Sunday, September 22, 2013

7th Time's the Charm

This past week Apple released it's 7th generation of iOS, and of course, as an Apple fan, I was hitting refresh all afternoon waiting for the update. This is one of the most radical updates of iOS, as it completely changes the look and feel, leaving almost nothing familiar from the old skin. People have been asking me what I think of this new update, and so here are a few of my thoughts.

So what don't I like? Honestly, the new look-and-feel is going to take quite a while to grow on me. After using it for a few days it's not quite as shocking as it first was for me, but I still can't truthfully say that I like it. The colors are overly bright, the animations seem supurflus and slow down interaction time, and some basic paradigms have been changed, forcing a re-learning.

First, I find the color scheme a bit too bright for my taste. The abundance of white just seems to blast the eyes, despite the other soothing pastel colors. The flat look isn't that bad, but sometimes the icons almost look cartoonish. My friend Wes pointed out that this feels a lot like some of the early Mac OS X versions that had what many people called a "lickable" interface. I'm hoping that as this skin evolves, there will be opportunities to select a darker color scheme. 

Second, the animations seem rather extraneous, and I've got a couple areas where they simply get in the way. The constant zooming in and zooming out of applications as you switch can be dizzying if you're switching applications quickly many times. Not to mention the slow fade-in of your lock screen, which actually causes a delay in interacting with the screen. I can't unlock my phone as quickly and fluidly as I used to be able to. Again, I hope that in the future Apple will give some options to turn down some of these animations in the name of performance.

Finally, there are a couple pieces of functionality change that required re-learning how to do things. One of them that I applaud, and really enjoy, is the change to multi-tasking. I'm an old WebOS guy, and seeing this beautiful method of changing and quitting apps (flicking them upwards to quit them) reborn is beautiful. However, for anyone who's never used WebOS, this is a pretty radical change. Then there's the institution of the general swipe direction to move back a screen. In the pervious versions of iOS you could swipe over an item in either direction to bring up the "Delete" button. However, in iOS7 the only direction that works is right to left. This means that half the population of iOS users needs to adapt to swiping a different direction. I understand the need for the change, and I like the ability to access more options, but it certainly is taking some getting used to.

So what is it that I like in iOS7? Despite it's shortcomings, there's a lot to like here. The UI change, although jarring does bring a nice cohesivness to the system. Changes to the notification center, the addition of the control center, and the ability to have unlimited items in folders are all beautiful additions, and add a distinct positive to functionality. I also particularly enjoy the ability to auto-update apps, as this is something that has always been rather annoying.

The changes to the various apps are quite welcome as well. The new layout for an entire year calendar view is very elegant. The addition of the broader view in the photos app is amazing as well. The music app seems like it's laid out much nicer, and Safari is finally behaving like a more modern browser, allowing for search or URL's in a single box.

So despite it's flaws, I'm still quite happy with iOS7. I think it's a first step in a bunch of positive changes. I think as time goes on Apple will continue to add and tweak various aspects to address a lot of my concerns. It might be a bit painful for a while, but I'm excited at the future this hints at.