Apple AirDrop Issue Explained by Behavioural Economics and UX Design

 
Copyright Apple

Copyright Apple

 

AirDrop nightmare created by ignoring behavioural economics and user experience!

In July 2011, Apple released a new technology for its product range - AirDrop. AirDrop is a great feature to share documents, photos and notes with other Apple devices. It uses WIFI and Bluetooth connections to find the nearest Apple device and send the files. It also has three levels of operation: totally turned off, contacts only and everyone.

Everything sounds perfect on paper; you will turn on WIFI and Bluetooth to send your photos to your friends or share between your devices. Also, Apple assumed people will turn off the Bluetooth or the AirDrop. No one is going to leave the AirDrop enabled to everyone. It doesn’t sound logical!

IOS 12 Drama

Since iOS 12, Apple decided to change how you can turn on and can’t turn off your WIFI and Bluetooth features from the control panel. Based on the feedback from customers. Apple users would like to use their wireless connectivity for the Watch, but do not connect to any other devices; they will be invisible. This pain point emerged after the Apple Watch started to be used by many people. I want to connect my iPhone to my Apple Watch, but do not want anyone else to see my Bluetooth connectivity or connect to other WIFI.

 
WIFI and Bluetooth turned on.

WIFI and Bluetooth turned on.

WIFI and Bluetooth looks like turned off!

WIFI and Bluetooth looks like turned off!

 

In response, Apple changed how the control centre behaves for wireless connectivity. When you wish to turn off Bluetooth or WIFI, it makes them invisible but keep them active! Many people assumed that, when they tap on the Bluetooth button, their Bluetooth would be turned off, including the AirDrop. This is called signifier by user experience, when you turn the steering wheel to right, you expect the wheels to turn right, not left! The same rule applies to these buttons.

The Bluetooth, however, was still on and the AirDrop was available to receive anything. As many people send and receive files via AirDrop, they forget to turn the AirDrop off or switch to contacts only.

 
AirDrop is still turned on to Everyone, even though WIFI and Bluetooth seems to be turned off!

AirDrop is still turned on to Everyone, even though WIFI and Bluetooth seems to be turned off!

 

The behavioural economics becomes apparent here. If you are not an Apple user, you will not notice how the control centre behaviour has changed. Our brain loves to recall past experiences, and makes a heuristic assumption for future decisions; this is called Availability Heuristics.

Availability Heuristics: A heuristic whereby people make judgments about the likelihood of an event based on how easily an example, instance, or case comes to mind.

It usually works well, however sometimes this is not the case. I always turned off my wireless connectivity like this, and I will do the same here. The only difference was the colour became grey instead of black. This is most likely the Apple’s new design touch. This quick decision happens through our autopilot (System 1) thinking explained by Daniel Kahneman.

Dual-system models of the human mind contrast automatic, fast, and non-conscious (System 1) with controlled, slow, and conscious (System 2) thinking. Many heuristics and cognitive biases studied by behavioral economists are the result of intuitions, impressions, or automatic thoughts generated by System 1 (Kahneman, 2011).

Factors that make System 1’s processes more dominant in decision making include cognitive busyness, distraction, time pressure, and positive mood, while System 2’s processes tend to be enhanced when the decision involves an important object, has heightened personal relevance, and when the decision maker is held accountable by others (Samson & Voyer, 2012; Samson & Voyer, 2014)

Essentially, your Bluetooth is always turned on. Many people assume that their wireless connectivity is off, but their AirDrop is also on!

A Serious Problem

Unfortunately, your AirDrop is open to the public, and people can send offensive content via AirDrop. This has become a serious problem globally. Many people were scanning the AirDrop to send offensive content. Apple is a company that focuses on consumer-centred products and software, and never thought of their average consumers’ reaction to the change in the control centre.

Most people are unaware of their AirDrop is turned on or off. There is no indication until one accesses the second layer or control centre and checks the status. Most people never do this! Sometimes I forgot to check!

I assume Apple’s UX team unfortunately missed this tiny issue and didn’t bother to fix it. Apple, however, didn’t bother, and many people suffer from this.

My Solutions

I have three different solutions that can easily resolve this problem.

1. Introducing a permanent notification when your AirDrop is turned on to everyone and changing the colour of wireless connectivity button to amber.

 
Solution #1

Solution #1

Solution #1

Solution #1

 

2. An auto-off function that is similar to turning on the Do Not Disturb mode, when the iPhone recognises you are driving a car. The IOS will recognise the behaviour pattern that signals, user is finished with the AirDrop and turns it off.

 
Solution #2

Solution #2

 

3. A permanent control button in Control Centre to switch on and off the AirDrop easily.

 
Solution #3

Solution #3

 

Existing Solutions

It requires too much mental effort and our brain doesn’t like mental efforts. It usually triggers the Present Bias.

The present bias refers to the tendency of people to give stronger weight to payoffs that are closer to the present time when considering trade-offs between two future moments

Basically, we will just ignore the complex steps of turning down the wireless connectivity and assume that nothing will happen.

You can still turn off WIFI or Bluetooth, however you have to open Settings and individually visit two different submenus in order to turn off the WIFI and Bluetooth. The other option is to tell Siri to do this! Another option is to create a Siri shortcut for these processes, but there is a bug when you wish to turn off your Bluetooth via Siri shortcuts. It doesn’t work all the time.

Apple seemed to make something that should be easy, rather complex, just for the sake of Apple Watch. iOS is a smart operation system, it is not MS-DOS; it can easily offer a third option to make Bluetooth invisible when you are using an Apple Watch. It was unnecessary to change how buttons work for the sake of the Apple Watch.

Unfortunately, they didn’t consider the irrational human factor to abuse AirDrop, and hence turned a great feature to a nightmare experience. By applying behavioural economics principles and understanding how a technology can be used offensively would be able to prevent AirDrop traumas. This issue was on the news for a long time and it could have been resolved by Apple.

Please try the high-fidelity mockups on InVision through the following link https://invis.io/RHUOH8VY96Q

More detailed version https://app.box.com/s/siwg9i7nk76t1lwvf2frty7doclulirm

Notes:

  1. I created the high fidelity mockups.

  2. Sooner or later Apple team will read this article. When you wish to get in touch me, here is my email: hello@iLoveToNudge.com