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iPhone Setup Has Gotten A LOT More Complicated In Just 6 Years

Remember the good old days?

Apps. iCloud. Apple Pay. Touch ID. Siri. Apple Music. Apple News.

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The iPhone has gotten a lot more features over time. But features come with the price of bloat. And in this amazing side-by-side, produced by designer and entrepreneur Luke Wroblewski, you can see just how bloated Apple’s iPhone setup process has gotten. Between the 3GS (which he loaded with iOS5, and didn’t require iTunes to be set up) and the current 6S, Apple’s on-boarding process has gone from taking seconds to minutes. The once minimal experience is now filled with service sign-up screens and several terms-of-service agreements.

His graphic has created a predictable firestorm of geekdom on Twitter. As he explains to Co.Design, “The most common responses I get are:

  1. ‘But the phone does so much more now!’ True, that’s actually the point of the graphic. Look how much more your iPhone can do 6 years later.
  2. ‘Wow that’s complex!’ True, that’s the other point. While many argue this is a one time setup & so some complexity is OK. I disagree. Every step in process is something to read, interpret & act on. For instance: ‘Share App Analytics w/ Developers’ what does that even mean?”

His second point is particularly cutting. Features or not, Apple’s iPhone setup has become a front-loaded, jargon-filled experience–the legalese equivalent of signing up for a mortgage–that almost guarantees that no one can enjoy their first few moments with this expensive and beautiful new piece of hardware. (I saw a similar trend happen with the iPod’s evolution in the late aughts.)

As one Apple Store employee puts it:

I’m curious if, in the past, Apple may have circumvented this onslaught of sign-ins, in part, by separating the terms-of-service agreements across individual apps, rather than loading them in the front of the phone. But if Apple wants you using UI elements like Siri from the get-go, is there any other option? Maybe. Wroblewski believes what you see is a symptom of Apple’s increasingly fragmented internal structure–the sort of accusation that’s rarely made about the company–in which teams aren’t working together well enough to unite all of these new services under a more common on-boarding umbrella. (I can’t help but think about how easy it is to set up an Android phone, if you rely on Google’s services. You basically log-in once and you’re good to go.)

In any case, if any company can fix this problem, one would hope that company would be Apple.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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