Among many new design changes to the Instagram iOS app lately is one little tweak for the iPhone X: A new volume slider that activates when you use the iPhone X’s volume buttons to change the sound of a video within the app.
It’s the kind of tiny change that app developers make every day, and flies under the radar when Instagram is in the middle of sweeping design changes that have completely overhauled the app. But it’s worth paying attention to this particular tiny change, because it’s what Apple should have done in the first place.
There’s two simple Apple design problems that the Instagram volume slider fixes: the terrible stock volume icon, and the notch. Ever since iOS was first conceived, Apple has used a prominent volume slider that it basically stole from OS X and transplanted into the mobile OS without a thought. It works fine, and having a small translucent icon in the middle of the screen showing volume was never a problem in OS X.
But on a modern-day smartphone, where productivity is measured in seconds and every inch of screen real estate is precious, the massive volume icon is problematic. It’s too intrusive, it often interferes with something you want to watch or tap on, and it hangs around for a second or two after you’ve finished adjusting the volume.
The solution — or, at least, the genius solution that Instagram came up with — is to use one of the “ears” of the screen, created by the notch, for a tiny volume slider. The icon is more consistent with Apple’s current design trend — I don’t see tiny translucent squares used anywhere in iOS 11 — and it’s far less obtrusive. It also makes the notch useful, which is something I never thought I’d write.
A user on Reddit posted a video of the contrast between the two, just in case you need any more proof that Instagram’s designers are better than Apple’s these days.