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Warning: iOS 10 makes email harder to use

Galen Gruman | Sept. 8, 2016
Changes meant to be helpful instead get in users' way, especially on the iPhone

It's a malady for which there may be no cure -- partly because the real intent is often to steer us to a partner from which they make money, not to actually help us (Android's Google Now is a great example of that).Worse, after a while, it stopped trying to guess where I wanted to move a message and brought me straight to my folder list -- then started the stupid guessing game again later that day. I really wish that such "let me figure out what you really want" malarkey were opt-in, not automatic. But in iOS 10, there's so far no way to turn off this annoyance.

Another change to iOS 10 that gets in the way is how it handles banner alerts. They're now much bigger, so they cover up more of what you're working on. I wish that were a setting because the old size was perfectly fine for me -- one of those people whose middle-aged eyes usually prefers a larger container for text so that I can read it. The new banners aren't any more readable than the old ones, but they take more space.

These may seem like minor issues, but they're in heavily used parts of iOS 10, so they steal extra seconds that really add up. And the payoff isn't there.The silver lining is that at least you can now roll up those banners to get them out of the way. Previously, you had to wait for them to go away on their own before you could, for example, access any controls at the top of the screen.

Yes, there are some good changes in iOS -- the ability to filter a mailbox for only unread messages or messages from your VIPs is an example of a labor-saving advance. But there are also signs of Apple losing sight of one of its former strengths: elegant simplicity.

For several years now, we've seen features throw into iOS, from Mapsto Music, that don't work well or are buggy. We've seen awkward user interfaces for next-gen core tools like AirDrop and Handoff that only slowly get addressed, if ever.

The changes in Mail specifically and in iOS 10 generally feel like more of the same. That's how Google and Microsoft roll -- not Apple. Or maybe it now does, too.


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