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iOS 7: a bold step sideways

Farhad Manjoo (via Slate/ SMH) | June 24, 2013
I’ve spent a week with iOS 7 and I’m already bored.

OK, so? How do these planes improve how your phone works? They don't. The parallax effect is an innovation Ron Popeil of Ronco might prize - it will look great in ads, but on your own phone, having your icon shift position as you move your screen feels gimmicky, purposeless, and mildly irritating. It smacks of unnecessary ornamentation, calling into question Apple's iOS 7's marketing copy: "We don't add features simply because we can, because it's technologically possible."

Meanwhile, having the Notification Centre sit on glass rather than linen isn't an obvious improvement, especially because the design changes make Notification Centre less informative than the one in iOS 6. iOS 7's version shows you far less data about your day at a glance, and it makes some bizarre and even unfriendly aesthetic choices. For example, rather than icons depicting the weather - say, an instantly recognisable sun-and-clouds picture - it gives you a written weather report. Three full sentences, in small type, that a radio weatherman might read in a newsbreak: "Partly cloudy conditions with 20 km/h winds out of the northwest. ..." That's nuts.

Altogether, the changes make for a design that's neither an obvious improvement nor a downgrade. Instead, iOS 7 is a step sideways. It's a bold new look, and depending on your aesthetic sensibility, you'll either love it or hate it. But that's as deep as it goes. It doesn't add many new features to your phone. It doesn't improve the iPhone's usability to any great degree (and for smartphone novices, it might well be more difficult to learn than iOS 6). It won't fix Apple's problems with data-driven cloud software.

Perhaps, over time, iOS 7's purpose will become apparent; it's possible that the new design is a foundation for the future of Apple's mobile software, one whose ultimate utility will be proven over the next few years. That's the best-case scenario. The more likely outcome is a collective meh.


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