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iOS 7 – Just Flat, or Simply Better?

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Often criticized for an inability to innovate post-Jobs, iOS 7 symbolizes Apple’s attempt to answer the call. Upon the removal of Scott Forstall as Software Designer, Apple handed the reigns of the new interface to Jony Ive, the creative mind behind the revolutionary look and feel of Apple hardware. Some have speculated that Ive revamped the interface to compliment his iconic iPhone design, toning down the literal imagery and depth of the previous interface. Nonetheless, iOS 7 will turn heads, and the overhaul is sure to represent a very important moment in Apple history.




Earlier this month, Apple announced the new iOS 7 amidst fanfare, criticism, and a good amount of confusion. The new iOS marks a complete about-face for the ever-innovative company. Gone are the trademark “skeuomorphics” that Apple users have become accustomed to since the first iPhone was released in 2007. Gone are shadows, bezels, textures, and even buttons in their traditional sense (more on this later). In their place, an ultra-modern, ultra-simple interface of flat shapes, elegant text, and small doses of transparency.



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For the default system font, Apple elected to use Helvetica Ultralight. While Apple does allow users to adjust the font size in the new iOS 7, Helvetica Ultralight can be difficult to read in large swaths. Users shouldn’t HAVE to up the font size to make their phone legible, and it remains to be seen what kind of font feedback we will see when the new iOS is released to the wild.



The home screen icons we know and love received a major overhaul as well. Ive’s new “Icon Grid” is meant to ensure that different app’s icons look harmonious on the home screen. While that is a noble and lofty goal, the jury is out on the execution. Aside from a general over-simplification of the imagery, Ive’s new grid system may be to blame. Without the freedom for some “optical adjustment” many of the icons seem like a near-miss, and overall cohesion falls short.



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Another major change is the way iOS 7 presents interactive elements. Differentiation between choices is extremely difficult to decipher, as Apple has ditched the idea of any kind of visible button for small variations in text weight or color. Seriously, no buttons allowed. User confusion may prove to be a real problem, and it seems impossible to tell at a glance which option in an action sheet is the least destructive.



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Despite some questionable design choices, there is no question the change is a huge step for Apple. The question that many will ask however, is if that step is forward or backward. A massive App Store inventory of over 1 billion apps will now need to be revamped to fit with the new iOS ethos, and you can bet that app designers and developers around the world will stay busy in the coming months adjusting their apps to fit the unprecedented shift of style.



And so, with a jolt, the Jony Ive era has offiically begun at Apple, and the Steve Jobs-Scott Forstall era of skeumophism is the first casualty. As competitors continue to innovate their own mobile operating systems, evolving their functionality in ways that iOS had yet to explore, Apple knew that it was time come up with something different. In that regard, iOS 7 has definitely caused a stir.

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