It has been a frustrating wait for some, but many iPhone users are now finally getting their hands on Apple's iOS 7 software update - described by CEO Tim Cook as “the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of the iPhone”.
The new look is the brainchild of Apple's product design guru Jony Ive, who has been ripping up and reimagining the iPhone's interface and apps since displacing former iOS head Scott Forstall in an acrimonious executive shake-up in 2012. The resulting 'flat' design is a radical departure from what iPhone users have become accustomed to.
So is it a success? We asked some top designers to give us their first impressions, and it's fair to say the responses were mixed...
The graphics have all been juiced-up colour-wise and flattened down graphically, which is quite nice. However, a lot of the actual navigation icons have been reduced to pure line art at a very small scale, and the typography is now using a very fine font weight, which I would think makes these elements a little too thin and spindly for all eyes to comfortably register or read, particularly when on a bright/white background.
I’m not that keen on the way Safari multiple pages are shown: it feels outdated and at odds with the rest of the new design navigation movement.
The background image also moves slightly independently from the fixed icons on the home screen for a 3D-effect. Likewise message speech bubbles bounce around a bit as you scroll. This is a little disconcerting, and doesn't add much. But as always with Apple, I guess we'll adapt: "your eyes read best what they read most".
My verdict: style 1, usability for all 0.
I love it. Obviously. The joy of a clear and simplified UI is not to be undervalued.
At SomeOne we have a strong anti-Helvetica stance so seeing that battered old dog of a typeface everywhere is a bit jarring. But we'll live. (And weird to see DIN used on the camera).
The fine line iconography is lovely. There are some cracking touches. The fact the clock icon is actually telling the right time is a delightful touch that caused a veritable ripple of excitement through the studio as people discovered it.
Apple has been a design-led brand for so long now and its core audience is design savvy consumers, but it has massively overlooked the design details with iOS 7. It seems that Apple has focused heavily on the idea of change, but simply for the sake of it. It hasn’t made the UI completely flat or set a new graphical standard, and that is the main disappointment.
It shouldn’t have bothered with Helvetica or the brightly coloured gradients and I find it astonishing that they haven't developed bespoke typeface with matching iconography specifically designed for its OS. If you’re going to change it, really CHANGE IT! Even though it may be half-baked, it’s still the best OS out there.
Apple’s new OS is beautiful with many moments of delight (such as zooming icons and parallax effect) showcasing one of the many reasons there is such love for Apple products. From the breathing light on a Macbook Pro, the icon construction of a newly downloaded app or the inertia when scrolling through text messages, Apple are always meticulous in their attention to the smallest details.
Ultimately iOS 7 is a visual lick of paint; the way I use my device is still very much the same albeit in a more refined way. A pull down from any home screen enabling you to search is a small yet powerful tweak. What appears to be only a visual change is not Apple’s fault; one of the reasons for iOS’s success is its ability to supply the robustness of Apple OS to developers, whilst stepping into the background and giving the apps the spotlight. This makes it impossible (or at least very difficult) for them to fundamentally change the way the phone is used through an operating system re-design, all they can do is improve the user experience at a base level providing a platform for developers to make the best apps they can.
Instead Apple have, of course, done a brilliant job in refreshing the look and feel, but where they have excelled is to introduce even more power, at a system level, to developers. Motion sensor control, biometrics and an incredibly powerful processor gives the developers the power to eventually change the way I use my ‘phone’, we’ll just have to wait for the innovations to come…
I’ll start with the negative – I only managed to get it working by 1.30 this morning, having had to clear 3 gig of space on my phone (I do keep too much), overcome a series of errors and then having to ‘try later’ a couple of times. So the expectation was high!
And on the whole, it delivers as expected. I like the minimal, flat, modular aesthetic and RGB colours. I’d seen pics of what it looks like, but it’s not until you get it on your own device and use it that you really form your opinions. It’s fresh and clean, and has some nice touches like the simple outline icons and simple, flat action boxes (like deleting emails).
I haven’t found anything I don’t like yet on functionality. Seeing my most used apps like alarm and calculator with a simple swipe makes life easy and I feel like Apple have actually considered how we use their devices with this upgrade. Now it just needs the other apps to catch-up – next to the RGB Apple icons, things like Instagram look decidedly old fashioned.
For me there has been a disconnect between the minimal beauty of Apple's product design and their somewhat cheesy interface. I was never a fan of the faux leather and wood nonsense. Anyway the guy responsible got the boot and our very own Jony Ive has unified hardware and Interface to stunning effect - all I need to do now is figure out how to upgrade.
As Apple developers we've been working with iOS 7 for a number of months now and so it's great to see it finally out in the wild - walking around London today you can see hordes of people openly smiling and/or frowning at their iPhones as they get to grips with the brand new device they've woken up to.
It's kind of like when the new models are deployed in "I, Robot" - just without the car chase sequence.
Having used this new OS since June, my thoughts are:
1. It is very different (both at a superficial visual level and a deep interaction level) to the previous six versions. "Change is good" is the mantra to use this week.
2. Apple's seamless integration between hardware, software and services has never been stronger. It is a stunning user experience, especially on the new 64-bit hardware.
3. I have a strong feeling the iPhone has inherited a lot from the iPad in this release.
4. If Apple can just sort out their web services (iCloud and Siri being the two key ones) then the future's golden.
1. I'm still waiting for the day Apple announces to strip features from its iOS instead of adding. Do we really need a leveler on a phone? The design is fresh and it must have been a huge operation, but all those fancy blurs and movements make me think they are out of useful features to add.
2. I think Apple probably has released a newer iOS before this one is finished downloading.
3. I'm very surprised more people talk about getting Justin Bieber into the Philippines than Apple's new iOS 7.