iOS 7: 5 days, 5 comments

After developer beta 6 was released last week, I decided to do something I had never done before: install a beta version of iOS onto my personal iPhone.

I never wanted to take the risk of doing this too early and having my phone be too buggy before a production release, but due to the scope of this redesign (and my job responsibilities), I felt that I had to do this.

Today was day five of my experiment, and here are five comments about iOS 7:

ios7

  1. Automatic app downloads. The automatic updating of apps was first presented at WWDC 2011 (the last one led by Steve Jobs), but the feature did not debut until now. I absolutely love it.
  2. Helvetica Neue typography. Another home run. It’s amazing how much of a design refresh it is to update the typeface. It’s very modern and clean. Nice.
  3. Transparency. All of the talk about the redesign has centered on flat design. But there’s another important element: transparency. It’s subtle and beautiful. And makes the entire user experience feel a bit more light and transparent. It’s a real win for Jony Ive in that it demonstrates a great fusion of hardware and software design, in my opinion, as Apple’s hardware is engineered to be more lightweight.
  4. Motion. Okay, after three things that I like is something that I greatly dislike. There’s a lot of motion in the iOS 7 UX. Some of it is blatant and makes me feel nauseous, like the intro transition from the lock screen to the home screen (overkill in a big way, as app icons zoom by). But even the subtle motion of the home screen image behind the app icons. It’s just gratuitous, in my opinion. Plus it literally makes me feel sick after a while (disclaimer: I’m prone to motion sickness).
  5. Colors. Much has been made about the new color scheme of iOS 7. There are aspects that I like and others that I dislike. The flat white and grays are quite elegant. But the bright colors are inconsistent in their success. The color I dislike the most is the green. It is so bright and vibrant that it shocks me to realize that a user-centered design approach would lead to its adoption. It nearly gives me a headache. And to top it off, it is used a lot: not only in the Phone, Facetime, and Messages app icons where you’re forced to see it all of the time. But also in Messages itself, where large green blobs are so bright that you nearly have to avert your eyes — it’s like trying to stare at the sun. (and trust me, I’ve tried to reduce the brightness setting as low as I can — it doesn’t help)

Overall, I like iOS 7 in most respects, especially with some of the new functionality. But I predict the design to remain polarizing, because I  am experiencing polar opposite reactions. There are design aspects that I love and others that I really despise. It’s a first for me, with Apple design, and that saddens me.

(and unfortunately for Apple, it may mean that this is the first iOS version that drives some customers away from iOS devices)

But even in that worst-case scenario, I have faith that Apple will learn from their experience and make subsequent versions of iOS as beautiful and functional as it’s been since its debut. This is indeed a very ambitious visual redesign, so it has some room to mature and become more usable if Apple has a product design process that is sensitive to user feedback.

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