Apple is releasing its new mobile operating system, iOS 7, this week and while many of the prior yearly iOS iterations have been noteworthy in their features, this year's release is the first drastic redesign in terms of the look and feel of the entire OS. I'm not a designer, user interface expert or typographer so I won't be able to provide expert insight on the design and stylistic choices (read about that here, here and here). I'm also not going to go into every feature change as Apple has laid that out nicely on their website.
What I'll do is just go through a few bullet point notes that I noticed while using iOS 7 over the last few days. Some are nice touches and others are design choices that I think may raise some confusion. Here are my thoughts:
- The new lock screen is fantastic. The clarity and elegance of the Helvetica Neue font jumps right out at you from the time display. I love how screen now fades in and out when waking the display or letting the display sleep. The four options (unlock, notification centre, command centre and camera) are shown clearly. Even in my first few days of use, I've found command centre quite handy. I suspect all other users will agree it is a welcome and overdue addition to iOS.
- Speaking of the lock screen, I've noticed that when playing audio and the screen is locked, controls are now shown (and active) in the lock screen. Previously in iOS 6, you had to double tap home to bring up the controls to change a song for example. A subtle, but nice touch.
- The transitions. Oh, the transitions. I always thought the animated transitions in iOS 6 were good. Forget that. This whole OS feels so fluid, elegant and alive. Think of layers upon layers. It's as if the home screen is the main layer. If you swipe for the top or bottom to reveal notification centre or command centre, then that's the top layer. If you open an app, it's as if you are "zooming in" to that app revealing its world. If your app is in a folder, that folder acts as a middle layer between the "zoomed in" app and the main layer of the home screen. It's all gorgeous and seamless. Really brilliant stuff by Jony Ive and crew. It's weird at first, but then it all makes sense.
- The new camera design. Hmmm, I have gripes here. I like the addition of filters and square pictures but it's hard to tell if you're in portrait or landscape when rotating. A few icons rotate but the main video/photo/square/pano control stays portrait when you turn to landscape. It's a tad confusing and makes it weird when trying to switch between these controls in landscape mode. Also, it's hard to tell that you've taken a photo. In iOS 6, there was a definite animation that a photo was taken, however, now it's just a very quick, short darkening of the viewfinder to show that the picture has taken. I notice it but I could see a lot of people hammering on the shutter many times not realizing 10 pictures have been taken. And lastly, the shutter button function itself has changed. When I took pictures in iOS 6, I would touch and hold the shutter then release when I wanted to take the picture. I found this the best way to get good pictures because the phone shakes (even slightly) when you tap on the shutter. It shakes less when you just release it. Of course, you're more likely to get a better picture (especially in low light) if there is less shaking. Well, you can't do that anymore. If you tap and hold the shutter, it's going to continually take pictures upon pictures, almost like a 'burst mode' on a camera. So I guess it's back to the 'tap gently' method.
- The new Photos app is fantastic. Sorting pictures by location and time in 'Collections' works great. Editing is really easy and fun. Shared Photostreams are now truly Shared Photostreams. Finally. Now other iOS users can add photos to one photostream and share the pictures between them. It's not just one guy creating a photostream and sharing it to people. This should be have been put in place last year. But at least we have it now.
- The skeuomorphic designs are gonzo (yipee!). No more yellow note pads in Notes or green felt in GameCenter. Good riddance. Notes and Reminders are now very clean apps. Content first, nice transitions, no distractions and a palette of beautiful colors. I like it. Speaking of the death of skeuomorphic, where's our update to "Find Friends"? It's skeuomorphism at its worst (but a handy app).
- FaceTime is now a separate app. This is a good thing. It was always confusing having a FaceTime app on the iPad but not on the iPhone.
- The new weather app is nice. It stacks your locations and shows the current time at each location. Nice. When you drill down into a location, you get a clean hourly and 5-day forecast.
- You can put more than 9 apps in a freaking folder! Hallelujah. Now I won't have "Games", "Games 1", "Games 2" and "Games 3" folders. They can all go in one folder. This makes me happy. Also, I have a lot of games.
- I'm struggling with the new Calendars app. In iOS 6, I liked just clicking on a date and showing what events I had on that date, all while staying in that month display. Now, instead, I click on a date and it drlls down into that date and show me a timeline, except, I can only see a few hours of that timeline because the whole day doesn't fit on the screen. Frustrating. However, I like the week view when rotating to landscape.
I could go on and on. I could go on about how the new Music app is great or how Maps is improved, how Mail looks fresh or how great the new multitasking interface is but I think I'll end it here. Overall, I really like it. There's a few quirks that I don't like but I'll get over those. Most importantly, I find the new look completely refreshing. As if I jumped in a cold lake on a hot day. That feeling. Well, at least for me anyway.