Over at iMore, Rene Ritchie has a post about the how and why of Apple revamping the way multi-tasking works in iOS 6. He has a lot of examples and some great thoughts.
There is one major problem though: multi-tasking in iOS doesn’t need to be revamped.
Apple needed to add multi-tasking, but they never needed to add a multi-tasking switcher because the springboard (your home screen) already serves that purpose. Does it really matter to you if the app is already running on your phone? Are you less likely to open an app because it is not already running?
I think not.
Most iOS users know how to quickly switch from one app to another on iOS: tap the home button, tap the icon of the app you want. That’s pretty simple for every user to do.
Every iteration of possible solutions that Ritchie showed are poor for every iOS user except those that want iOS to be more like Android — the so called “power users”.
iOS is supposed to be simple, and it is simple.
Adding extra chrome to the UI to make switching between already running apps is silly — we already have a good system for doing that.
In a quick poll of iOS users in my office (six of us) I found that there were only two that used the multi-tasking tray — one was me. And now we are calling for a better version? (To be fair I think Ritchie is just asking if it is needed and proposing possible solutions.)
Personally I think that what we need isn’t a better way to switch between all running apps, but a better way to switch between apps that we are currently working in. The distinction is this: I don’t work in more than a few apps at once. Whereas a multi-tasking switcher assumes that I am working with all running, or recently running, apps.
For the most part iOS users put the apps they use the most on their home screen. Beyond that a user may just want to be able to quickly toggle between another app they are using at the same time, for this I propose and easy solution:
This would be easily discoverable by all users, requires no special tapping, and allows you to jump back and forth between two apps that may not normally be on the same home screen. The idea is that these are X apps that you are moving between often, within the last X minutes. If you haven’t been using you phone for an hour, nothing should show here. The idea is that when you are jumping between apps on different screens, it’s nice to have an area where they are next to each other — but unneeded at all other times and for all “running in background” apps.
Right now iOS has two multi-tasking switchers: the home screen, and the multi-tasking tray. Apple doesn’t need to extend the tray to make iOS better for people, and in doing such an extension I worry that iOS would lose a bit of its simplicity.