No More Buttons: Clear Demonstrates the Power of a Purely Gesture-Based Interface
At Goldman Sach's technology and Internet conference today, Apple's CEO Tim Cook gave a rare live interview that provided a sweeping overview of the current state of Apple and some glimpses into its future. One moment that stuck with me was Cook noting how he things that at least some of the iPad's success is based on the face that it wasn't a completely new experience for users. The iPhone and iPad touch had already trained users in how to use Apple's gesture-based controls ("The iPad," he said, "stood on the shoulders of everything that came before it.").
It's somewhat fitting then, that today also marks the launch of Clear ($0.99), a deceptively simple todo list app for the iPhone that does away with menus and just focuses on providing a natural interface based on gestures and a few taps here and there. While most iOS productivity apps still use menus at the bottom of the screen, Clear just runs in something closer to a full-screen mode. Even if you don't feel the need for a new todo list app (and, no doubt, there are plenty of those around already), Clear is worth a look just for the interface alone. You can watch the demo below to get a better idea of what it looks like, but you really need to use it yourself to understand why people are so excited about this app.
Our friends over at The Next Web also have an interesting interview with Phill Ryu, one of the app's developers. In it, Ryu talks about how he thinks that virtual buttons are basically "about the most unsatisfying interaction you can have in a touchscreen device." Kids, Ryu thinks, are already growing up being more comfortable with gesture-based interactions than hotkeys and right-clicking. Games, of course, are mostly responsible for this, but it's only natural that these natural interfaces are now finding their way into productivity apps as well.
Clear may not be the right todo list app for you, but it is definitely blazing the trail for a new class of apps that will be completely based on gestures. This would have been completely impossible just a few years ago, as none of us were familiar with pinch-and-zoom gestures yet. But as Tim Cook pointed out earlier today, all of this has now become completely intuitive and the next logical step now is to just do away with more and more of what is still left of the desktop metaphors on our mobile devices.