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It has been a week since iOS 7 debuted and now that the rush-into-print, knee-jerk reactions are behind us, lets take a closer look at the future of Apples mobile devices.
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Apple has never created anything that looks like iOS 7 before. Never, ever. This is important, because many longtime Apple users were blindsided by the bold new look.
As a company, Apple is known for many things. Design sits somewhere near the top of the list. Apples hardware is gorgeous and unparalleled, and its software is sleek and beautiful even when it . As rivals try desperately to catch up and as they spend billions on new product development, no notebooks are as sleek as Apples, no tablets are as striking as the iPad, and no smartphones are as stunning as the iPhone.
Apple has been matched or even surpassed by rivals in some areas, but design is not one of them.
So it is easy to see why longtime Apple fans find iOS 7 so jarring. The look and feel of iOS has been so widely praised over the years that many people are having trouble letting go. iOS also sparked a fundamental shift in the way companies design smartphone interfaces. In fact, one Apple rival loved the iPhone so much it created .
But now, many of the core characteristics that defined iOS for six years are gone without a trace. Panic was inevitable.
The dust has settled since Apple took the wraps of iOS 7 last week, and opinions seem to be leveling out to an extent. Bloggers and pundits who exploded with rage have since backed up a bit. Starry-eyed Apple fans who squealed with excitement have calmed down as well. So now, we can finally all take a deep breath and talk about iOS 7.
Navigating iOS 7 is different. Panels open on tops of apps and transparency effects provide a unique visual reminder that other parts of the OS lie beneath the current view. Apple really ran with this concept, too. For example, each key press on numbers in the new Phone app or on the lock screen provides a fleeting glimpse of the wallpaper that sits beneath the app. Its a very cool effect that does not go unappreciated, and there many are other small design elements that show Apple is still a company that sweats the little things.
There are also new transition animations when navigating iOS.Transitions zoom in and out oficons when opening and closing apps, adding another element to the layering concept. In iOS 7, everything is connected. It also has a very bouncy feel to it.
I find that some animations are overly complex though, such as the transition when closing the task manager, and this makes the user wait a few extra beats in between functions. Apple is moving in the wrong direction here but were talking about an early beta so hopefully the release version will see these transitions get out of the users way much faster.
Apples new user interface appears to be quite similar to earlier versions on the surface, but it is in fact a complete departure from the UI found in iOS 6 and earlier builds.
Beyond the home screen, which indeed looks much like earlier iOS home screens, lies a completely redesigned experience. Every single Apple application has been rebuilt from the ground up, and some apps have undergone such drastic overhauls that they are barely recognizable.
As had been rumored in the weeks leading up to WWDC, the iOS 7 user interface is flat. All of the textures and skeuomorphic elements that have characterized iOS for more than half a decade are gone. But flat is only half the story here.
The interfaces in new Apple apps arent just flat, they are completely different from the apps they replace. Some applications bear absolutely no resemblance to their predecessors. And even the ones that carry forward the same basic layouts as older apps, like Messages, have such a minimalistic new look that the resemblance isnt always immediately apparent.
Put it like this: You will have no problem transitioning from iOS 6 to iOS 7. Your parents, on the other hand, probably will. But just as they did when they first transitioned from a flip phone to an iPhone, theyll get over it.
For the most part, iOS is still very logical and easy to use. There are areas where the interface falls apart a bit, but the beta 1 label says it all many, many things will change before iOS 7 reaches the public this fall. In its beta form though,there are some real missteps in iOS 7 that are pretty shocking. Heres one example:
Apple, a company defined by design and collective smarts, made a pretty elementary design snafu right on the iOS lock screen.
Slide to unlock sits near the bottom of the display on the lock screen and shimmers, as it always has. But the simple slider button graphic is now gone. Instead, just beneath the words slide to unlock, sits an arrow pointing upward. Sliding upward doesnt unlock iOS though. Instead, this arrow is meant to alert the user to the presence of the new Control Center, which provides quick access to several settings and controls. To unlock an iOS device, the user still must swipe from left to right.
On the surface, this might not seem like a big deal. Think about it from a new iOS users perspective, however and this is very important, considering how many new iOS users there will soon be if .
You tap the unlock button for the first time on your new iPhone or iPad, and your attention is immediately drawn to the shimmering slide to unlock directive near the bottom of the display, which is situated directly above an arrow pointing upward.
You place your finger directly on the words and slide up. Nothing happens. You try again from the center of the display. Nothing happens. One more attempt, this time beginning right on the up arrow itself. A panel of various buttons and sliders appears, but you still cant find the home screen.
Its a stupid mistake. And Apple doesnt often make stupid mistakes when it comes to design. Its akin to placing a traffic sign showing an arrow curving to the right on a street just before the road ahead curves to the left.
On the other side of the coin, iOS 7 has many changes that are absolutely fantastic.
While the new OS doesnt address all of , it definitely tackles a healthy number of them. Multitasking will finally be kicked into high gear now that third-party apps can perform more processes in the background without battery life taking a major hit, and the new ControlCenterfinally provides easy access to key settings and utilities.
The updated Mail app has big improvements and searching actually seems to work now. Safari mobile is much improved as well, with a great new interface and a unified address and search bar. AirDrop is a great new alternative to NFC-based file-sharing, the new Notification Center features are nice (though Apple really took a step backwards by eliminating the weather widget and replacing it with a text-based forecast for the current day only), and iTunes Radio is a welcome addition to Apples entertainment portfolio, though there are for users seeking a more comprehensive solution.
I also love the new task manager UI in iOS 7, which was shamelessly stolen from webOS. Thumbnails featuring screen captures of each open app in its most recent state are lined up on the screen. Tapping one will open the related app and flicking one upward will close the app.As someone who was a big fan of the webOS platform before HP sent it away to live on a farm, I think the new multitasking interface is a big step in the right direction, even though Apple engineers couldnt be bothered to come up with their own solution.
But as mentioned earlier, there are plenty of things I havent been able to get past. I find the new icons to be absolutely hideous, for example. Theyre juvenile in all cases and downright ugly in some instances, and Im fairly surprised that this is work that left the drawing board at Apple. I would be embarrassed to have been involved in their creation. There are also a number of surprising omissions, an example of which might be the lack of any kind of indication in the Calendar app on days that have scheduled appointments. I would expect that issues like this will be addressed prior to launch, however.
And yes, its still , Im afraid.
IOS 7 isnt about today, its about tomorrow.
This is important to keep in mind while reading about iOS 7 in the coming months and while using it yourself beginning this fall. There might be a 7 in the name of this software, but its really version 1 of Apples new vision for the future of mobile. This is the foundation, and Apple will look to build from here.
Not everyone will like iOS 7 right away. In fact, some people might never like the changes introduced in iOS 7, wishing instead that iOS could have stayed the same forever. Of course, we have all seen how well that worked out for Nokia, BlackBerry and Microsoft.
And the beauty of iOS, of course, is that regardless of how you feel about all of these changes many of which are quite drastic one of the main things that makes iOS so fantastic remains: There is still a massive ecosystem of great apps.
Third-party apps are the lifeblood of Apples mobile devices, and all your favorite apps will still exist on your device in iOS 7 as they do in iOS 6. Many of them will undergo some cosmetic changes as developers look to mirror iOSs new design identity, but their core functionality will live on. Actually, many of them will get even better thanks to all of the new APIs Apple is making available to developers with iOS 7.
Beyond that, keep in mind as you read about iOS 7 in the coming weeks that Apple really rushed to get the first beta of iOS 7 out on time. Apples programmers and designers were in such a rush that they couldnt even finish the iPad build in time for WWDC. The final version of iOS 7 that ships this coming fall will be quite different from early beta versions, and you can count on that.
My biggest problem with iOS 7 is the same problem I had with iOS 6, which was the same problem I had with iOS 5: .
A fear I had leading up to WWDC was that Apple might be spending all of its time and resources on a visual redesign, which could have meant exciting new features and important enhancements would be few and far between. Reality ended up being a bit less grim, but Apple certainly did not strike a balance between renovation and innovation. iOS 7 does include some important new functionality, of course, but the emphasis was clearly on design.
What meaningful, innovative functions can iOS 7 perform that iOS 6 could not?
Many Apple pundits keep making the same argument over and over again. Apple doesnt have to innovate every year. Apple is the most profitable smartphone vendor in the world. The iPhone 5 is the best-selling smartphone on the planet. iOS gets better all the time. And so on. But how much longer will this argument work before people start to want more? How much longer will we be happy with the same core feature set underneath a few new functions borrowed from other platforms?
As I noted, iOS 7 is the beginning of the next chapter in the book of iOS. This is the foundation that Apple will build on in iOS 8 and beyond. And truly I hope Apple has some surprises in store for us some real innovation because based on what Im hearing from well-placed sources at one of Apples biggest rivals, things are about to get pretty exciting in the smartphone industry over the next few years.
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