As Tim Cook, Jony Ive and Craig Federighi revealed iOS 7 today, a lot of things crossed my mind. iOS in a way is very different to every other operating system. In the case of Android, it doesn’t matter how much thought Google puts into their OS, OEMs have all decided to change it and enhance their experiences on top of it. In the case of Windows Phone, even though the design is unified, the approach each OEM has given to design and software enhancements defines your choice for the product. In the case of iOS, Apple approaches the product differently. Company executives have always said that they focus on making their hardware as invisible as possible and leave the wow-work to the software. Sadly, the irony behind Apple’s work in the last half decade is that they’ve allowed software to become invisible and left all their work in charge of the hardware, and as we’ve all agreed, that’s an approach that has bored us, and that had to change today.
Steve Jobs was a character in many ways. He always had this saying that “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”. We also know that Scott Forstall has lead the iOS focus since its inception, and we’re all sure that he did a great job in wowing Steve as much as the company wowed us when the first iPhone was announced. The problem is that it sees that Scott dwelled on his success for too long, and for those of you that have read about Steve Jobs, you’ll know that dwelling on past successes is something he didn’t like. We could attribute the lack of changes to iOS to Jobs’ poor health in the final days, but honestly, I feel that what didn’t happen is that Scott never showed him a different thing to want.
That being said, it’s hard to actually tell if iOS 7 is part of what Steve Jobs envisioned. We do know that within his final wishes, Jony Ive was to have complete autonomy over the rest of the company’s hierarchy, and for Tim Cook to decide to give Jony a more prominent role in the design of iOS 7 says lot. Whether these are some of the ideas that both Steve and Jony considered and that couldn’t be executed because Scott would object is hard to tell, but today we’ve seen a very different iOS.
So, hypothetically speaking, let’s assume that Scott Forstall left Apple while Steve Jobs was still alive. Let’s assume that everything remained the same with Jony Ive and Craig Federighi in charge of the future of iOS. Let’s imagine today being that day when they presented all these ideas to Steve and consider what he would’ve thought about the final product. After a history of Apple products during the past 15 years, what do you think Steve would’ve thought about iOS 7? I’ll give you a couple of ideas of what I think he would say before you share your thoughts in the comments.
Tim, Jony, this is risky but I like it
When it comes to design, iOS 7 is a complete revamp to what we knew before. I know a ton of you will jump and say “it’s the same grid of icons as before” but it really isn’t. Android isn’t just about the widgets, nor Windows Phone is just about the live tiles. Neither of these solutions provided by competing products are necessarily better or worse, they’re just different, and iOS 7 would’ve brought either of them, we’d call Apple out for copying. iOS 7 is not just about that grid, but it is a feature that clearly defines it. Please remember, this section is still focused just on the design.
The change in looks is a good and a bad thing. On the positive side, when you remove the stitched leather and the fake buttons, the OS becomes more about what you’re doing, and less about how things look while you’re doing them. Some may assume that iOS 7 is not skeuomorphic, but it actually is. It resembles paper in many of its UI elements, in a way to make the user feel like if they’re interacting with a real drawing board. The fact that the wallpaper accommodates to the angle that you’re viewing the device also proves that they’re trying to bring some realism into the approach as well. It looks more refined in every way, and more focused on the things that matter.
On the negative side, there are some design choices that I still debate. I’m not a fan of how loud the colors are, and I do predict that these will water down in the next versions. The contrast between a whiter iOS and a more colorful grid just makes the UI seem childish instead of more elegant if you’re in the app tray.
In the end, my thoughts are that Steve would’ve liked a fresh new approach. He would’ve probably not liked the excess of color, but then again life is about risks, right? We all mocked Apple for all the steps we needed to take to activate Bluetooth, and many assumed this was more of a “Steve Jobs” mentality, but when you see all the shortcuts on the function keys of every Mac, it’s clear that this was not necessarily a Steve Jobs idea. The fact that everything is now easily accessible proves that they’ve been listening to our biggest complaints, and Steve was also about that.
Craig, this is smart
If we moved design away and focused on the core enhancements of iOS 7, it’s clear that this is a smarter OS. We all despise getting a notification, hitting it and then having to wait for the app to refresh, right? That’s a problem that every single OS has at the moment, all in the name of saving battery life, as if efficiency was our problem. The fact that notifications now trigger updates is alone one of the hottest changes. When you combine that with the fact that Multi-tasking is now triggered by your usage, I find it awesome that now the phone will do more things for me instead of requiring me to act for the phone. Efficient battery management without hindering the user experience is Apple’s responsibility, and I’m glad to see them address this.
Notifications Center was as dumb as dumb could get until now. I don’t want a stack of updates with any hierarchy, and neither did I want to clear those notifications that were important to me today. The Today section reminds me of the Today screen in Windows Mobile, and that was seriously one of the killer things I still miss about it. Surely I’ll require a couple of steps on iOS just to get there, but the simple fact that it’s now an OS feature is great on my book. A lot still say that iOS doesn’t support NFC, but things like Air Drop make things so much more convenient that the ability to have it.
Steve was always about getting technology out of the way. It was pointless to have an iPhone with specs that are as powerful as most Android phones, but then see it bogged down by the “be efficient” mentality. None of us want a phone that focuses more on retaining battery life, than it does on giving me the things that I need. I feel that Steve would’ve been proud to see that things are now pointed in that direction, and not on the stitched leather, as I’m sure these design elements also hit the battery life and processing power of the device significantly.
The bottom line
No operating system is perfect, and I’m sure Steve wouldn’t have seen it that way either. For starters, I’m sure he would’ve had a heart attack before offering Bing as the search system for Siri, and yet, it’s here. That being said, if you read his biography, you’ll know that he wasn’t a fan of Siri either, and Apple still went on to push it. It all goes back to the thought that “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”, and iOS 7 is one of those things that has all the wow-factor in order for me to want to use it, but I’m sure that not all of you feel the same.
What is true is that a lot of people were wowed today as well, and let’s be honest, that’s what Apple needed. We’ve mocked the company for the longest time, and now that we have a change, some of us like it, and some of us don’t, but that doesn’t change the fact that we like it more than we liked iOS 6, right?
I can’t stop cracking up at the moment when Phill Schiller said “Not innovating my @$$” when they announced the new Mac Pro. It’s clear that Apple is listening, paying attention and also doing their efforts to leap over competition. iOS 7 is not necessarily as big a leap as iPhone OS 1 was, and still we mocked it for not supporting third-party apps when Palm and Windows Mobile did back in the day. One of my favorite songs from Coldplay is Square One, and this is clearly that. Just the first building block for more to come, and even though I’ve used these “What would Steve Jobs say about” articles to mock the company for what I don’t like about their new products, I do feel he’d be proud of this one.
What about you? Do you like iOS 7? Make sure you leave us a comment and share your thoughts.