Talking Point: My Take on iOS 7

This week saw one of the most hotly anticipated design launches of 2013, with Apple showcasing both iOS 7 (their latest iPhone/iPad operating system) and the new Mac OS X Mavericks for their iMac and MacBook lines. iOS 7 has been one of the most talked about launches since iPhone and iPad were released, mainly because it is the biggest revamp the iPhone has seen since its launch in 2007. Before the event at which the software was revealed, WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference), there was much talk across the internet as to how Apple’s new iOS operating system would look, with many rumours suggesting that Apple would ditch their thoroughly familiar, often imitated¬†skeuomorphism (digital things made to look physical, like the leathery textures, fake notebooks and that horrific green felt in Game Centre), in favour of an all-new ‘flat‘ design aesthetic.

Post-launch, those rumours have turned out to be completely correct, but I don’t think Apple has done flat in quite the way people might’ve had in mind. I’m personally a little unconvinced, which is unusual. Normally I think Apple do an excellent job of their user interfaces (UIs), matching their excellent user experience (UX), but this time I’m undecided. New elements such as Control Centre, which is a sliding panel allowing the user to control most frequently used settings such as WiFi, Bluetooth and file sharing, look well-resolved and will bring something that was previously lacking to iPhone owners’ pockets. However, the actual aesthetics are a little inconsistent to me. Take a look at the visuals below, which were released at the WWDC conference this week.

iOS 7

iOS 7

The Icons.

Firstly, there’s the new set of icons. All have been designed by Jony Ive, master of the iPhone and iPad’s external aesthetics, and all stick to the ‘flat’ design trend which is currently very hot (you can read my post on it here). Passbook, App Store, iTunes Store and Newsstand look relatively alright; little has changed with regards to the stores. Safari, Photos, Game Centre and Camera, however, look completely out of place on an Apple device. The compass on Safari looks too big and too close to the edges of the icon, and the fierce gradient effect doesn’t help matters. The camera on the icon for the Camera app looks like clipart, and Game Centre and Photos will become easily confused (the latter is no longer clearly a flower and will get muddled with the twenty thousand other photo apps in Apple’s own App Store). What the blobs on Game Centre are supposed to represent, I have absolutely no idea.

The Apps and Type.

Then there’s the way some of the type is set. From the images Apple has released, they’ve done absolutely everything in Helvetica Neue. Not a bad thing, but I get the feeling some people will struggle to read it clearly. There’s also a very Windows-esque blue appearing in numerous apps, and type that looks too big. As far as the apps themselves go, Contacts, App Store and iTunes store seem to be the best resolved. Messages looks like a simple re-skin; not massively different, but not massively improved based on first impressions. Mail and the Music Player look to be improved slightly further.

Of course, it’s difficult to make judgement without having used the software. I’m confident that it will still work as fantastically as the iPhone always has, and the new parallax wallpapers (which move with your iPhone – very cool) and new animation elements are sure to be a hit. I’m just unconvinced when it comes to the new look.

Below are some examples that other designers have tried over the last few days. Most of these have been posted on Dribbble or Pinterest, and to me, show better resolved alternatives for Apple’s new flat iOS 7. Here’s how it could’ve looked…

iOS 7 by JustD on Dribbble

iOS 7 by JustD on Dribbble

This example seems to do ‘flat’ just a little better. The compass on Safari is designed with far more thought, whilst some shadows are still evident and bring a little more interest to the icons. I especially like the Messages and Settings icons in this example.

iOS 7 by Leo Drapeau (left)

iOS 7 by Leo Drapeau (left)

iOS 7 by Leo Drapeau (seen on the left, next to Apple’s own iOS 7 on the right) is only subtly different to the real deal, but the slightly smaller icons seem to work better, with more detail and accuracy. I think the Reminders, Settings and Safari icons work well on this version. Making the compass smaller just seems to make it look neater and less bulbous.

I could show dozens of examples from Dribbble (most designers seem to be either completely incensed by the new design, or they’re all for it), but the majority look fairly similar and I’d probably end up boring you all to tears. I’m really looking forward to trying the new software for myself (even though certain elements, such as the clever new AirDrop feature, apparently won’t work on my 4S), and am hoping that I’ll quickly become used to the new UI, as, most probably, will everybody else that’s currently making a fuss.

I’ll post again in the Autumn when it’s been released.