Shaking the phone: a disturbing trend

March 31, 2009

Design, Featured, Technology

I have recently noticed a disturbing trend start to develop in iPhone apps. It’s the “shake the phone to refresh” interaction model (a.k.a. the “Etch A Sketch” interaction model). The worst culprit is the Facebook app which requires the user to shake the phone to see their friends’ latest updates.

To any iPhone developers out there, I ask that you please nip this practice in the bud and do not allow it to spread!

There are at least two obvious flaws with this interaction model:

  1. There is no way to shake the phone that doesn’t make it look dirty.
  2. You feel like a complete idiot shaking your phone in public. It’s like hitting your computer screen to make a website load faster or kicking the TV to fix reception. Sure, it works sometimes, but most of the time you just look like a moron.

Not to mention that the functionality is completely hidden from the user and only discoverable by accident. And speaking of accidents, you better hope you don’t have sweaty palms or your phone will go flying.

There is an excellent alternative interaction method. It’s called a “refresh button.” Try it sometime, you’ll like it.

Photo credit: Etch-A-Sketch (Redux) by Jeremy Roof.

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About Natasha Lloyd

Natasha is a professional train rider, an amateur photographer, an avid kayak paddler, a long-time cartoon watcher, and an Interaction Designer at SAP BusinessObjects. She currently lives in Massachusetts, on the outer outskirts of Boston.

View all posts by Natasha Lloyd

2 Responses to “Shaking the phone: a disturbing trend”

  1. Sarah Says:

    On a similar note, I should practise shake-shuffling my iPod Nano, until I get it down to a deft art. At the moment I look like I’m having a wrist-seizure; endlessly pumping my arm up and down until the Nano chirps and switches to shuffle mode.

    If I don’t do something about it, I’m going to end up on some “Idiots” YouTube gagreel…

  2. justinmoss Says:

    It’s a feature that gets Apple coverage – probably an easy feature to implement, and easy enough for users [who don’t wish appear moronic or on youtube’s “Shaking gone Wrong” channel] to ignore. But damn Apple, it worked! – this little talking piece affected the viral communication of all the other [serious] features that came with it – I know it was big part of the reason I relayed the swathe of OS3.0 features to my less-informed friends.

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