Apple has finally won a patent for a system that lets iOS users more easily organize their apps.
Granted today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the patent dubbed "Device, method, and graphical user interface for managing folders" describes the method used by iOS to let users create folders in which to store apps and activate the "jiggle mode" to move or delete them. Introduced in iOS 4, the technology outlined in the patent is pretty much the way iOS users know it today.
Holding down the icon for an iOS app causes all the icons on the screen to jiggle, letting you delete any app that's not built into the OS simply by tapping on the X in the upper left corner. In jigggle mode, moving one app icon on top of another organizes the two into a folder. Apple suggests a name for the folder based on the metadata of the apps, a name that you're free to accept or change.
Releasing your finger from the icon then seals the deal. Pressing the home button turns off the jiggles.
The patent also envisioned an alternate way of creating folders. Using a "folder creation region" on the screen, you would've created an empty new folder and then simply move individual app icons into it. Whether Apple actually tested this concept in the lab or kept it at the patent stage is unknown. But the company clearly decided that the current way of creating folders worked best.
Of course, the existing system of moving icons is not without its quirks. Moving an app or folder from one screen to another requires a steady hand, more so on an iPad than on an iPhone. Positioning an icon in the right spot can also be a challenge as the surrounding icons don't always cooperate as they reposition themselves.
I teach an iPad class and continually see students lose control of an icon as they attempt to move it to another screen or position it in the desired spot. So, the current method could always use a few refinements.
Apple applied for the patent on September 22, 2010, and credited Imran Chaudhri as the inventor. Chaudhri's LinkedIn profile says he "makes things at Apple" and has been with the company since 1995.