You Won’t Use That Cool Feature

It happens like a clock. This week companies including Apple are introducing new options to make their gadgets feel new and improved.

Soon you will be able to zap the text message you sent but alas! Mac computers will be able to use the iPhone camera for video calls! You can change the color tint of Android app icons to match the rest of your screen!

And like the clock, most people will not use these features.

Tech experts told me that only a small percentage of people organize anything about how they come from their electronics or software manufacturer. Most of us are not constantly tinkering with the settings for the fancy features of phones, TVs and laptops.

So, why do companies keep adding functions that are easy for the few and ignored by the rest? And is there a better way to design products?

Cliff Kuang, a designer in the tech industry and author of a book about the history of product design, isolates the three culprits behind the ever-growing features. First, companies add options because it helps them market their products as new and attractive. Second, products with millions of users should appeal to people with a wide variety of needs. And – this one bite – we are influenced by options that seem great but we cannot or will not use them.

Kuang described this third factor as the user’s ability to distinguish between “hey, it feels good” and “hey, I want it.”

If he feels good about you, Kuang said he is also to blame for this. He was amazed by a feature in his Tesla to automate parallel parking. “The first time I used it, it was great,” he said. “And I’ve never used it again.”

Technologists often complain that they are not in a position to win product design. Dedicated fans demand more and more options that often make no sense for the general. (This phenomenon is often ridiculed as “blotware”, as in bloated software.) That is one reason why technology often feels like it’s built for the 1 percent digital die-hard and not for the rest of us.

But if companies try to recall less-used options or try to change what people are used to, some users will hate it. Everyone has an opinion. Steven Sinofsky, a former Microsoft executive, joked that upgrading widely used software, such as Windows and Microsoft Office, would be like ordering pizza for a billion people.

In April, technology writer Clive Thompson made a provocative suggestion to combat the temptation to add more features to existing technology: just say no.

Thompson, a contributing author for The New York Times Magazine, said companies should decide in advance which facilities they want to work on, and close when they get there.

“Feature creep is a real thing and destroys software every year,” he told me, citing Instagram as a product that he believes adds more options to make things worse.

Products, of course, cannot remain static in the past. And some features, such as automatically notifying emergency services after a car crash, may be appropriate even if they are used frequently. It is also unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.

Kuang said the best technological products are slowly changing to push users towards the future that the creators envisioned. He said Airbnb has done this by developing its website and application towards a significant recent change that encourages people to explore a wide variety of homes regardless of destination or travel dates.

To get out of the trap of blotware, Kuang said, “You work behind the scenes you are trying to create.”

Tip of the week

Whether all the features are useful or not, you will soon be using updated software for your phone. Brian X ChenThe New York Times consumer technology columnist tells us how to prepare for this change.

In this week’s column, I talked about the upcoming operating system updates to smartphones from Apple and Google this fall.

How should you prepare? First, I advise against installing any preliminary test version, or beta, of the software currently available. Those incomplete versions of operating systems are still being checked for defects.

But here’s how to prepare your phone for new operating systems when it’s finished:

  • Back up your phone data On another device, such as your computer, or on a cloud storage service if you subscribe to someone. This will prevent disaster in the unlikely event that something goes wrong when you update your phone software.

  • Turn off auto-updates. In your phone’s settings, there is an option to automatically install software updates after bedtime. I recommend disabling this. When the operating system arrives in the fall, take a wait-and-see approach to evaluate what other people say online about any major bugs that could be cropped. New products are usually incomplete on the first day. Manually install the new operating system when you are confident that it will not damage your phone.

  • Take the opportunity to do it fast Some digital spring cleaning, Delete apps you no longer use and files you no longer need. Occasionally, newer operating systems take up more space than their predecessors, so it’s a good idea to do a little refinement ahead of time to make sure you get a fresh start.

  • U.S. A competitive plan to revive chip-building: An improbable group of billionaires, including longtime Democratic donors and Trump supporters, are seeking કોંગ્રેસ 1 billion from Congress for nonprofit investment funding to expand computer chip manufacturing in the United States. My colleague Efrat Livni wrote that the group’s unusual proposal is divisive in Washington.

  • His TikTok posts claimed he was a jury in a recent trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. CNN explains that it wasn’t, and was another example of the often unscientific online craze over that case.

  • What are apps for kids doing? More than two-thirds of the top 1,000 apps for kids are sending personal information to the advertising industry, writes the Washington Post columnist. (Subscription may be required.)

Meet a A swan named Duck-Duck And the man who became the adoptive parent of the swan.

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