Follow up to the WiFi switcher ‘problem’ – Icon Settings

Since my Feature Checking post, I have been sent the link to, and seen numerous times in my RSS feed, posts regarding the ‘Icon Settings’ from the iphoneza.co.za site as a solution to the problem I raised regarding quick access to the WiFi switcher.

However, while I appreciate the idea, I just can’t get on board with using this ‘hack’ for that very reason. It just feels way too ‘hacky’ for me. You tap the icon, which launches Safari, which then itself launches the appropriate section of Settings.app. Though my initial skepticism was based on whether this would require an active data connection, which has since become redundant as I believe this requirement has been removed in updated versions, it just feels awkward to me. My problem with the WiFi switcher is related to the time it takes to turn it on, not necessarily the amount of taps I have to go through to get to it (though I realise there is a direct correlation there). This solution does not seem any faster to me, especially considering a real-use, everyday case.

Say I start to use these icons instead of launching Settings.app, where do I place them? I highly doubt I would be able to find a place for them on my highly prioritised Home Screen, especially with the unsightly icon images they currently sport. Therefore, I would have to hunt down the icon, launch it, which launches Safari, then launches Settings.app. That sounds like a worse experience to me. Let us also consider, that there are a number of these icons, so they may be organised into a folder. You then need to add a step at the start of the aforementioned process, to tap to open that folder. I realise that Spotlight is an option, but if you have a number of apps and media on your device, it is never usually faster for me than just launching that app (in this situation, as Settings.app resides on my Home Screen).

I mentioned the word “experience” previously, and it is one that is central to the enjoyment of using iOS, and, conversely, why I could never see myself using anything like this. When you watch the video, or install these onto your device, it feels like something running on a jailbroken phone, it breaks the experience.

Feature Checking

Something I have been thinking a lot about recently is the feature checking Apple does when releasing a new iPhone, or even a significant update to iOS. I was planning to link to an old Justin Williams post (that I only just got around to attempting to read in my Instapaper queue), entitled ‘From iPhone to Android’.

In this post Justin was discussing the subjective benefits of using Android compared to an iPhone, which essentially boiled down to a number of features that Android has, which iOS didn’t. What I noticed when reading this again over a year after it was posted, was how many of these features have since been ‘checked off’ by Apple. The most significant part of this being that almost all of these changes were software based. I believe that this tells us two things. One, that the iPhone hardware has always been superior to the competition, and while it may technically lose out on a ‘spec sheet challenge’, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain about the lack of a (terrible) 3D camera, or a kickstand on an iPhone. But, more importantly, is not only how ruthlessly Apple has checked off these other reasons as to why anyone would purchase anything other than an iPhone, but how the competition has failed to come up with any other advances in the meantime, aforementioned gimmicks aside. Well, I guess that’s three things, but who’s counting?*

I know that this is something that Marco Arment has discussed in his excellent ‘Build & Analyse’ podcast (which you all listen to, right?), how Apple has gone as far as to include the blinking flash sensor to indicate a notification, for those people who can’t live without the blinking red light on their BlackBerry. But there is one I think they have missed.

One More Thing?…

The only feature I can think of as missing, and by that, I mean I notice it every time I go to turn it on, is the WiFi switcher. It is buried too deep in the menu system for my liking, and every time I go to turn it on, I wish there was a faster way. It is one of (the only) thing I miss from my time using an Android device, the ability to flick to a new home screen, and turn on the WiFi with a simple button. I think it may be a bit harsh to call it an oversight, but it is certainly something I would appreciate. Perhaps it’s because o2’s 3G reception is incredibly spotty, especially in my house, but if WiFi is available, I’d rather be using it. Now whether this is me being too picky, I’ll let you judge, but I would argue that this is only because Apple has set the bar so high. Whichever it is, I believe there must be a better way, and that way leads to Notification Center. Pulling down Notification Center, then flipping the WiFi switch seems so intuitive to me, that I’m almost surprised that it isn’t already an option. There can even be a setting in the Notification Center options is enable or disable it, a lá Weather and Stocks.

I can only assume that more and more features will be checked off as iOS is updated, I certinly hope that the WiFi switcher is next on the list.

*Me.

Update: To clarify, this is not due to concerns with battery life. But more about my obsessive compulsive need to have direct control over my phone’s WiFi access.