A thoughtful post on iOS 7

Got permission to post this very thoughtful post on the state of iOS 7.

Sorry for the long post….

I’ve been a developer for years: I’m used to object-oriented design and MVC architecture. I’ve also designed quite a few UIs. I’m running iOS 6 still, but have watched most of the WWDC videos, other iOS 7 videos, read hundreds of threads and thousands of posts on iOS 7.

My first PDA was a Newton, then a PocketPC, a WinMo phone and finally an iPhone. One of the reasons I switched to the iPhone was the break in carrier distribution of the OS. When a phone has a bug, Apple will fix it and distribute it fairly quickly (often within a few months). Other OSes wait for a carrier to release an OS update, often lagging months for a particular model of phone and usually only one or two updates before abandoning updates entirely for newer model phones. In this area, Apple has the superior distribution model. Apple will drop support for older devices, but usually years beyond competitors. I read an article the other day stating of mobile OSes out there, Android has 79% of security threats and malware, mostly because holes are not plugged because people are running older OSes (like Gingerbread). This alone will keep me on iOS forever.

IOS was getting tired: the skeuomorphism was out of control, the blue/grey themed background was old. Apple has many new leaps forward with iOS 7: UIKit dynamics, multitasking and foundation networking. All applications can now run in the background and refresh their snapshots, perform networking with a better set of library/class objects/methods and finally download – one of my chief complaints of newsstand is trying to download a magazine while on layover on a long international flight and having to keep newsstand awake through the slow 400 MB download because if it times out and the iPad goes to sleep, the download pauses. Layers are a huge step forward: something I always enjoyed in top rated apps that started pushing this envelope. 

I use several core Apple apps: Phone, Messages, Mail, Calendar, Safari, App Store, Stocks, Podcasts and Newsstand. Many needed updating. Some look like they’ve advanced, others look like a step back.

While skeuomorphism was over the top on game center and find my friends, other areas it fit nicely – I want Maps to look like a Map or GPS unit, I can’t imagine it nor would I want it without skeuomorphism. Now with iOS 7, instead of skeuomorphism being too much, I feel it’s too little. There’s no balance. Notepad is too simplified. UI Buttons lack focus and visibility. Icons have become ugly and unrecognizable, not the application’s garish icon which have been beaten to death in these forums, but the icons within an application (where they still exist) – was it really necessary to redesign the sharing icon from being universally recognized in applications, browsers and OSes to Apples unique and hard to recognize wireframe one?

I think Jonny Ive had great ideas in the keynote in his design principles. I think the execution is lacking and things have gone too far. The content is getting lost and confused, not just coming front and center. There’s no balance with skeuomorphism, no polish to the UI. The gloss/glass is missing, the flat and white overwhelming. It looks less professional.

Yes the animations and layers are amazing and the old look was tired, but did flat have to ruin everything (the 2D look reminds me of WinMo), it looks like layered 2D. The iPhone had a look that was all polish and professional, now it looks common and … well cheap. Maybe that will look good with the rumored 5C. Maybe we’ll all just get used to it. Maybe will just have to wait until iOS 8 or the next major redesign.

I think the design philosophy is sound: more content. However, I can’t see enough content through the distractions. I still want more information, more functionality, not less. The typography looks beautiful, but thin option would be nice. 

Calendar could use drastic usability improvements. I use MobileDay because it understands web conference and teleconferences, something Apple’s calendar app doesn’t. I’ve seen in these forums (and blogshttps://thingswrongwithios7.wordpress.com) several other areas of improvement. Why doesn’t the today screen show all-day events? Kind of eliminates functionality (and information), making me have to open up calendar to see them.

Email works much better with the transparency.

What about folders? We don’t need a classic confusing folder structure: Tasks does folders well with a nice UI for it (Completed, Personal Tasks, Taksk, Reminders, etc.), why not extend that simple UI idea for other apps like notes? This would make a nice simple folder-like structure. 

A night mode with a less-white theme would make night time viewing more pleasant. As has been stated, a black theme might help. Contrast is lacking in too many places.

I feel iOS 7 is superior under the hood, in the OS and APIs under the UI. It will make me upgrade and not regret doing so. I feel UIKit has what it takes, the design philosophies are sound but the execution is lacking. It’s mostly the apps themselves (and their icons). Hopefully the 3rd party developers will take Ive’s design philosophy and do better, show us how it’s done.

So we have two steps forward – huge improvement in multitasking, foundation networking and UIKit. A nice refresh of overall theme, but then one step back in usability when it comes to core apps, UI buttons and poor choices on Apple’s part in terms of color. It boggles the mind how a brilliant decision like the new typography can be ruined by the use of poor color with little contrast.

I know this is a long post. People will scream “It’s a beta”, but we’re close to the GM and I’m more than a little disappointed. I expected better of Apple. I’m a business person and expect a professional looking device. I don’t own a plastic phone, I own a solid piece of technology. You feel it in the weight of your hand. Hopefully, it will just work. I’m having doubts. I’m also more than a little scared for the future of such a great product, that I’ve taken a little time to care to write this.

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2 thoughts on “A thoughtful post on iOS 7

  1. you are totally right about the contrast issue. There are many many webpages discussing the need for high contrast by the elder population which includes me at 66 – I rant about websites all the time for gray font on white or orange on white or light blue on white – but younger people with better eyes do not seem to understand this. High contrast is not a problem for them but low contrast is a problem for boomers. Why, then avoid it?

  2. I totally agree, I’m so glad I kept ios6 on my ipad 4 as I like the precise layout and look with I formation at a glance without the need for hunting for it. I love the skeuomorphism of io6 & maybe was a touch overdone on some things but for calendar, contacts, and other apps its remains superb. The same can’t be said on my iPhone 5 as I updated it io7 to try but then apple took 6 off the sever so couldn’t downgrade. It has useful added features but its horrible and flat plus glaring and difficult to read. Plus I also keep turning on my Bluetooth accidentally. I had an windows mobile phones from ver 5 to 6.5 plus an android phone which whose flat icons look eerily similar to ios7. Apple really has taken away its skeuomorphism uniqueness & I agree they could have toned it down a little, but to make jokes about how they got rid of it by running out of green baize or leather is ridiculous. They have taken a huge step backwards in my opinion & I can’t see iOS 8 being any different. It really is like they paid a classroom full of 5 year olds to go crazy with colouring pens to design it.
    I hate it with a fiery passion so I will be keeping iOS6 on my ipad and see if I can get iOS 6 style calendar & contact apps for my iPhone.

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