Yesterday Apple announced iOS 7 at their World Wide Developers conference and released a beta for developers. The keynote began and ended with beautiful videos highlighting Apple’s passion for carefully crafted design.
The closing video begins with “This is it. This is what matters. The experience of a product. How it makes someone feel”. I agree.
And iOS 7 feels a little unrefined.
I was excited to dive in after the keynote. Apple had done exactly what we were hoping they would. They hit reset on their skeuomorphic approach and made dramatic sweeping changes. Most of the functionality you know is still there. But they’ve essentially taken the last six years of refinement, tweaking, and honing and wiped it all away to begin again.
Here are my first impressions…
The icon illustration styles in iOS 7 vary wildly from app to app. Game Center is now a collection of 3D blobs against a white background, while the Camera icon looks like clip-art. The settings icon looks more like an oven burner. The Calendar icon is “live”, showing you todays date, but the weather icon can’t manage todays temperature. Everything looks oversized and shockingly basic. It doesn’t feel elegant, it feels kind of childish.
The experience is full of small inconsistencies. You’ll find several camera icons, varying interaction metaphors, even different keyboard styles as you move from Apple apps to others.
Overall the typography is gorgeous (Helvetica Neue), but in a few places the layout is crowded, with too many font weights. I miss the separation between the status bar and apps.
There are several hidden new gesture based interactions that will confuse some folks. To find search you have to pull down, just not from the top. And because swiping from left to right is the new global back button, you can’t swipe right in your app for other interactions… like delete.
There’s also completely new iconography that isn’t readily understandable. Apparently a box with an arrow pointed up means Share. Maybe we’ll get used to these quickly…? But considering we still use file folders as icons, I applaud Apple for pushing in new directions.
Hiding apps in white folders that contain multiple screens means you’ll be playing a game of memory every time you try to find one. Why don’t folders open close to full screen?
It was said that you could hand an iPhone to a 2 year old and they could use it right away because it was so intuitive. I’m not sure that’s true of iOS 7.
All in all, an uncharictaristically rough visual start from Apple. But I’d be complaining much more if they hadn’t walked away from real world metaphors.
In case you can’t tell, we designers are a hard bunch to please. We like to complain. It’s a carefully developed skill that helps us discover areas that could be improved and makes us good at our craft.
And now we’re complaining that this completely reimagined beta version of iOS7 isn’t perfect. Take it as a compliment Apple. You’ve taught us to expect perfection. You’re stepping in new directions and in all honesty, it’s better than any one of our best betas.
There is some undeniable genius behind the visual clunkiness. And some visual updates are for the better, like the Notification Center. It now splits your notifications more intelligently and gives you a day-view look at your to-do’s, Calendars, Weather and Stocks.
The upgraded default apps are so much better. Weather is more beautiful and offers more info. Calendar is a giant leap forward. Photos are auto-sorted and grouped, making them much easier to look through. And Air-Drop is a new fun way to share pics with other iPhones without having to wander around bumping phones (take that Android).
My favorite innovation is automatic app updates.
Little details like the subtle gyroscope controlled parallax background, and elegant animations give you a great sense of dimension and place.
We’ve spent the last few years teasing Apple for its over use of felt, we’ve accused them of falling behind, questioned their ability to innovate. Well question no more, with all the bold new approachs and products announced at the WWDC, it’s safe to say that Apple is still innovating.