Yesterday, at its World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple announced iOS7 and highlighted its new UI redesign and features.
Unfortunately, there was almost nothing new or original. Almost every new redesigned element or feature was something that was already introduced by other mobile operating systems already (some years earlier). Worse yet, Apple’s Craig Federighi went out of his way to bash the old design on multiple occasions, and the worst part? Looks like devs will have to do more work to make sure their apps look good in iOS7 while supporting older versions of iOS.
So what’s the real story?
Was the existing iOS UI really dated? Perhaps! The UI had not changed dramatically since it was introduced in 2007 and a change was due. But, the main issue here however is not with why Apple redesigned the UI, but how they did it.
It is true that a lot of the UI was wasted on leather bound calendars and torn paper notes, but the high detail of the design was on par with Apple’s philosophy and while “dated”, it was not ugly. The new UI, as leaked by 9to5mac, looks cheap. Most of the UI blends to the point that you cannot tell a navigation bar, from a tab bar, from the main content of the page and that is going to be more confusing to many existing iPhone owners.
Obviously, the new redesign has not grabbed me and I could go on about its loss of contrast and how depending your choice of background reading some text could be very hard, but I may have already tainted your opinion and there are enough other articles and tweets to get you tainted.
Innovative or Copied?
So, with such drastic changes, how much of what has changed or new features that were introduced is actually new? The answer is very few.
It seems like Apple’s Jonathan Ive, while great at designing hardware, is not the most original when it comes to User Interfaces (UI). iOS7 looks like a combination of:
- The Windows 7 blurring effect of elements behind the current window
- The Windows Phone chromatic UI
- Palm OS’ multi-tasking UI
- Android’s new back button, window transitions, and quick access to some features
The final word?
That remains to be seen, once iOS7 has gone public and we have all had enough time to let it grow on us, and there is still time for Apple to actually listen and update some of the shortcomings (mostly icon redesign). The most disconcerting part is that there were a lot of expectation from Apple from the new iOS (and iPhone hardware later in the year), and Apple seems to have missed it completely. And if this is any indication, it is safe to expect an iPhone 5s instead of a major new redesigned iPhone.
Sure, you can share files (Airdrop) , and integrate with LinkedIn. There are even live/animated icons (Look at the clock icon in the demo videos online), but Apple did not introduce any major new API for developers to integrate better with iOS at it core. The background services have been improved, but devs can still not provide anything close to HTC’s BlinkFeed for a more immersive experience and that leaves iOS still behind other mobile operating systems.