With a unified inbox and the ability to add a multitude of different accounts to mobile devices, the various ways that messages can be viewed starts to become important, and changes to usual views of messages can frustrate and confuse users.

Some default message views change as newer versions of mobile operating systems are released. For example, in iOS 4 and later, the default has become “thread view,” so only the most recent message in a conversation thread is displayed. Users must select the displayed message to see all of the older messages in the thread, and then they can select which one they want to read. As you can imagine, this moving of the cheese might confuse people familiar with a more traditional message view — that is, one that simply displays a chronological list of messages.

There are two solutions:

  • Train users to use the new threaded view
  • Change the message viewing options

Follow these steps to change the default message view in iOS:

  1. Open Settings
  2. Go to Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  3. Scroll down the Settings page until you find the Organize By Thread option (see Figure A)
  4. If you like threaded messages, keep this feature On — otherwise, change the setting to Off

Figure A

Enable and disable threaded message viewing

On my Android device, a traditional chronological view is set as the default. However, like the iPhone, it’s possible to switch Android to a threaded view of the inbox or folder.

Figure B shows what a threaded conversation view looks like on an Android device. You can tell that you’re in a threaded conversation view, because the chat icon at the bottom of the screen is selected.
Figure B

Conversation view on an Android device

Now, compare Figure B to Figure C, which displays a traditional mailbox view. Note that the icon selected at the bottom of the page this time is the envelope.
Figure C

A traditional mailbox view


From the examples I’ve give above, Android does a much better job of handling threaded vs. non-threaded message viewing. It’s also easier to change the view in Android. Sure, the settings in iOS aren’t difficult to modify, but it isn’t as intuitive, which is why forums are littered with users who need someone to walk them through the steps to change the current message view.