I didn't notice this until someone pointed it out: Apple's shift key doesn't help it's users know whether it is active or not (I didn't notice it, but apparently a lot of people did and there was this huge outcry).

This seems like a huge usability flaw, since people have gotten frustrated over this minute (but also, supposedly, huge) change.

Was there a reason (UX wise) why they changed this UI?


2 Answers 2


Overall, it seems that it was a design choice by Jony Ive and his design team, however it does seem to be a very hot button topic and a confusing one at that.

As you can see below, they do provide some kind of feedback, however it blends in with the other keys making it hard to understand what is happening. The folks over at Future Workshops did a quick usability study and found that even Android and novice iPhone users (i.e. folks who have never seen an iPhone shift key and don't have prior experiences with them) had trouble with the shift key.

ios7 shift key (image credit)

Overall, it seems as though the design choice was purely aesthetic and to give the keyboard a more uniform feel. Despite this choice, other more appropriate solutions have been offered, including the one by Geoff Teehan at Medium.

He offers a solution that shows the shift button as being physically pressed in as opposed to just changing color (See Below). This would provide the user with some sort of visual affordance and let them know that something is actually happening as opposed to having the user just guess what might have happened.

Gif of shift

(image credit)


I would say that Apple was going for consistency across all languages with this change by making active keys black with white background which has the highest contrast (true if you hold the backspace down as well though it's hard to see because your finger is on it)

The more user friendly solution is simple. Show lowercase letters on the keys when the shift key is inactive and light up the shift key when shift-locked (double tap shift to lock it in place)

enter image description here

credit: The Mac Observer

p.s. Another trick most people don't know about is that if you accidentally delete too much text you can shake your phone to get an Undo/Redo menu.

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