communication, the user experience needs improvement. For example, sending things like fireballs, kisses, and heartbeats require no confirmation; you just perform the gesture and it sends. This is frustrating when users might want to change their gesture or create the wrong one on accident.

The color chooser also doesn’t make a lot of sense because it’s represented by a circle with a black dot in the center—a ring, basically. This was a poor choice because it’s not immediately clear to the user what it does. Why not use a more recognized icon like the tip of a pencil, or simply a solid circle?

Left: Recognizable color chooser icon in Paper by FiftyThree; Right: Confusing color chooser icon in Messages.

Left: Recognizable color chooser icon in Paper by FiftyThree; Right: Confusing color chooser icon in Messages.

Lastly, the icon to access Messages apps needs some work. When users see that App Store icon, they might assume it takes them to the App Store. But why would it do that? They’re in the middle of a text conversation.

This confusion can be cleared up if Apple distinguishes Messages apps with a different icon, one that hasn’t been long associated with the App Store.

Tap to Replace Emoji

To be perfectly honest, I don’t use emojis that much to begin with, so the idea of replacing words with emojis to create modern-day rebus puzzles doesn’t appeal to me. But that’s just a matter of taste.

I think I'll pass. Image source

I think I'll pass. Image source

Awkward Lockscreen Gestures

At first glance, it may look like iOS 10 got rid of the camera shortcut on the homescreen. It’s still there, but it’s hidden behind a swipe to the left, which is not very intuitive. That’s one problem.

The second problem is that once you’re in the camera, you can’t go back to the homescreen by swiping right. You’re trapped!...until you press the home button again. Does this seem really awkward to anyone else?

Music

The music app still sucks.

The UI has a different look but not much has changed in terms of usability. There are still too many issues to count, but my biggest gripe is the order in which playlists appear.

Instead of letting users filter the order of their playlists (e.g. most recent appears first), or even allowing them to arrange it themselves, all the playlists are in alphabetical order. So if a user has a ton of playlists, they have to do a ton of scrolling. The lack of an alphabetical index makes this all the more tedious.

Left: Alphabetical index in songs list; Right: No index = more work for the user

Left: Alphabetical index in songs list; Right: No index = more work for the user

I don’t know what prompted this typography decision, but the header is too inconsistent with this app and the rest of the brand in general.

What was the reasoning behind this?

What was the reasoning behind this?

So there you have it. Not an exhaustive list of all the new features in iOS 10 but certainly the noteworthy ones, in my opinion. Which features do you adore or despise? Totally disagree with me? Let's talk about it!

To dig deeper into the new features, check out this list.

Thanks for reading!