11 is the new 7: iOS designers, what is it with the motion fetish? Please stop making us motion sick

In my household, iOS 7 was sickening — literally. When it came out with its flashy parallax home screen and (IMO too often gratuitous) motion effects, my wife was one of the many people it immediately made motion-sick. After 30 years of loyally loving Apple products, my wife almost had to dump her iPhone. It was so bad that it’s the only time in my life we’ve written an email directly to the CEO of a company; we didn’t expect Tim Cook to reply, but we hope it helped raise awareness, and fortunately (likely not because of us, even slightly, but very happily), Settings > Accessibility > Reduce Motion came long just in time, and iOS was usable again.

Now iOS 11 has done it again. Just unlocking the phone is motion sickness-inducing because the lock screen now flies upward out of the way on every unlock, even if you have Settings > Accessibility > Reduce Motion enabled. (What happened to “No means no”?) And there appears to be more motion again around the lock and home screens and when just opening and switching the built-in apps, so now my wife is feeling ill again in the first 10 seconds of every phone session since she upgraded, and we’re having Android conversations again. And we don’t want Android. Really.

iOS is supposed to be the most usable phone OS, but you can’t use something if you can’t look at it.


Open letter to Apple designers:

We love your work because you love usability, and especially in recent years you love accessibility. Please, get back to those roots.

What is it with all the motion lately? You are known for minimalism, and that “design is how it works.” Design is not about “how it looks” eye candy — gratuitous motion is not a feature, yet it seems that in recent releases you have had a temptation to go for “cool” effects that do not improve usability. Please resist. I hope we can all agree that parallax on the home screen has insignificant effect on improving usability; I turned it off as soon as I could even though I’m not motion sickness-prone (seriously, this aspect of iOS reminds me unflatteringly of Clippy bouncing around). And yes, I realize that you likely made the iOS 11 lock screen swerve careen glide up on unlock in order to teach that “hey look! see? it lives up there just off the top of the screen” so that we remember that we can now pull it down anytime to get it back — yes, we know, we learned it once the first time, could we please now not have to live with that animation forever? Please stop with the careening screen elements. You know what Nancy Reagan would say about the animations: Just Say No.

Minimal-change proposed resolution: Please, just make all the new motion effects, including the fly-away lock screen, respect Settings > Accessibility > Reduce Motion. (Translation: “No means no.” We said No already. Please respect it.) Or give us a new way to turn it off. Please.

We want to keep using iOS, but we can’t use it if we can’t look at it. We don’t want to have to switch to Android to get a phone we can use. Don’t let Android win on usability, which is supposed to be your home turf — and don’t let Android win on accessibility, which is so important these days and which I know is important to you.

Thank you for your consideration and help.


If you know of a workaround that can disable these awful motion effects, please mention it in the comments. (But please don’t suggest jailbreaking, which isn’t an option for us because that would be license-violating and security-compromising.)

14 thoughts on “11 is the new 7: iOS designers, what is it with the motion fetish? Please stop making us motion sick

  1. Urgh. I don’t get motion sickness from anything. Not small boats in a force 9 gale, not aerobatics in light aircraft, but iOS11 just gives me the urge to un-have lunch. I found the reduce motion setting within 20 minutes of installation but the lock screen jumping still sets me off as it’s so jarring. I have no choice but to use apple as it’s a company iphone. My personal phone will remain android so long as it doesn’t go down apple’s stupid route of incessant meddling of things that aren’t broken and fisher-price UI design. Can’t imagine the design team will take any notice, but bravo for mentioning it.

  2. I can’t say I suffer much from motion sickness myself, however, but I’ve heard friends say, what really gets them is the lack of a fixed focal point, for instance with the parallaxing background how it moves the background around, thus moving the one thing, you thought you could count on to stay put.

    Anywho, the point is: Maybe your wife would feel less motion sick, if you disable the Reduced Motion, and simply change the background to a static non-moving one? When you change the background (from Settings) you get to choose if you want a static picture, or a parallaxing background. This way, sure the icons will move about, but the background stays put, even the lock screen — and maybe that is enough to ease her stomach? one could hope :)

  3. You could have rolled back to older version for two weeks (while Apply is still sign older versions). But I agree with you, OS 11 brings to my iPhone 6 nothing else then slow performance and undesired visual effects.

  4. @mjanes: Literally. (I literally said “literally” in the first line.)

    @Ourgon: We didn’t buy a defective product; it was not defective when we bought it, a couple of years ago. This happened to existing phones as an OS upgrade, with no way to roll back.

    Re Android: Yes, as I mentioned, we are considering fleeing to Android, even though a switch is nontrivial because of ecosystem/app lockin, and of course Android has it own disadvantages. This isn’t a complaint about quirks or irritations, every OS will have those and for those one should just suffer in silence; this case is literally about being able to look at it to use it at all.

    One reason I mention it here is because this lesson applies when upgrading anything, including a programming language. C++ also has its share of new feature proposals that are “cool bells and whistles” but that can fall victim to the law of unintended consequences; we try very hard to say no to those, or no to the needlessly-cute parts. It is very easy to break customers, including by accident. So as we evolve C++ we are trying to follow the same advice to focus on consistent design principles, follow “design is how it works,” and avoid the “too cute” pitfall. We aren’t perfect, the more so because we’re a committee, but design and UX principles are very horizontal and apply across design efforts, from phones to programming languages.

  5. As long as you keep on feeding the machine by buying their products and accepting whatever flaws they have – you might complain a bit but you still buy the next version – you’re just confirming their policy of “change for change’s sake” and the accompanying planned obsolescence by making older hardware slow to a crawl.

    The solution is simple: stop buying defective products. If a phone makes you sick it is defective for you, no matter how much you might prefer to have a device with a specific logo on the back. Get another phone, one without that logo. Don’t expect others to follow you, brand loyalty is a strong force comparable to religious zeal. Just accept that the brand has taken itself out of your sphere of acceptable behaviour and let it go. Maybe they’ll get the message, maybe not. For you the future lies elsewhere.

  6. Thank you, Herb. I have always been a fan of “Function Over Form”. Think the HP voyager series RPN calculators. Aesthetics should remain a secondary concern, and not to the detriment of functionality. Apple has always done a great job when it comes to software quality regarding resource management (CPU and RAM). So it is puzzling why they have not extended this practice to the GPU as well.

    (Full Disclosure: I use a stock Android mobile device and my wife uses Apple iOS mobile devices.)

  7. The only valid reason I can think of for not even considering Android is you’re massively invested in apps and don’t want to have to repurchase them again. Otherwise, there’s no rational reason to not even consider it. I made the switch a few years ago and have never been happier.

  8. just for curiosity, by “motion sick” do you mean, literally ? I do find ios11 motion inconsistent here and there, but far to be “sick inducing” …

  9. I turn off motion effects on every system I can. The “Reduce motion” setting still has some effect, but the login procedure seems unaffected and is particularly annoying. The way the numbers “grow” on the login keypad makes me feel pretty drunk.

  10. Sorry no solution but I am surprised by how many people are looking to turn motion off
    Me including

  11. Jailbreaking is also not an option because it’s iOS 11. No jailbreak-allowing vulnerability is known yet.

    Is there anything in iOS 11 that was a net gain on iPhone? I keep seeing lists and lists of things that worked before and now don’t (adding a new one: as you said the “Reduce Motion” toggle clearly doesn’t work). I’m sticking to my iOS9…

  12. I have no suggestion for you, but I share your disdain for the current offering. It seems that every iOS rev introduces a slew of change just for the sake of change. I’ve had parallax turned off since day 1 (like you). I find the new lock screen temperamental, and the choice of large fonts reduces available space to present information on my preferred screen size–that of the 5S/SE.

    Back in the days of NeXT, Steve Jobs used to make developers use the least capable machine supported by the target product on which they worked. This kept developers “honest” and attentive to performance issues and hardware constraints. I think Apple could benefit from doing the same thing with iOS developers.

  13. How true – Samsung S8 the same. Can’t stand the irritating Bixby, impossible to switch it off, even when you think you have! But unlike Apple no one there cares at Samsung, they just ignore you or maybe you need to be a celebrity!

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