A few brief notes on iOS 7

After last week’s WWDC, Apple’s Developer Conference, the whole web is brimming with commentary on the radical design changes that Apple plans to introduce with iOS 7 this fall.

I have a few (conflicting) thoughts of my own, but there’s little reason to go into them at length, considering the number of words spent on the topic across tech news websites and personal weblogs over the past week. I’ll briefly jot down my top three annoyances and concerns anyway, to revisit at a later point:

  • I think the new lockscreen design is a failure, inadvertantly prompting the user to swipe up instead of left-to-right, potentially tarnishing one of the very first interactions users will experience with their new iOS 7 device. I expect this to be changed pre-release.
  • I’m not a fan of the new homescreen app icons (like everone else), but they don’t worry me too much because they’ll probably also get fixed pre-release.
  • My biggest gripe and probably the one that won’t get fixed is the use of text labels as buttons – I think a button should look different from a label and you should be able to distinguish between the two without ambiguity with a quick glance.

Overall what we saw of iOS 7 at WWDC looked incoherent and unfinished, but then again, it probably is. A comprehensive, systemwide user interface overhaul of this magnitude is an enormous undertaking and I have little doubt that Apple’s designers and developers will keep polishing and refining until the very last minute before they ship. What we saw this week gave us a valuable preview of the design direction that iOS is headed in, but I expect things to improve significantly before iOS 7 actually ships.

One parting thought that few people seem to be talking about: I’m sad that the iOS user interface as we knew it for 6 years will soon be a thing of the past. For all its shortcomings it was a beautiful user interface, certainly more beautiful and polished than Android and Windows Phone in my eyes. Its look might have gotten stale over the years and many users might have gotten bored by its staunch familiarity, but to think that it will be gone for good so soon seems almost tragic to me.