I came across Austin Carr’s piece (via Daring Fireball) discussing a struggle within Apple regarding the use of Faux-Real UIs for many of its applications. Some of the example applications cited include the fake leather Calendar and iBooks’ shelves.
A recent addition that stuck in my mind was the new Podcasts app which uses the metaphor of a reel-to-reel tape recorder as a background while playing podcasts.
At first I thought this was clever, but than I realized that (a) most iOS device users are too young to have any memory of these machines, and (b) Apple has gone to extreme lengths to create this fiction. The tape moves from one spinning reel to the other as a podcast plays, just as it did on the real machine. When you pause or play a podcast, the tape tensioner moves to take up the slack in the virtual tape traveling over the playback heads.
The programmer in me is impressed by this attention to detail, but as a customer I’m left wondering how much useful functionality was dropped from the product to make time for this kind of “play” in the UI.