10 Year Challenge: How Popular iOS Apps Have Changed

Valia Havryliuk
Jan 25 · 6 min read

Just last year App Store celebrated its 10th birthday.
In 2008 it launched with 552 apps and some of them are still live inside your iPhones. Time has passed and design trends have changed dramatically.

#10yearchallenge is a good opportunity to see how fast the evolution is and notice changes in the oldest iOS apps.

Can you spot the difference?


App Store

The iPhone 2.0 software release will contain the App Store, a new application that lets users browse, search, purchase and wirelessly download third party applications directly onto their iPhone or iPod touch.
Apple’s press release on March 6, 2008

Since the initial announcement, App Store kept its core structure. While adding new features, tweaking business basics and evolving UX. If you’re curious about detailed history, Stephen Hackett made a timeline of all changes.

The first App Store has a very iTunes alike design (iOS 2.0). With growing its popularity in 2009, App Store got new navigation, Genius Recommendations, “Top” tabs Top Paid, Top Free and Top 25 (iOS 3.1). Such design wasn’t changed much in iOS 4 & iOS 5 updates.

With iOS 6 App Store got re-arranging of items, horizontally scrolling lists, a share button and many flipping in sections (2012). And in iOS 7 it was re-design massively with bright colors, white backgrounds, thin fonts, and vertically-scrolling lists. If you were using App Store in 2013 you might remember “Near Me” center tab, featuring popular apps near you.

While iOS 8 has many cool additions, App Store design hasn’t evolved a lot in 2014. Oh, wait, the center tab has changed to Explore with new navigation in categories and subcategories. That history repeated itself with iOS 9 in 2015.

Meet iOS 11 with “all-new App Store, designed from the ground” (2017). It has a new tab, called Today daily destination all about games, apps and app culture. App Store also got Games and Apps tabs, App Product Pages and In-App Purchases. This dramatically changed the first experience of using Apple’s app marketplace. After long years App Store designed moved away from the music-like approach. This re-design and improvement were so good, that TechCrunch reported up to 800% increase on app downloads, specifically with the “App of the Day” or “Game of the Day” spots.

I haven’t seen major design changes to the App Store in iOS 12. But Apple changed the app discovery experience with personalized app spotlights & recommendations.

Wow, that was interesting 10 years! Now let’s move to other apps :)

eBay

In 2008, eBay introduced the first e-commerce app for iOS at Apple’s WWDC. Since then eBay iOS app made a huge design transformation. Especially in buying features (image search & Interests) and selling features (simpler listing capabilities & AR shipping tools).

2016 was a big year for eBay design team. They have begun releasing huge UI and app improvements, both iOS and Android apps. Among which was the redesign of the main navigation menu, discoverability and search options. In 2017 with iPhone X release, eBay app started to support Face ID for shopping (interesting shopping experience).

One more interesting design thing happened in 2018. eBay team designed the new user interface components that register head gestures and navigate inside the app. All project went open-sources.

eBay iOS changes tried to reduce friction, with less typing and clicking. So the overall shopping experience on mobile gets easier.

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Evernote

Evernote is a granddaddy of all note-taking and organizational apps. However, before launching the iOS version it was a desktop application prior to the App Store.

Using stock UIKit elements and glossy graphics were typical to many first iOS apps. Evernote 1.0 wasn’t an exception. In 2011, the app has changed its tab bar and prioritized a chronological “All Notes” view. In 2012 they still used default iOS UI elements. The last years’ refresh has new icons, a white navigation bar, note cards with subtle shadows, and a dark tab bar.

Evernote was complete redesigned several times.

Facebook

Facebook iOS app story began earlier than App Store existed. It has been continuously redesigned over the past decade (did you notice how often they changing emoji?). And Facebook design team is well-known for its data-driven decisions.

Did you know that Facebook was one of the first iOS apps who adapted the hamburger menu?

Instapaper

The original version of Instapaper did not even have the option to create an account in its original iPhone version. The most significant visual changes as navigation bar and button styles were because of changes to iOS itself.

OmniFocus

In the beginning, they used simple table views with custom iconography for navigation until they added the Forecast mode. This date picker under the navigation bar became a defining UI element.

PCalc

The adventures of PCalc actually began before the App Store existed. PCalc offered a custom interface on iOS with great themes selection and customization options. In general, PCalc had a comprehensive changes history of themes and icons.

Shazam

2018 was an important year for Shazam, with its $400M acquisition by Apple. And probably you know, that Shazam was founded in 1999! Interesting, that Shazam changed the logo and color scheme in 2007. And it remains almost identical until acquisition.

Since appearing in the App Store in 2008, the app has changed its navigation, icons, and interactions inside the app. In 2017 Shazam design team introduced the gesture-based navigation system. So you swipe left for ‘My Shazam’ and swipe right to discover. For more interesting historical UX nuances, you can check Prototypr post.

Twitterrific

The first iOS version was shown before the App Store had even been announced. Even that Twitterrific was the first app to use a dark theme, they didn’t aim at design trends. Each update reflected changes to the features and functionality of Twitter’s platform.

Yelp

Yelp’s iOS interface has changed significantly over the years. But consistent navigation bar coloring had the most influence on the branding. They added augmented reality interface for locating businesses around you, changed home screen with shortcuts and extend beyond simple location-based results by surfacing content relevant to you.


What other design changes have you spotted in popular iOS apps?

Also, I’m more than open to any critique or recommendations for my #10yearchallenge design review. My design journey has started when I joined Flawless, design & development startup in Ukraine. As 20 y.o. junior designer & growth hacker, I’m very impressed by the design field and rapid evolution of this space.

Huge thanks for the community & media, who inspired this article: MacStories, 9to5Mac, and Arun.is.

And many thanks to my mentor and friend, Lisa Dziuba, for all the help and support! 💗️

🍏 Community around iOS development, mobile design, and marketing

Valia Havryliuk

Written by

Flawless iOS
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