UI Design Example: iPhone Messages App

It may seem to you guys that I’m a huge Apple lover and Microsoft hater because of the comments I made on Windows 8. But I was just being honest with my opinions. Apple isn’t always perfect in the aspect of usability as I showed in the example of iTunes. Now it’s time to take a look at another revolutionary invention that Apple brought forth – iPhone Messages App.


The biggest innovation of this design is that it makes texting more “conversational”. Before we move on, I want to point out to you that this design is not that revolutionary or ground breaking as Apple boasted. This design mimics the design of early instant messaging softwares such as ICQ, MSN, etc. Instead of sending messages and replies back and forth, this design provides a context for users for what were they discussing earlier. This is useful because of the principle of “recognize instead of recall”. Users won’t lose track of what they were in the conversation anymore. This definitely works really well for online chatting, that’s why we see most social platform adopting this. But I can’t say for sure that this works also for texting. And here are my reasons.

First of all, texting is a much more expensive way of communication than sending instant messages online. So no matter what kinds of data plan (fixed number of text, unlimited text, charge per text) that you have for your phone, generally you would want to keep track of how many texts that you’ve send on a monthly basis. This is very different to emails or instant messages where you can send as many or as less as you want without worrying about anything. However, for texting, if you have a data plan for 600 text per month, and you normally don’t reach that number every month, you may want to look into your data plan to see if you can get less texts per month. On the other hand, if you always go above that number of 600, you may want to raise the number of texts for your data plan. Apple’s Messages App for iPhone is failing on this aspects. There is no easy way to count the number of texts in this App. Moreover, there are also messages with pictures, and also “free” messages sent through apple servers. There is really no easy way to have control over the money you spend on texting for users.

Second of all, the design of this App didn’t take mass text into consideration. There was one time, that I got a mass text from a friend, and my reply to this text ended up sending to everyone who received this mass text. I think the problem is that they messed up in chatting with multiple people feature. The app recognized this mass text as a conversation between multiple people. If it were conventional text application, there wouldn’t be such problem.

In the end, my opinion towards this design is neutral. I like the search feature clearly displayed on the top menu bar. I think Apple is being too aggressive and moving too fast with the changes in the cell phone industry. They are still fighting over matters of the sims card, GSM vs CDMA, etc. Cell phone carriers used to think they are sitting on a gold mine after they set up their signal towers. Now here is Apple jumping in telling them what to do. So they are resilient to these changes. I think for a change to be successful, we need everyone to stay on one page.



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