Balance (Security vs. Usability)

I suppose this should be filed under “Get More Pageviews”, but nonetheless, I took the click-bait to Sophos’ calling Apple out on making the iPhone 4S safer to use while driving easy to access by bypassing your passcode. My main issue is that they take what is a legitimate concern regarding the tradeoffs between security and ease of use (and even safety of use while driving) and instead paint it as a deliberately cavalier attitude towards data security.

What’s disappointing to me though is that Apple had a clear choice here.
They could have chosen to implement Siri securely, but instead they decided to default to a mode which is more about impressing your buddies than securing your calendar and email system.

You see what he did there?

Ever notice how an expert in a certain field will only ever see choices from the perspective of that field? Interesting how there is the assumption that the only options were secure and insecure. It’s like he just assumes that nobody will ever try to use a phone while driving, something that seems like it would gain a huge safety improvement by reducing phone interaction.

On my lowly iPhone 4, if I want to call my wife while I’m on the freeway to see if I need to stop at the store, I’d have to:

  • Pick up the phone
  • Press the home button or the power button
  • Swipe across the bottom of the screen
  • Tap in my passcode, or, as suggested in the Sophos article, my complex alphanumeric-with-symbols password
  • Tap the Phone icon
  • Tap the Favorites button if it’s not already on the Favorites page
  • Tap my wife’s entry

With an iPhone 4S and Siri, I’d presumably need only to:

  • Pick up the phone
  • Tap the button that activates Siri
  • Speak: “Siri, call my wife.”
  • Acknowledge Siri’s confirmation of my request by saying, “Yes.”

I wouldn’t ever have to look at the phone. The only touch target I’d need is a physical button on the phone, which is easy to locate without looking. It’s only marginally more complicated than asking a real person sitting in the car with you to dial the phone for you, because you have to push a button two times. I’m reasonably certain it’s this use case which Apple designers and engineers had in mind when setting the default options on the iPhone 4S, with the assumption that the security-conscious people could find and disable the “enable Siri while iPhone is locked” option themselves.

After all, while the iPhone is a popular device for businesses, it’s not the only market Apple sells to. Apple is going to make the choice, every time, to make it’s products easy and delightful to use for its primary customer base.

You know, ordinary people.

Advertisements
Balance (Security vs. Usability)

I really need to meet this Systems Boy…

… Or at least add him to my daily reading.

My last source of confusion (on this matter, at least) is that people are going after Apple on this at all. Until the iPhone there was never an expectation that phones should either run Flash or be open. A phone is not a personal computer. It’s a phone. All smartphones are just phones. They play by a whole different set of rules. And that set of rules is much longer and stricter than that of a personal computer. No one ever complained that Nokia’s phones weren’t open. Or Motorola’s. Or Samsung’s. Why now is it completely offensive that Apple’s phones should be? Moreover, there are no phones in existence today that can display Flash content because of all the reasons cited by Jobs in his letter. Google’s phones don’t. Neither do Palm’s. So why is everyone going after Apple? It’s just crazy.

Quick update: About the only thing that has changed since he posted this, I think, is that Google has announced with Adobe that they’re going to get Flash on the Android platform. We’ll have to see how that turns out, but I honestly don’t have high hopes, primarily because touch is not the same as keyboard, monitor and mouse, and I’m not sure Flash content designed for web-on-PC will translate well.

I really need to meet this Systems Boy…

.Mac syncing for iPhone

A few weeks ago, when Apple announced all the new features coming to the iPhone, and specifically mentioned ActiveSync, I was reminded of a thought I had a couple months back:

There really is no good reason why the iPhone should not be able to synchronize its data to a .Mac account instead of being restricted solely to syncing via iTunes on a computer. This would actually make the iPhone even stronger for people who need reliable access to the latest version of their data without having to remember to plug the phone in all the time.

And then, this evening, as I’m going through the various RSS feeds I didn’t look at all day in NetNewsWire, If find this post on TUAW mentioning .Mac syncing on iPhones. Okay, that means the feature is most likely going to come some time this year.

Amusingly, even though I have my personal Mac at home (a 1.5GHz G4 PowerBook 15″) and a Mac at work (2GHz Core2 Mini), I still haven’t gotten myself a .Mac account. As much as I would like to synchronize my data between the two machines, I can’t seem to justify $100 a year just to be able to keep my Safari bookmarks and Address Book contacts synchronized. I already keep all my calendar information on Google Calendar, which my wife and I both use, and sync it to my Mac with Spanning Sync. (Spanning Sync will eventually have Contact syncing between Address Book and Google Calendar/Gmail too, now that Google has finally announced a Contacts API.)

The iPhone being able to sync to .Mac, however, changes the game. .Mac syncing means that, for $100 a year, I can basically never have to remember to plug the iPhone into my computer just to make sure my calendar, contacts, bookmarks and notes (well, hopefully notes) are all current. I don’t have to worry that when I add a contact in my iPhone, I need to plug in to sync it back to my Mac. For someone like me, who simply prefers for the technology to Just Work and do so on a consistent and transparent basis, .Mac syncing would sell itself.

Heck, it’s hard enough for me to remember to sync my music to my current iPod, because it means I have to dig out my cable. It’ll be interesting to see what really does come of this rumor.

.Mac syncing for iPhone