Apple took a notoriously long time to implement ‘copy and paste’ onto the iPhone, with many pundits shouting that it should have been included from the get go. Apple, in response, has stated that it was looking for the most suitable implementation, and wanted to wait until it could do it right before introducing it at all.
With that in mind, Lukas Mathis of Ignore the Code has an interesting post up which details the design mindset which went into Apple’s implementation of “copy and paste.”
Quasimodes require the user to do several things at the same time, such as holding down the Shift key while typing. Modes, on the other hand, allow users to do things sequentially – hit Caps Lock, type, hit Caps Lock again. Sequential actions, especially if guided well, are often easier to execute than parallel actions.
Additionally, the iPhone has very limited input mechanisms. Basically, the user interacts with most applications by touching the screen. While the iPhone can accept multiple touches at the same time, requiring multitouch interaction is often a poor idea. It makes it impossible to use the app with only one hand, it forces the user to obstruct larger parts of the screen, and it requires precise, coordinated user input.
The iPhone, of course, lets users access ‘copy and paste’ commands with only one finger. In contrast, the Palm Pre requires users to press down on the “shift” key at the same time that they drag their finger over the desired area of text. In terms of simplicity and usability, the iPhone’s implementation seems much more fluid and convenient.
You can check out the article in its entirety over here. It’s well worth a look if you’re into UI design.