For my inaugural blog post, I’m going to give my assessment of the Apple's new iOS 7 user interface changes. iOS 7 is scheduled to be released later this month but as a registered iOS developer I've been running the new operating system on my iPhone 4 and iPad 3 since the beta was released in June. I am currently running the Release 6 beta. Changes to the design were a cornerstone of the new version and, like some of you, I listened to Johnny Ive's comments about the design and quote, "true simplicity" of the new operating system which I have included here (roll video):
I should add that I've owned both an iPhone and an iPad since the day they were released in 2007 and 2010, respectively, so my comments will be most relevant to long time Apple mobile users.
1. Apple has replaced many of the icons we have gotten used to. What happened to my favorite icons? The Settings button doesn't look the same, neither does Notes and Contacts; it's totally different. If you have read anything about iOS design philosophy you know that Apple is moving from the current skeuomorphic, aka raised buttons design, to flatter, more realistic and minimalist icons. I’m all in favor of the flattening of images because they lend themselves to various form factors – from your desktop monitor to your smart phone to your future smart watch. They do look different for the first few days but you get used to it. My issue is that I was forced to spend time trying to find icons I have grown familiar with over the last six years. Couldn't these icons have been flattened and yet still retain the same color schemes?? All I can say is that my eyes were off the road for several seconds in the weeks after I upgraded. I won't be surprised if the accident rate goes up a notch in the first few weeks after its release.
|Many icons look different|
2. The gesture to get to Search is now a downward swipe. For six years I have been swiping left to right on my home screen to get to Search. Six years! Now all of a sudden that doesn't work. It’s now a downward swipe. The win is that it works on any screen, not just the Home Screen. But be careful; swipe too close to the top and you get the Notifications drop down. Since left to right swipe on the Home screen does nothing now, my solution would have been for Apple to simply leave left the left to right swipe on the home screen and allowed us to get to Search the way we always have.
3. The settings upward swipe affects scrolling. This is a new feature, pictured in the image on the right below, that gives you quick access to frequently used settings. But it ends up displaying the frequently used settings way too often. For example when I am scrolling through any long article or other piece of content that has a scroll bar. Unless you are being careful, you will often "accidentally" swipe too high or too low. In general the swipes need to be improved or it becomes an exercise in futility, especially when reading articles on the small screens of your iPhone or iPod. My solution for both up and down swipes would be to limit the area to the middle part of the screen. By having it work right up to the right most edge, swipe up and swipe down needlessly affect scroll bars.
4. There are two different color schemes for ON and OFF. The settings section of iOS 7 is pretty clear; green means ON and white means OFF. But in the quick access area, black means ON and white means OFF. You can see the differences in the screen shot below. Why not just stick with good old green and white in both places and be consistent? Months later I still have to remind myself which color means ON…black or white.
|On/Off icons are inconsistent|
5. Shutting down an app requires a new gesture. Double click the Home button and just like before a list of apps that are running appears. But the little red Close button in the top left of each app window is no longer there. Instead, in order to get the app to close, you have to swipe the window up and away. Now this action might be simpler to Johnny and his band of merry UI purists, but to me it takes more finger motion and therefore more time to close an app. And more time to do anything plus increasing the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome trumps design. Would it be that difficult to keep the little close app button instead of getting rid of it?
6. The minimum brightness is still not dim enough. Okay, I admit it, this is nothing new with iOS 7. But just for once can we get dim to go dimmer. Does no one on the Apple design team ever read their email or surf the web in a pitch black situation? I tend to read my email 24/7 and definitely when I wake up overnight. Even at the dimmest brightness level my iPhone and iPad it is so bright that I have to squint plus it disturbs my wife. It's like a freaking flashlight. Seems like allowing super dim would be super easy, save battery life, and something they would have resolved by now. Would make this dimwitted person happy!
So that's about it and the common theme is most of these changes made me less efficient. I also have four iOS devices at home and some can't be upgraded, so that doesn't help either. What I’ve always loved about Apple iOS devices is their simplicity; as a user I've never had to read a manual when a new device or a new patch has been released. With iOS 7, several things that have worked a certain way for years have suddenly stopped working. Having to spend time finding something or actually having to look up the solution is mildly annoying.
I could ramble on about other things that bothered me. But I would be remiss if I failed to mention some great improvements. So please join me next week when I comment on what I like best.