Supporting Users’ Mental Models of What happens with their Devices and Why

Autonomous Systems: «When provided with adequate data and field of view, anyone can predict the future.»
Daoming Sochua, Scientific Morality Vol.IX in «Civilization: Beyond Earth»

When using more than one simple device, it becomes difficult to see the effects of the settings. The smartphone has some settings, which in turn can influence the smartwatch (if inherited). The watch in turn can silence the smartphone (incl. turning off the alarm, which is a problem when the bed is sooooo warm and the smartphone should have made you leave it to turn it off). But yeah, getting an overview of the settings can be a mess.

So, what can be done to get a better overview of which settings influence which events and what will actually happen?

I wonder whether a simple «(possible) future events view» cannot solve part of the issue. Just showing a list of dates and times, from now up to the future, what will/could happen and why. (And yeah, you could even scroll back to find out why exactly the smartphone alarm was ringing during that lecture, when you were sure it was turned off.)

For example, something like this:

  • If someone calls until 10 pm, the phone will ring if this person belongs to your VIPs. Otherwise they will be send to your mailbox and you will not get any sound notification of these calls. However, a notification icon will appear on your iPhone Phone app. After 10 pm, no calls will ring up until 6 pm (Sleep Mode active).
  • Alarm will sound at 15:00 due to appointment scheduled on iCloud calendar. Synced to iPhone which is then transmitted to the watch.
  • Alarm will not sound at 16:00 due to sound being muted and no haptics being set.

Tapping on the entries could provide additional information and allow the user to change the settings. In general, the list should include future events that will happen unless changed (alarms set, calendar alerts, etc.) and general issues (which calls or notifications will do what).

Overall, this information might allow users to better understand the situation, how it will evolve and allow them to better predict how the smartphone (or notebook, or watch, or whatever) will react in the future.