Initial thoughts on iOS7
iOS7 is a drastic update, here is my musings on it.
So Apple has radically changed the look of iOS to align itself with the “flat” design trend. When I first saw the iOS7 homepage, I was overcome with the feelings of hypocrisy. In the weeks prior, I dismissed the concept designs across the web as laughable because they drastically distorted the iOS6 UI. In hindsight, however, some did a very good job at predicting the iOS7's aesthetic. I won’t lie, my first impressions of iOS7 were anything but pleased and I won’t lament on what I thought UI should have looked but I’ll discuss my experience booting it up for the first time.
The install went incredibly smooth. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a screenshot of the install screen due to the fact that it’s not possible but it sported a flat Apple icons alongside a tiny (and I mean tiny, sixteen pixels in retina terms maybe?) loading bar. The install was speedy and the backup restored just fine.
The first new aspect I encountered was the transitions on the Setup sequence. Apple have introduced an ease-out style into their transitions. The new view overlaps the original view which moves back at a slower pace relative to the new view. The navigation buttons fade in and fade out accordingly in comparison to iOS6 where they move with the view. It is an incredibly nice experience to see the screens fly into the next. You can clearly see how the screens are sorted and the direction you have to go to reach one.
This represents the first makeover of the lockscreen since the original lockscreen which has been the choice of Apple for every iteration of their mobile operating system since it’s inception on the original iPhone and iPod touch.
The first distinction the new lockscreen has is the lack of the translucent bars and the slide to unlock handle. When I was first presented with this screen, I’m ashamed to admit I actually tried to pull up the screen because of the little directional arrow on the bottom (like the android lockscreen). Unless you notice the direction of the little highlight on the “slide to unlock” text, there’s no other indication on how to unlock the screen without some (albeit few) trial and error attempts of sliding the text. This already represents some bad UX design in my opinion even if the lockscreen functionality is already known to millions. Also, notice the extremely poorly position camera icon in the bottom right hand corner. It feels so out of place and lonely.
Notifications on the lockscreen are also unintuitive in some respects. There is absolutely no indication on how to open a notification. My first reaction was to tap it and received no feedback. After another couple of taps, I mistakenly swiped and noticed the message moved along with my finger. Notifications have to be swiped to the right to be opened. I hear you saying “that’s the exact same as iOS6! Stop being so pedantic!”, what happens when a new user is introduced to iOS7?
This is a completely new feature to iOS and it’s a nice concept but poor execution for the most part. The toggles (Wifi, Bluetooth etc.) for example have no visual indication as to whether they’re toggled or not. Apple seems to rely on the user to remember which they have toggled. The user interface I’ve always known from Apple has never made me pause to think. Although you may feel I may be nit-picketing on these small interface leaks and that anyone technically proficient would understand the interface, I have had the pleasure of witnessing my mum trying to use iOS. On multiple occasions, I have seen her struggle with the simplest interface paradigms and could definitely see some conflict on those toggles. Also, that moon icon toggles “Do not disturb”!
Another poor aspect of Control Center is the 3 completely unrelated sliders less than a chubby finger away. The brightness, music scrubber and volume control are all present on the panel. The brightness and volume controls are indistinguishable save their position and icon. The music scrubber by itself fidgety. The handle is tiny! It took several attempts to actually catch it and I’d consider myself a good aim!
The status bar no longer has a distinction from the current context (in their native apps anyway). Normally, the status bar acted as a control for most apps to retain some interoperability with the operating system. For me, it used to represent the order among the chaos between apps but now that’s gone. Apple have also introduced peculiar dots to represent network signal and a big green battery icon which for the second time, feels out of place. It also sports the notification’s center drawer handle in the form of an arrow. However, it still does it’s job and gives us a quick insight into the device’s statistics so I can’t fault it.
The new homescreen seems to be Apple’s main visual identification of iOS7 and you can see why. There is a profound change in aesthetic of the homescreen. Although it still remain’s reasonably intact with the icon grid and dock, the color scheme, style and transitioning have all changed. Let’s first discuss the transitioning change because I can’t promise the other two elements will be particular pleasant read. When transitioning from the lockscreen to the homescreen, all the icons fall into place in one swooping spiral motion. This transition is some striking eyecandy and I’ll admit I thoroughly enjoyed playing with it. Apple have also change the transition from homescreen to app where the app expands from the icon position to the screen bounds and collapses in the same way. I did manage to find a bug transitioning from Control Center’s Calculate shortcut to the calculator but otherwise it’s a pretty solid revision in iOS7.
Now onto the style and color scheme. Apple, as mentioned in the first paragraph of this article, have opted for a “flat” design approach in iOS7 under the guidance of Jony Ive. Flat is nice when used correctly, for instance Google is a great example of how flat design can be used for good however Apple and their icon design poorly reflect flat design. In fact I’d argue that many icon’s aren’t flat at all!
Look at those gradients on the Mail and Safari Icon! Look at the attempt at some depth in that Settings icon! Look at the reflection on the Game Center icon!
The colors, oh the colors. I’d consider myself poor enough at picking decent color schemes but this homescreen looks like a 5 year old’s bag of sweets after a 10 minute trip to his local sweet shop. The neon colors are even worse on the actual iPhone.
Look at that Safari Icon!
There is so much inconsistency between the homescreen icons. Contrast the simplicity of the Weather icon to the complexity of the Newsstand icon or the perceived bulge on the Camera icon to the entirely flat Music icon. The only thing I’d argue that’s consistent between each icon is their rounded corners.
Of course there are tons of more changes in iOS7 but I just wanted to give you my initial thoughts. Do what you will with them.
As a final note, I’d like to say that I love Apple. The design of a product is a huge factor for me when buying and they have time and time again swayed me away from their competitors because of their attention to this. iOS7 however has showed me that Apple are capable of bad design in a pivotal area of their business which is distressing to me not only as a fan but also as a consumer because it’s clearly displays the direction they company is headed for. Come on Apple, you’re much better than this.