iOS 7: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Blogs Michael Grothaus 15:02, 13 Jun 2013

Ex-Apple employee, author, and journalist Michael Grothaus offers up his take on Apple’s controversial iOS 7 update

To hear me say my jaw dropped during the WWDC keynote on Monday when Apple showed the first images of iOS 7 might make you think I was impressed.

But you’d be wrong.

iOS 7

My jaw dropped because Jony Ive’s much-anticipated new look for iOS 7 leaves the impression that the icons were designed by an eight-year-old who found his sibling’s pastel markers, started drawing, then gave up halfway through but decided to hand his work in anyway.

But perhaps I’m being too harsh. Because the new iOS 7 is more than just redesigned icons on the homescreen. There are radical design changes throughout the OS and some pretty great new features as well.

And it’s the new features and functionality that is what is good about iOS 7. Perhaps the most welcome new feature is Control Center. This is a panel that swipes up from the bottom of any screen in the OS that allows the user to quickly toggle system-wide services, like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Airplane mode, on or off. 

Previously, users had to navigate to iOS’s Setting app to do all of this, which could result in a significant number of taps depending on what app you were in.

Another great feature is called Today. This is now part of Notification Center and gives you a quick overview of what your day is like, including a snapshot of your appointments, the weather, and the best route to work or home based on traffic conditions.

If this sounds a lot like Google Now...well, that’s because Apple copied Google Now for this feature. And I’m glad they did. Though I’ve been an Apple fan for over ten years (I worked for the company for five of those years), iOS had fallen behind Android in some respects in the last few years. I’m glad to see the company swallowing its pride and borrowing the best features of other mobile OS’s. 

Matter of fact, most of the new features and functionality are borrowed from other platforms. iOS 7’s new multitasking switcher is taken directly from webOS: you now see screen previews of the apps lined up one after the other and simply swipe up to close and app. 

One new feature Apple didn’t copy from someone else is AirDrop. This was actually borrowed from OS X and allows users to transfer files from their iPhone to a friend’s with just a few taps. There are plenty of file sharing implementations on other mobile OS’s, but the unique thing about AirDrop is that it does not require NFC like many sharing solutions on Android phones do, nor does it require users to be on the same wireless network. iPhones running iOS 7 will automatically pick up other nearby iPhones and form mini-networks between them on the fly.

Perhaps my favorite new feature of iOS 7 is iCloud Keychain. This feature allows Safari to remember not only account names and passwords, but credit card information as well.

So now, when you log onto a website (or app) to buy something you no longer have to sit there entering in your credit card number and expiration date on the iPhone’s tiny keyboard. iCloud Keychain will fill it in for you.

It’s a great feature, as anyone who has ever logged into websites on a mobile device knows it’s a much greater pain to do on a phone than on a desktop browser. But there’s another reason I like iCloud Keychain so much: it sets the stage for the introduction of a biometric fingerprint reader in the next iPhone. Gone will be the days of having to remember your various InterCapped usernames and passwords. iCloud Keychain will remember them all for you and the biometric fingerprint reader will be how you enter them. 

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Default apps would be nice. Otherwise, it certainly looks nice and I look forward to having a play.

The only nice icon in the image is the Twitter, others are boring.

Hardcore Android fans represent only an extremely tiny group of people. Most Android users don't even know they are using Android. And 4 times as many people switch from Android to iOS as go the other way already.

I think the main effect of iOS 7 will be iPhone/iPad users who stay on 6.1 or downgrade to 6.1 after upgrading to 7. I think it will make Maps 5 to 6 look like no big deal.

I don't see the fixes being all that easy. Many of the problems are from the interaction of Apple's design with user content and backgrounds, leading to white text on white backgrounds, iOS chrome merging with Web and other content. Some of these parts, Apple has no control over. The user will change the home screen background, load their own Web pages and music albums and videos and they will all show through the translucency in different ways.

And generally speaking, they have failed in their design goals already. Deferring to content, for example. I've already heard Web designers talking about how they can change their content because Apple's low-contrast white Web chrome is merging with it. That's as big a failure of getting out of the way of content as you can make. iOS 6 chrome gets out of the way my establishing a look and layer for chrome so that the eye learns to ignore it immediately and see it as a separate frame around content. Jony Ive said he hates when he can see a designer wagging their tail in his face, but iOS 7 is all wagging. Look at our gradients and pastels, look through our translucency, look at our skinny type, our grid, look at our cartoony look instead of visual realism, look how we removed all the buttons and other affordances, notice our design goals, notice how we made icons and app views look more like each other until you don't know what app you're in — never mind that it is ugly and unusable, notice our DESIGN! There is no quick fix and I think users are going to be horrified on an epic scale when their iPhone is destroyed and replaced with another kind of phone. Users hate that even when the new version has obvious and outstanding usability and beauty improvements — here, you get very little reward for the changes and you lose a lot.

The whole "copied from someone else" argument is strange to me. I do not use other platforms so I really couldn't care less where it came from. It is there now, I get to use it and that's awesome.

iOS 7 is horrifically ugly with all that bright colors and minging icons especially the music icon, inface the whole lot. It has no depth or texture and all the colors don't get on with each other and its hard to look at.

Apple with Steve Jobs succeeded then he was fired and Apple tanked. Jobs returned and set the company back on track. Now after his passing Apple is back peddling. Releasing a botched iPhone 5, going back on their(and Jobs) word and releasing a sub par ipad mini, and has been practically invisible all of 2013. Apple has no definitive direction and it's showing. The design choices and borrowed features plus rumors of a not so premium iPhone to be released are evidence of this. . Apple isn't the same company it was in 2010. It's too bad but Apple is now a religion without a Buddha. Competition is tighter now than ever.

Now that we are all experts, and I'm not being sarcastic, no "marketing team" or any solo individual is capable of competing to what all together we have to offer. Apples team is not about helping the user on a broad spectrum. Only in the lowest common denominator/ protect the stockholder standpoint. In other words an open os with constant, automatic updates, is the only way to truly satisfy real everyday people. This can be done on an individual level as well, depending on the needs of the user. We have to stop expecting this "business" to be able to supply our needs. We have the resources. They have showed us the backbone to how it goes. Internet was developed by lots of people who loved it and saw the potential in helping all, not to pay their rent and survive in the fake market.

About passwords, usernames, fingerprint things and all that... This isn't too much for people now I believe, .. Treating people like prisoners only produces more prison/ poverty reality. Transparency and trust are the only way to efficiently evolve out of these old, backwards paradigms. Also the Internet should now be a basic human right like quality food, housing, and a loving community. These old fear based business models that have prevailed can no longer keep up with an exponentially ever evolving humanity.


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