Apple is flattening iOS, huh? Historically, it’s never worked
Try to remember the first computer you ever used. It would be awesome if you could share your first experience with a computer in the comments. The first computer I ever used was an old clone PC that my father bought for the family business back in 1992. It ran DOS 4.2, and yeah, I was really good at memorizing all the commands needed to keep it running. That was its biggest problem though. All you had was a black display with a cursor, and unless you knew the commands, all the cursor did was blink at you. There was nothing intuitive about it, and the user manual was very big. As a result, the experience was so “unfamiliar” to the average human being, that computers never took off at the time.
I remember that most of my classmates struggled with our computer class simply because it felt bizarre to them. It wasn’t until my school installed Windows 3.1 on the computers that the experience began taking off. My classmates began improving their computer skills simply because the desktop paradigm, which emulated a real “desk top” with files, folders and windows felt natural. As a result, computers took off with the launch of Windows 95. Yes, we know the graphics user interface was born in Xerox PARC and was perfected in the Mac, but it wasn’t until Microsoft figured out how to sell it to the masses almost 15 years later that computers became what they are today.
That move in particular has molded computing history. Palm pilots had a graphics UI, just like Pocket PCs, just like even the dumbest of phones. It took companies years to understand that normal people won’t understand that folder is a folder unless it actually looks like a folder. The average human wants all the fluff and fake reality of skeuomorphs in order to relate to the product, regardless of their age or gender. This has been the corner stone of success computers, smartphones, and tablets. iOS is a perfect example of this since even small children or senior citizens find it intuitive, even if you and I power users hate how fake it is.
That hate that we have for all that fake fluff should have us clapping with the recent news of Jony Ive’s concept of iOS 7, right? These rumors state that the future is all about flattening iOS, with less color, and more digitally authentic than we’ve seen since the inception iOS. It should be perfect for our power user standards, but the question is if this is really a smart move? Initially I feel it isn’t a smart one, and here’s why:
Historically it’s never worked
Let’s fast forward to the present. Which are the most popular mobile operating systems in the world? iOS and TouchWiz on top of Android. Notice how I’m being very specific here, “TouchWiz on top of Android”.
Lot’s of companies during the course of this decade have taken the bold initiative to defy skeuomorphism. First it was Android, and now it’s also Windows Phone. If all of you remember, this didn’t initially work our right for Android. It took the OS a while to take off under that mentality, and OEMs noticed this early. HTC had to recur to building their own skeuomorphic skin in order to make Android easier to understand by the average user, and so did Sony, Samsung, LG, and every other OEM. If we were to compare how many Galaxy smartphones have been sold in comparison to Nexus smartphones running stock Android, it’s clear that even when there was a “Galaxy Nexus” running stock Android, the average user preferred TouchWiz.
Then there’s Windows Phone 8 and now Windows 8. It’s funny how Windows has been so popular for almost two decades, and now people hate Windows 8. Surely all of us tech savvy dudes are ok with Windows 8 as it is, or with stock Android as it is, but the problem is that neither of us make enough market share for that to matter. The average user loves the fluff; they want the notes app to look like a note pad, and even the yucky stitched leather in most of Apple’s applications. Why? Because they can relate to them. They seem natural to them, even though you and I hate them and know they aren’t.
Now hey, I could be wrong, and Apple has always proven to somehow succeed in the areas that others haven’t. That said, I don’t think this move is smart at all. I do prefer a digitally authentic UI because it’s more efficient, but my opinion doesn’t matter when historically other companies have failed to attract massive amounts of customers with this approach. If I’m wrong, please share your examples in the comments.
iOS needs more than just a flat surface
This is like trying to climb a ladder placed on the wrong wall. The biggest problem with iOS is not in its look, but in its paradigm. Five years ago it was groundbreaking because it did the simplest things that other OS manufacturers hadn’t even considered. An accelerometer to detect your movement five years ago was genius, a proximity sensor to turn off the display while on a call was genius, flick scrolling and pinch to zoom were also instant hits, a real mobile browser, the ability to buy music while mobile, etc. Sadly that was five years ago. Today even some dumb phones can do all that.
Yes I do want a more efficient iOS 7, but what it really needs is to be about what the rest of the operating systems can’t do. It needs to challenge the system and prove that it can revolutionize the smartphone experience once again. If all we’re getting is less lipstick on the same pig, it’s really going to be pointless.
I’m still aggravated by having to move from app to app just to check my email, or to search something on the web. If the iOS paradigm was truly the only thing that every customer in the world understood, then why is it that Samsung is selling a universe of Galaxies?
The bottom line
I’ve been bored of iOS since iOS 5, and a flat and less fluffy version of the same thing is a step back instead of a step forward. I might like it for the first day, but that’s really not doing anything to improve my experience with it. I know that many fans of the digitally authentic mentality hate me right now, but I’ll let sales figures speak about market acceptance more than I can. Now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t mind less fluff here and there, but the fluff is the least of the problems in iOS.
2013 is not about perfecting anything. Facebook already launched a phone, and Nokia is about to really challenge the digital camera industry with their EOS project. Most of these projects might fail, true, but it’s clear that Apple can’t just sit around and become the next BlackBerry.
What about you? Would you prefer a slimmer version of iOS, or do you agree that it’s really the least that Apple should be worried about? Leave us a comment and tell us why you stay away from iOS, or why you’d like it to remain the same?