iOS 7 Shakes Up The Look And Feel of iOS, But Is It Really A Game Changer?

iOS 7 Shakes Up The Look And Feel of iOS, But Is It Really A Game Changer?

design_hero_screenThis morning we finally got to see the WWDC keynote and the announcement of the much-anticipated iOS 7…and despite the constant oohs and aahs from the Kool-Aid drinking attendees, it wasn’t all good news.

The good, the bad and the ugly…

As usual, Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off the keynote by rattling off a bunch of numbers…

Apple’s developers program has 6 Million members, 1.5 million of which joined since WWDC last year. This year’s WWDC event sold out in 71 seconds and Apple’s retail Stores receive 1 Million daily visitors. The App Store will be turning 5 years old in a couple of months and there are currently 900,000+ iOS Apps in the App Store, 375,000 of which are iPad apps and 93% of which are downloaded every month.

Apple recently saw its 50 Billionth app downloaded from the App Store. There are 575 Million iTunes Store accounts most of which had credit cards attached meaning that the App Store has more accounts with credit cards on the internet than any other store that they know of. So far Apple has paid out over $10 Billion to developers, half of which was paid out in the last year alone.

Unfortunately (aside from one cool Anki Drive iOS tech demo) as usual the lion’s share (pun intended) of the first half of the presentation was taken up discussing the latest version of the Mac OS and Mac hardware. Ditching the ‘cat themed’ releases the next version of Mac OS X was dubbed Mavericks after (I guess) a popular surfing destination in Northern California. I’d have preferred Apple go with “Sea Lion” as “Mavericks” sounds dumb to me and means nothing to pretty much anyone living outside of Northern California or who is not a surfer. The only highlight of this section was that the new Macbook Pro would be produced in the US. After wasting spending nearly an hour on Mac updates in excruciating detail on even the most minute and trivial of “new” features we finally got to something interesting…iOS 7.

hero

If the first sentence of his post didn’t give it away, I have to admit that I was a bit underwhelmed by today’s iOS 7 announcement and I ended up feeling a bit slighted, nauseated and left with too many unanswered questions. It seems like with every positive thing iOS 7 brings to the table, there is something negative that can be said about it as well.

First and foremost I’m not really sure I like all the aspects of this “simplistic” new design. Some of the redesigned apps looks nice, while others just look too sparse. While I welcome a change from the stale interface we’ve had for the last 5+ years, I seriously question the look of the new app icons, some of which look downright hideous and child-like in their design. They seem like some sort of cruel joke that Jony Ive is trying to pull over on us and I’m still waiting for the punchline. I’d say that it looks like a kid drew them, but I’d be insulting kids as my own children would certainly do a better job than that…just look at that Newsstand icon! The bright green color of the new Phone and Messages icons are enough to make me go cross-eyed. And don’t even get me started on the atrocity that is the Game Center multi-colored bubbles. Perhaps these will appeal to me over time or when I actually see it in my hands, but right now iOS 7 is looking a bit too stark for my tastes.

This tweet I saw earlier today sums it up nicely:

ios7-tweet

Aside from the minimalistic facelifts on the existing core apps iOS 7 will be getting some new features…

Folders With Unlimited Pages
While Folders in iOS 7 now allow for multiple pages, they now only allow for three icons across, meaning that I will definitely need to have multiple pages in any of my existing 12-icon folders.

multitasking_icon
Multitasking For All Apps
Finally it looks like something with no negative, Apple is finally allowing for multitasking of all app, and it will do it intelligently based on those Apps accessed more often getting more active cycles for updating as well as chunking calls so that when the antennas are fired up, all apps that need access will take advantage of it. Switching between apps, showed you a full preview of the app.
notificationcenter_icon
Notification Center Accessible via Lock Screen
This is great, except that during the Mac portion of the presentation, they showed off a way for users to interact and respond directly to notifications, but it seems iMessage must have been down when they added that functionality, because it seems the iOS side of the house never receive the memo and we will not be getting any such feature.
controlcenter_icon
Control Center
Control Center gives you quick access to highly used settings and apps with a single swipe up from any screen. This means you can quickly toggle things like Airplane mode, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, brightness, and even bring up a flashlight. This was a much-needed update and it looks like Apple actually got one thing right today.
airdrop_icon
AirDrop
This was a cool looking new feature that allows users to quickly share files and photos and videos using Bluetooth and WiFi with other iOS owners…without the need to “bump” devices. Unfortunately Apple once again gives the bird to us 3rd Gen iPad owners by making the iPad version of this feature only available to 4th gen and newer devices.
design_see_icon_weather
Weather Updates
The weather app gains a feature already available in many third-party apps, animated backgrounds to reflect the current weather conditions.
itunesradio_icon
iTunes Radio
This was one of the biggest disappointments of the show. What was expected to be a rival for Spotify where users can select exactly which songs they want to hear anytime they want to turned out to be nothing more than a Pandora clone with plenty of links for you to buy the songs from iTunes. It is ad-supported unless you pay for iTunes Match, in which case, you can enjoy it ad free.
Automatic Updates
While this may seem like a great new convenience feature, it could present some issues in the future as it doesn’t sound like you can exclude apps from being automatically updated. Should a bad update get pushed out by a developer, there would be no way to keep your iOS device from downloading it.Or what if you have an app that has a cool Easter egg that slipped by the Apple review board or a functionality that the dev decides to remove, that you want to keep. Well you may be saying adios when it gets patched by an automatic update and there would be no way for you to keep the old version of the app.
design_see_icon_camera

design_see_icon_photos

Camera App and Photos Updates
The camera app added a new square picture mode and a few filters which people may or may not find useful. What is more interesting is the updates to the photo album portion. Apple has made it much easier to find the photos you are looking for with intelligent sorts (they call ‘collections’) based on time, and place. Plus there is a cool new scrubbing feature that lets you quickly scan through a series of thumbnails to find the exact picture you want. there is also iCloud Photo sharing for an easy way to create group albums with your friends.
design_see_icon_safari
Safari Improvements
Safari is getting a unified smart search field as well as improved tabs in Safari, but they are not really tabs, Apple is just sort of putting your pages (now unlimited) into a Rolodex format. I don’t know what they have against tabs on the iPhone? There is also a new iCloud Keychain feature which acts pretty much like LastPass and can generate unique secure passwords and can sync and (securely) store all of your Safari passwords and credit card info across multiple devices. This is great if you use Safari on all your platforms, but if you use a different browser on the PC this probably won’t help you out all that much, especially if you let iCloud Keychain generate some sort of really obscure long passwords for you.

Other announced features included the previously announced car integration with a number of specified vehicle manufacturers, age and location-based app recommendations in the App Store, a nice security update that will not let your phone be Activated even if wiped by thieves, audio-only Facetime calls. It appears that Game Center may be adding official support for third-party controllers. There were also some improvements done to both the voice and abilities of Siri. Now Siri can even be a man…baby!

There are also 1500 new APIs available to developers.

wwdc-2013-53There are still some unknowns
There are still quite a few unknowns and until we get the final release build of iOS we won’t know exactly what made the final cut. As I mentioned there was no mention of interactive notifications, it is unclear if consumers will be able to set their own default apps for specified tasks.

I’m really hoping that in the coming months iOS 7 will grow on me since in some ways looks like an improvement=, but as I said, the WWDC press conference left me a bit sad and unsure of the new direction of iOS platform. The cosmetic changes coming in iOS 7 are likely to be fairly polarizing and do not offer the broad appeal of the current design. I will reserve final judgement until the official releases, but I just don’t think this release hits all of the bullet points it needed to in order to catch up to the user-friendly/customizable experience offered by competitive platforms. We’ll have to wait until the Fall for iOS 7. There was no mention of the Apple TV or any other iOS products so it appears these will be coming in the Fall as well.

An iOS 7 beta / dev kit is available now for the iPhone for registered iOS developers. You can read all about iOS 7 on Apple’s website and watch Jony Ive’s introduction to iOS 7 video as well.

View entire gallery of photos: