Edward Tufte has produced a nice video critique of the iPhone. There is much that he admires, but he also offers design suggestions in some places and pokes fun at the stock app.

With several applications, he notes that the paradigm of panning across a space that is larger than the screen of the phone allows is effective for quick access to many different options. In the photo app overview screen you can scan through 150 images on the same surface. In the weather app you can slide across cities. Likewise when looking at a collection of photos, it is not “one damn thing after another, as in a stack on images, rather you are sliding across a surface.”

Tufte's alternate stock app mockup

iPhone stock app

When looking at a single photo, web browsing or text messaging on the iPhone, “the content is the interface” with no “adminstrative debris.”

He critiques the stock app as having a cartoon interface, and suggests that they should use image resolution, instead it looks like a “powerpoint slide” with strong colors and zebra stripes and a “chartoon” stock graph. He has mocked up an alternative (below) that shows much more data by using image resolution: 6 graphics, 14,000 numbers worth of data accurate to 2 significant digits, 24 numbers accurate to 5 significant digits.

Although he likes the weather app, he also suggests that it would be more effective, if it provided more information, taking advantage of image resolution:

iPhone weather app (left), Tufte’s alternate mockup (right)

In general, I agree with many of Tufte’s critiques and suggestions, but I hear my grandmother’s complaints in my mind’s ear about print too small for her to read. I’ll bet the Apple designers were under pressure to make fonts large and lines thick. I do like many of the ideas in Tufte’s stock app mockup, but for the weather, I prefer the iPhone’s simpler, larger display — the large weather graphic doesn’t really add a lot for me.

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