One of the first product launches I got to work on while at BlackBerry was our answer to the iPad with the BlackBerry Playbook. In many ways it was a fantastic product - easier & more portable than an iPad at 7 inches, a better camera and a new OS that allowed the entire experience to be controlled with gestures - foregoing the need to have a physical home button on the front as users would simply swipe up to activate & initiate their gestures.
With the introduction of the iPhone X yesterday we got an introduction to a world without a physical home button on the iPhone. Although moving it to the back like many Android phones would have been perfectly acceptable by me, they doubled down in the name of innovation and gave us facial recognition and new gestures.
When the product manager first showed us the new BlackBerry gestures on the PlayBook (and soon to be on the upcoming BB10 smartphones) we were impressed. They seemed intuitive enough - swipe up and pause, swipe up and go right etc... all things that seemed really easy to learn and remember. Check them out for yourself here on the BlackBerry forums.
Of course we were pretty motivated to figure it out and already as close to the OS and ecosystem as you can be - so our experience was skewed from what the typical consumer or BlackBerry user would be willing to do and or learn.
Although there were many reasons why the PlayBook and then the BB10 series ultimately didn't catch on, the new gesture based experience in my opinion was a barrier to adoption. People just weren't ready or able to make the leap from a simple keyboard / physical button system to a virtual one with new gestures to remember.
Just as we learn in UX design that keeping things simple & not making the user think is key to a great experience (and ultimately getting good goal conversion rates), I've now come to believe that adding a second component to a gesture (like swipe and pause, or swipe up and swipe right) is like adding another link or step in your user journey.
Although Apple gets full marks in my books for getting rid of the physical button and making everything gestured enabled, it's also likely that they just made their phones too hard to use for many of their core users. It's like asking a user to enter their credit card information twice in a shopping cart.
In my experience you can lose up to 50% of your users at every step in the user journey unless they are highly motivated to complete the task. I'm sure all the Apple fan-boys will be highly motivated, but it will be interesting to get live user feedback and see how much iteration Apple is willing to do to accommodate the learning curve.
Users are having a hard time not having a home button on their new Windows Edge internet browser - so my bet is that the blow back from users on the new iPhone X gestures will be tangible.