Organizing Apps on the iPhone

Ask my wife about how neat I am, and she’s very likely to laugh at you for referencing me and the word ‘neat’ in the same sentence. But when it comes to my digitized life, “neatnik” couldn’t be a better descriptor for me. Ever since the iPhone went 2.0, and third party applications have become available to those of us too scared to unlock our phones, I’ve had screens upon screens of icons.

I’ve found the need to now keep them organized – and it’s driving me crazy! Every couple of weeks I attempt to reorganize my many iPhone apps, and along the way I’ve hatched a few ideas that I think would greatly improve the organization of the platform (at least for those of us who are somewhat compulsive about such things).

First, here’s an idea of what I’ve got stacked against me – 47 apps and 5 screens of icons. (I’m sure my numbers aren’t outstanding by any means – How many apps are you wrestling with?) I try to keep them grouped with like functionality (games, locations, news, utilities, etc), but each time I add or remove something it generally throws my iPhone feng shui off completely! And don’t even get me started on every time I would update one of my apps. (However, Apple saved me a little bit of sanity with last Friday’s 2.1 update – which in case you hadn’t found yet, seems to install the update to an application, in place of its deprecated self. Woohoo!)

But I’d still love to see a little more flexibility in the way I’m able to situate and thumb through the applications on my iPhone. (Think Apple will allow someone to develop something to manage interface tweaks and sell it in the App Store? Me either.) Before I detail the interface customization items I hope to see on the iPhone, I think it will make things a bit clearer if I use the analogy of a Virtual Desktop. In OS X we have Spaces to divide-up our desktops. On the iPhone there are as many horizontally-scrolling screens as you desire, to place and organize application icons. I’ll be referring to these iPhone screens as desktops, as I feel it makes more sense within the context of my interface wish-list below.

So here’s what I’m looking for in customizability (I say it’s a word, ok?) of the iPhone interface:

  • Vertical Scrolling
    Let’s have the ability to scroll our desktops up and down as opposed to left and right. To me, it feels more natural to go up and down anyway, as that’s what I do most often when reading email and similar actions on my iPhone.
  • Smooth Scrolling
    This would present an option to scroll smoothly through multiple desktops, or to use the ‘sticky’ methodology that we currently have with the horizontal interface.
  • A Combination of Vertical and Smooth Scrolling
    In this scenario, I could have more than 4 icons tall on a desktop (say 4×7), where I could scroll smoothly in a vertical fashion. But then retain the ‘sticky’ left/right scroll to other desktops of application icons, where I could again scroll smoothly up and down.
  • Keyword or Tag Apps
    This may be a bit trickier – possibly implemented through the iTunes interface – but I’d like to assign keywords (or tags) to the applications, and then assign those keywords to their own desktops. This way I could know exactly which desktop was my ‘news’ desktop, or my ‘games’ desktop for instance.

All of these ideas are intended to bring more organization to the interface of the iPhone. I believe that as more and more applications become available, the more cumbersome and limited the current interface will start to feel. I think the suggestions I’ve made here today would go a long way towards scaling to the fast-approaching needs of iPhone users. That being said, I’m no design or Human Factors guru, so maybe I’m way off base here. So this is where I open the floor to the rest of you – what would you like to see in the way of organization options for your vast (or not so vast) collection of iPhone-installed applications?

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