I dont want to spend too much time on it but i did want to get down a few thoughts about iOS 7, Apple’s newest mobile operating system. Overall i like it quite a bit: they have added a number of features that i have been waiting for and they have cleaned up the whole UI and gotten some semblance of visual consistency across the OS. the result is an iPhone that looks pretty different from what people are used to, and i can tell that’s turning some people off, but the core usability is still there and much improved in some respects.
First off, when Apple turned the reins of the software design to the same man who has been winning award after award for Apples industrial design, Jonathon Ive, i actually got a little excited: after all, this is the guy who has been designing beautiful pieces or consumer electronics for a decade now so i was anxious to see what he would bring to the software / user interface table.
First on the chopping block: skeuomorphism. or, that annoying (to some) design technique where you make OS elements resemble real life objects to aid the user in interacting with tech. For example, the Calendar app in iOS6 resembles a real desk calendar, complete with little leftover bits of pages in the corners where the old pages were ‘tore out’. Even more antiquated was the Podcast app that simulated a reel-to-reel when you were advancing or rewinding the track. Design elements like this were completely thrown out in favor of a more unified look for the whole OS.
There are quite a few new features that have been covered better elsewhere in more detail, but i will mention a few that i really like:
first, the popular jailbreak tweak SBSettings allowed you to quickly access several system toggles quickly without having you dig down into menu settings to get to them. Among there are Airplane Mode, Wifi and Bluetooth on and off, and controls like volume and brightness settings. The new control center slides up from the bottom of the screen and allows you access to these common controls. It’s not a perfect copy of SBS (since you can’t add additional toggles, for example) but it still makes a good addition to the OS and it can only get better (see below).
Another nice feature is the ability to add however many items you want to folders. Before there was a limit and your icons were limited to one ‘page’. Now you can add a ton of apps to a folder and don’t have to worry about having to create a Games 1 and Games 2 just because you hit your limit on folder items.
Speaking of folders, you can now add any Apple apps you want to their own folder: i’m looking at you, Newsstand…in iOS 6 you could not hide some icons or put them into a folder to get them out of the way if you never used them so they were always stuck on your homepage somewhere. Now you can put these never used apps in a folder and forget about them if you never use them. I wish Apple would let you just get rid of it but since that’s not an option, at least you can now get it out of sight.
There is now a flashlight built in! it’s a simple thing, easily done, but it was left for 3rd parties to take care of. Now in your slide-up control center there is a button for a flashlight. i tend to use mine quite a bit so to have Apple build it in is nice. Granted it should have been there sooner but hey, important things first…
One other cool feature that was added is the application switcher. now when you double click the home button, you are greeted with a full page with not only the app icon but a larger icon of the last thing the app was displaying when you left it. It makes it easy to find the app you were using and also looks really nice.
my big takeaway from this version of the iPhone operation system is that to me it feels like a new starting point. Much like OS X replaced OS 9 on the Mac and laid a foundation for the Mac OS to build on for the next 10 years, i get a similar feeling from this revision of iOS. We have a few major changes in Apple and the iPhone division now. Besides giving Jon Ive a larger role in software design we now are fully into the post-Jobs Apple and the next few years will be interesting for a longtime Apple watcher. Despite the competition from Android, iOS will continue to evolve and adapt and iOS 7 feels like a wiping of the blackboard and looking at new ways to do things. Apple changes every market they enter and to write them off as done just because Google is seemingly dominating the market (those numbers don’t tell the whole story, though) is underestimating a very crafty, very innovative company that happens to have a shit-ton of cash in it’s coffers.
So like it or hate it, iOS 7 is the future of your iPhone for the next few generations and really can only get better going forward. Losing the inconsistent look and feel of the skeuomorphism and trying to unify the UI under a single designer and design theory makes for better looking, better designed software and a better user experience.
the future will be interesting…