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Apple, iOS7 & the iPhone

A year to the day, i published this post about iOS6 and improvements i’d like to see in the ‘next’ iPhone and iOS7. Now that both have been announced / launched, i’ll look back and see just how many of those 11 improvements have been included in the new iPhone and iOS7…

# Feature Delivered?
1 Fingerprint Verification Yes
2 Flip to Silence No
3 Close all apps with one action No
4 Double battery life No
5 Vertical video prevention No
6 Native flashlight Yes
7 Unlimited Apps in Folders Yes
8 Browse apps by letter Yes
9 Multiple user accounts No
10 Better Alarm Clock No
11 Ability to change default browser No

So in total, of the 11 things on my wishlist, Apple have delivered 4 of them.  Very first impressions of iOS7 when it was first announced (before i got to use it) was that it was amateurish… attention to detail was lacking and overall, it didn’t look like an Apple product… it was a step in the wrong direction. What led me to that conclusion was the navigation area at the top of many screens. It looked like a wireframe design and the spacing between elements was all wrong. It looked too crowded.

ios7

I actually still feel that way having played with iOS7 beta version and now the full release. What Apple have done is eliminate borders, gradients, bevels and replaced everything with just plain text. That’s fine but it leaves no margin for error. How do i know when text is informative -v- interactive? How do i know that if i tap on a word it’ll do something? Well, you just have to guess sometimes. And that’s why it’s a bit un-Apple like for me. I don’t believe it’s as intuitive as previous versions of iOS. A good example of that would be the control center… it’s basically a page full of icons. That’s always extremely dangerous in any interface. The problem with icons is that they’re open to interpretation… you see an alarm clock symbol, i see  timer symbol… you see an airplane symbol, i see an airport symbol. How we interpret those symbols shapes what we expect to happen when we click on them. So you’re expecting to go to the alarm clock app when you tap on the ‘alarm clock’ symbol and you end up in the timer app, that’s gonna piss you off and confuse you.

iOS7

Are you wrong? Are the symbols wrong? No. It’s just the gamble Apple have taken… they believe you’ll learn what everything does because the product adds too much value to your life for you to just say “fuck it, i’m switching to android / samsung”.   So for new users, i do believe iOS7 is more intimidating than any other iOS thus far. Is that a problem? Not if what they’re doing is right for the greater good. Which i think it is. If we really question whether we need to see the shape of a button to understand that it does something, most of us would probably say no. By saying no, you reduce the number of graphical elements on display, free up more pixels etc… so that results in more speed and more screen real estate. Is the sacrifice worth it? I think so. Certainly for existing Apple users who’ll get used to the new design… i do believe the changes have been made in their best interests, but it remains to be seen how they’ll react.

The most frustrating thing about iOS7 is that it has simplified everything… those buttons that were so familiar have been relegated to plain text. Those 3D icons with multiple colours have been dumbed down to 2D icons with no more than a few colours. Everything looks new… it looks different… instinct will probably tell you that you prefer iOS6 because it’s familiar, but like a lot of things, change is usually necessary to improve something. This is radical change and so it’s a big gamble. For what it’s worth i don’t believe iOS7 is a problem, but i do feel the iPhone in general has lost it’s magic. The fingerprint scanner is a big deal, but it’s something that we predicted 12 months ago would happen or that needed to happen… when an iPhone is released now, there are no surprises or nothing that makes you go “holy shit, i never seen that coming”. Perhaps it’s because we’re too clued up on Apple and actively keeping up to date with what they’re doing but to me it does seem as if they’ve abandoned the secretive approach and don’t care if and when leaks are made. Before the 5S was announced, we seen it, knew all of its key features and so when it actually launched, it was an anti-climax. It’s been like that since the iPhone 4S. Siri was somewhat of a surprise but a completely over-rated surprise that has under-delivered… not the kind of surprise people want.

iphone6

iPhone 6 is almost predictable at this stage… new design, slightly thinner, faster, better camera, fingerprint authentication extended so that you can login to more services i.e. facebook / email… for me the most obvious big problem worth chasing is mobile payments. We’re all still waiting for the day where we can swipe our phone against a device in a store. A message pops up asking us to confirm payment with our fingerprint. We get a receipt on the phone and go on our way.

No credit or debit cards necessary, no charges for using them, no pin codes, no going to ATMs looking for cash and worrying about whether the ATM is rigged with a card reader… apply that to parking meters, vending machines, rail ticket machines, person to person transfers / sales and that would change the way we live. That’s the best case scenario. Worst case scenario is that it would attempt to do all of that. Worth the risk? Absolutely. So far, nobody has attempted to bring that stuff mainstream all overnight but that’s what needs to happen for it to work.

Passbook hasn’t worked so far and was a weak attempt at getting in to mobile commerce. Apple need to tackle it head on and if we’re sitting here 12 months down the road with a prettier iOS8 and an iPhone 6 that looks slightly different but is a bit thinner and quicker than the 5S, then the iPhone’s days will be numbered as that will be confirmation that they’re out of ideas or don’t want to gamble by bringing the future closer, something that has made the iPhone stand out in the past.

Sean MacEntee

Web Developer. Technology Addict. Swimmer. Man Utd Fan. Writer. Designer.