iOS7 may be the biggest change since the operating system was first released in 2007 alongside the original iPhone. Since then, Apple has added functionality and features but kept iOS the same in terms of design.
Last year Apple had two major changes, the stock price dropped from a sky-high $700 to a still incredible $450 and CEO Tim Cook decided to change the executive chairs, removing Scott Forstall for Jony Ive and switching Eddie Cue and other high-tier management positions around.
The user love for iOS changed last year as well, from the unparalleled platform every developer and user wanted, it became a half-baked solution, incomplete when it came to functionality against Android and outdated in design against Windows Phone.
Something had to change and this is where Jony Ive stepped in, with his colorful interpretation of simplicity and elegance composed into a flat solution. The big question, has Ive added a big coat of paint or a new experience worth an engineers nickel.
The Battle of Elegance
Apple has always been a design focused company, but has bridged engineers on the same platform and made the internal structure synchronous, with Jony Ive on design, Phil Schiller on hardware and Eddie Cue on services.
With iOS7, it feels like Jony Ive was able to redefine iOS, but in some areas there may have been some creative block. Consistency is key in Ive’s eyes all app icons are built using the same structure, but some look slightly odd with the flat design, the same with app user interfaces.
We give points on Apple’s ability to adapt, other companies like BlackBerry have bolstered themselves in the same spot for way too long and are currently paying the price, with the company almost bankrupt and looking for potential buyers. Thankfully Apple is nowhere near this position and has already decided to start innovating before they crumble.
iOS6 was very outdated compared to the competition, not just on a design standpoint, but on features and functionality it was second best in the race. Apple needed to perk up the platform, to make it flashy, new, fresh; a clean slate for Apple’s already tidy record.
Animation plays a big part in this redesign, opening and closing apps is different, Apple has applied the genie in the box animation, with the app almost swooping into its designated icon when closed. iOS sometimes feels alive with the Safari draws that looks like a filing cabinet, on/off that looks like switches and it also has hints of creativity, with Siri’s new voice pattern and the dynamic weather app.
The animations are elegant, creative and fun, something Apple has been known for with their platforms, but it can be time consuming and some older models are seeing lag with the animations, showing Apple clearly has only two devices in mind with iOS7: iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C.
Apple has not worked on active icons sadly, something Windows Phone does brilliantly with the live tiles. The weather app still displays one temperature, but the calendar will show the correct date, showing a half-tried solution. Apple has grabbed a webOS-like multitasking feature, it works well but can drain battery life when dozens of apps are semi-running in the background, lurking in the cache.
Text buttons are the new feature that goes against simplicity, normally a button will be represented by an icon, close with the X, back with the <, but on iOS7 the top of the app will have word-buttons and the bottom will be for icons, it is an odd design and one that may confuse first time iOS users.
Apple has added new dynamic backgrounds and ringtones, little niceties that new and old users will find appealing. New users will also get Apple’s iWork mobile suite, including five apps normally priced at about $30. This is a big push to make Apple the dominate force on iOS enterprise, with Google and Microsoft swimming around the Apps Store.
Masking The True Problem
All of the redesign is good for iOS in the broad sense, it creates a diverse platform for iPhone and iPad users that is completely changed and yet strikingly familiar, save the word buttons and left/right swipes for functions.
The problem is Apple has not made any huge changes to the functionality or added many new features. iTunes Radio is nice, especially as it is free, but this is a basic clone of Spotify/Pandora with some added functionality a first party can deliver, plus it is only available in the US.
Control Center is a new feature but it is questionable, the layout is messy and creates friction. Not everything needs to be in one place, buttons that send the user to the app are useless and make it a more concentrated and heavy experience.
Apple has not got the killer app or service to make iOS7 feel big for everyone. Touch ID may be enough to swing the iPhone 5S, but this is not available to all other iOS users and takes away the killer feature everyone would have loved.
Siri and Apple Maps were both laughed at the beginning, but Apple has improved both services and even though they may be second rate compared to Google Now and Google Maps, both available on iOS, it still shows Apple is committed to their services.
Apple may be able to round off iOS8 with some new features alongside the still fresh platform, this is Apple’s big “shut up” statement to all the complainers of iOS being stale, even though it does not bring huge difference in functionality or new features.
Third Party Changes
Third party app developers have been quick to check out the iOS7 betas and made sure their app is compatible with the latest update. This may be a rouse to get users interested and to get on the featured lists Apple is currently showing on the front of the Apps Store.
Foursquare is one of the best redesigns and one noticeable feature is the top app menu bar color meshes with the top options menu showing WiFi, cellular and battery life. A nice touch to make an app and OS more in sync with one another. Apple has also opened up the API a little with new design interfaces to try out, but Foursquare has built their own unique location based UI.
Of course, we do have the slackers who cannot update the app, the same problem we had when Apple announced the largest iPhone 5, making all non-updated apps smaller with added 0.5-inch black space.
Reddit is a classic example of a popular app that still has not put effort into making a new improved version for iOS and WhatsApp is a good example of an app without any iOS7 influence, still looking as stale as iOS6 even with 420 million users, almost half of them on iOS.
Apple will not allow non-updated apps to use the iOS7 keyboard, but the menu options on non-updated apps have iOS7 influence, making the whole system feel a little out of sync with apps.
For iOS7 users looking to check out some apps, Evernote, Foursquare, eBay, Clear and Rise are some good ones, on top of all the new designs on Apple’s first party apps.
iOS7 is a clear redesign of the platform and one we think is for the best. Apple needed a refresh and even though this may be a little too much for some users, in general this will widely be accepted as the new more colorful side of Apple, alongside the iPhone 5C.
Early on in its life, we may experience iOS7 as a delight with the animations, fun colors and new apps, but at the end of the day we want a platform prudent and simple, not something that is charming when in a hurry.
iOS7 may be perfect in Jony Ive’s mind, but for Android users wanting additional functionality and for Windows Phone users wanting live home-screens and a condensed experience, they may be a little unimpressed with the new update. For previous iOS users, it is a nice new coat of paint with some new features and functionality, but not all of it is for the best.