iOS 7 Roundtable
iOS 7 is a major change to the operating system that runs iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. Not only is it a thorough rethinking of how the iOS user interface should work, but there are profound changes under the hood which pave the way for new generations of apps that work more intuitively and better than ever before. But it's not without its flaws.
Our intrepid leader, Rene Ritchie, has written until his fingers bled about iOS 7. If you haven't checked out his very comprehensive review, take a look. But iMore has more experts on staff too. And to get a balanced sense of what iOS 7 brings to the table - and what can improve - we've called on our resident experts to find out what they think.
Initially when I installed iOS 7 I was in shock. To be fair, I've had the beta since its release in June so I've had a little longer to play with it and get used to it. One thing I can say to people updating is that you'll be shell shocked for a minute, but in a good way. There are lots of new changes to discover and explore. At first I was hesitant about some of the design choices Apple made, especially with the redesigned icons. I'm still not a fan of some of them like the Safari and Photos icons but others have grown on me to the point that they at least don't bother me anymore.
The thing I'm most excited for is what developers choose to do with iOS 7. It's a completely new canvas and that's exciting. I personally like the thinner fonts and minimal look of iOS 7 and of the app updates I've seen come through either in beta or officially, it's become very apparent that we're in for an exciting ride where app design is concerned. Love it or hate it, iOS 7 is here to stay. It's growing on me more and more all the time and I think the deciding factor will be how developers embrace it.
Like most people, I'm torn on the user interface. I like the flat icons, but the translucency thing is a throwback to Windows Vista, and the parallax/perspective trick is a gimmick. Functionally, there are some significant improvements. For all of iOS 7's claims to simplicity, the new Control Center is as cluttered as it is useful. Including more information on the lock screen is also handy. Siri's improvements are significant, and likely to get me using it more often. The overhaul to the camera and photo apps are also going to be a boon to even casual photographers. On the whole, iOS 7 certainly strikes the balance of familiar but refined. There are enough changes visually to grab the attention of those bored with iOS, and with the new fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5s, I suspect the hardware will be equally attractive.
Ahh, yes. iOS 7. The OS I both love and hate at the same time. After I initially loaded it, I was kind of appalled that Apple was trying to pass this off as something that I should love but after some time it grew on me slightly and what they said was true. It did breathe some new life into my iPhone 5 and I do now enjoy that whole flat, translucent look of it all, though, I could do without some of the vivid colors. Luckily, choosing the right wallpaper sort of helps with that. Control Center is cool but I often find myself flipping it up for no reason other than by mistake. I dig what they did with Photos and the 5s camera improvements, if nothing else the camera improvements alone make me interested in the 5s. Finger print scanner? Meh. It's cool, but nothing to get hyped about in my opinion. I had one on my Motorola Atrix for all the good it was. I sound very blah on iOS 7 but that's really not the case, I think It's a refreshing new twist on iOS and that's a good thing but overall, I think the newness washes away rather quickly. Granted, I am a bit jaded, having been using it since the initial betas started rolling out.
I've been thrilled with iOS 7 since I first booted it up. While I have my quibbles with the new design (I think some of the lines should be thicker), all of that is minor. What really grabs me about iOS 7 is the consistency of the operating system. Before, iOS felt like it was having an identity crisis. Now if feels like more of a cohesive, whole experience.
I'm very happy with Control Center, and I enjoy the changes made to Notification Center. Automatic app downloads are also welcome. But my favorite smaller change is one that most people might not think about: streaming purchased video from within the video app. I've been waiting since I first got an iPad, more than two years, for this. To not have to download a whole HD episode of a favorite show or movie when I just want to watch them at home is wonderful.
iOS 7 feels like Apple's first step towards new and exciting things. It also feels like the iPhone and the iPad are the least interesting pieces of hardware that iOS will ever run on. I can't wait to see what they have in store for us next.
I'm a bit of an amateur design nerd. I don't know design in and out, but I tend to nerd out over design, be it branding or architecture or interface. With the iPhone 5s aesthetically barely different than the 5 (gold!) and the 5c even not a radical departure, iOS 7 is where I'm going to have to get my Apple design rocks for the time being. As has been debated ad nauseum since the June reveal, the Jony Ive-led design of iOS 7 is markedly different than that of ex-Apple iOS chief Scott Forstall, and it is certainly divisive. There are still some aspects of iOS 7 that I'm not fond of, but I've warmed to it from my initial "meh" reaction.
App icons and navigation design seem to have driven the most ire from critics. The icons of iOS 7 are indeed much simplified, and in the case of some like Maps, Newsstand, and Game Center questionably so. But they're also straightforward, and the simplification allows the colors to come out better and makes it even easier for novices quickly navigate the launcher.
The back buttons have been rightfully critiqued in iOS 7, as the switch to pure text does make it harder to discern the extent of the button and forces a design choice on the developer. But it's not the end of the world. Apple's adopted gestures in a big way with iOS 7, from the multitasking apps view (hello webOS!) to the new swipe-from-the-bottom Control Center to Safari's edge swiping to go back or forward. Apple's laid the groundwork for the new iOS app navigation scheme, and it's not tapping a button to go back - it's natural gestures.
iOS 7 is a departure from the iOS of the past, but I wouldn't say it's radically so. It's just different, and it lays fundamental groundwork for the future of iOS. Things will be tweaked and moved and redesigned, but Ive and company have crafted a solid foundation on which to build the future.
On some levels, iOS is a radical reimagining of Apple's mobile operating system. Some critics and users alike - even some of my colleagues here at iMore - find the differences jarring. And in fairness, I do too - I'm less impressed with some of the visual trickery of iOS 7, like app zooming and parallax desktops - some of it feels like it's there just for the sake of differentiating iOS from other mobile interfaces with flat designs.
Visual quibbles aside, iOS 7's user interaction changes are easier to adapt to. Gestures are simple to use and intuitive, though for experienced iOS users, some changes (like pulling down Spotlight, or figuring out the multitasking apps view) can be a bit jarring at first, but they don't take long to remember. I expect we'll see further refinements and changes as Apple continues to develop iOS, but now that it's out in the world we have the template to work with, and we all have to adjust - developers and users alike. There's no going back, unless you're working with hardware that couldn't make the iOS 7 cut to begin with.
When you first fire up iOS 7, it's a definite shock to the visual senses. It's so much brighter and fresher than any previous release of iOS 7, it's actually very refreshing. I'm not going to say I love everything about the new appearance, because I don't, but on the whole I do like the new direction. I like the white, I like the flat. I don't like the folders, though, not at all. Sure, they're scrollable, but I've lost three apps from view when I open a folder. So, I've had to reorganize, which required effort on my part. I also don't like all the transitions between folder and home screen, and apps and the home screen, and into and out of multi tasking. They're pretty, but they make the OS feel slower to me, and that's not something I've ever had to associate with iOS.
I'm also a huge fan of Control Center. Sure, it may look cluttered to some people, but how it looks is of no bearing to me. It contains things I use all the time – to have the calculator and camera a simple swipe and tap away on any screen is extremely convenient. Also including a flashlight; brilliant. Something I use, and one less app I need to download to use it.
And that's without even thinking about the under-the-hood improvements. iOS 7 is a bold step from Apple, but irritations aside, it's a step in the right direction.
Against everyone's advice and my better judgement, I installed the first iOS 7 beta on my iPhone 5 during WWDC. Bugs aside, my initial feelings were disappointment, boredom and frustration. I didn't like the flat design. I hated the icons. The animations felt sluggish. All of the skeuomorphic accoutrements I had grown to love were gone.
Fast forward a few months and I've actually really come to like iOS 7. In fact, when I pick up an iOS 6 device for work, everything looks out of date. The heavy shadows and glossy buttons I've always loved seem gaudy and over the top. I've never been a fan of change so it's no surprise that it took me a while to warm up. But when I first saw iOS 7 I thought "I can't wait for iOS 8". That's still true, but I'm no longer longing for that day. I'm really enjoying iOS 7 and excited about the direction it's going.
As much as I've come to love iOS 7, what really makes a platform are its apps. Many developers have been quick to start rolling out updates to their apps for iOS 7. While some of these just entail a few superficial changes to make the apps appearance seem not so out of place, many developers are doing entire overhauls of their app – redesigning them from the ground up to truly feel at home on iOS 7. Designers and developers have an opportunity to rethink their whole approach to software. Those embracing the chance are already demonstrating their ability to delight their users all over again. Those who aren't up to the challenge will quickly fall by the way side. In each case, users win.
When iOS 7 was officially released the other day, I pulled my old iPhone 4 out of the desk drawer, curious as to how it would handle iOS 7. I backed it up, and got down to the business of installing the update. After some frustration (it took about 8 hrs to fully download and install), the installation was a success, and I spent some time playing with it.
At first blush, I love the clean design. Although at times, it does seem a bit sparse. The design tends to make many assumptions that you'll know where forward/back controls are supposed to be. Not a huge deal, but for someone new to iOS or current-gen mobile tech, there will be a learning curve. The new lock screen is sharp, and passcode seems like a nifty feature (although I'd rather it read my fingerprint!). Multitasking is nice, but I can't help but think of webOS and my old Palm Pre, closing applications 'cards' with a flick of a finger.
I was also concerned how iOS 7 would perform on my iPhone 4. So far I've been pleasantly surprised, as I've had no real performance hang-ups or issues whatsoever. Hopefully I'm the rule on this, not the exception.
I'm looking forward to experiencing iOS 7 on an iPhone 5s or 5c, the way it was meant to be experienced. I realize I'm missing out on a lot of great features, and I want 'em. Now!
I've been using an iPhone as either my primary, or primary personal device for the last 5 years. Sure I've strayed from time to time to the Android, Windows Phone and newer BlackBerry handsets, but I always find myself coming back home…to the iPhone, and it's comfortable Springboard interface. When iOS7 was announced back at WWDC, I had the opportunity to see it first hand the day it was released. At the time, I was incredibly happy to see the new look…something different on an iPhone for the first time since 2007.
So now it's here. After 3 months of waiting, I have it on my iPhone 5 and 3rd generation iPad. And you know what, it's polarizing. There are parts of it that I think are amazing, and I can't imagine we've gone all this time without. Example, Control Center - I'm already using it nearly every hour for switching radios on and off, setting a timer, and using the calculator. Plus, it now negates the need for a separate flashlight app, makes it so incredibly accessible, and frees up a space on my home screen for another frequently used app.
Yet, not everything is perfect. Using the Calendar will take some time. I'm used to using the month view, where I can just view each day's appointments at the bottom of the screen and switch to random days of the week or month quickly. I now have to dive into the day view to see the events. Further, the Reminders app is not nearly as usable in my opinion. I have no less than 10 lists going at any given time, and being able to pull up a specific day in time was incredibly helpful to see what was happening across all of them. Now, you have to look at the "schedule", and scroll through a list.
As a professional who relies on his phone for a lot during the day, I did something I probably shouldn't have, I upgraded the minute the new OS came out…while in a meeting. I spent the next 60 minutes waiting for the download to finish and the install to take place. Once it was all done, I had to run out to another meeting, and had a brand new OS on my phone that I had never used. The good news though is that while there is a lot new and different, the same basic functions are there, so you're not trying to relearn everything.
At the end of the day, it was time for a new iOS. No doubt, Apple has gone in a direction that they think is best for the platform. Love it or hate it, iOS 7 is what we're going to have for the next few years, so either get "get on the bus or get on the bus."
I can't lie. I really like what Apple did with iOS 7. They updated the experience in such a way that it has a new sexier personality and a lot more features, but as a user I didn't have to spend any time learning how to use it. Everything is familiar. Given the widespread adoption of iOS already, I consider that a smart move.
As a long time BlackBerry user, I value efficiency. I want to get things done fast and hate having to tap more than necessary. One of the things I've traditionally harped on over the years is that in iOS I spent too much time doing the basics. With iOS 7, there has been a HUGE improvement to the efficiency side of the experience. With an iPhone 5s, it's super apparent from the ability to unlock the phone with your fingerprint (I HATE passwords). From there, it's a subtler, but more noticeable. The slide up control panel is efficient for toggling utilities on and off (and I love the flashlight). I like the efficiency of the new camera app - being to quickly slide between standard, square and pano modes. I really like in the photos app, where after I attach one photo I can immediately scroll through my album and attach more.
There are definitely some changes in iOS 7 that take inspiration from what we have seen on other platforms, but Apple has done a clean job of implementing these ideas and putting their own unique twist on them. And I like the transparency and gamification of the UI which allows you to greatly change the appearance of the OS to suit your mood and tastes.
The one area I'd still like to see the experience improve is on multitasking. Once you double tap the home button the experience is better with the card metaphor, but it's still cumbersome in comparison to the fluidity of something like BlackBerry 10 for moving between apps, and as compared to the BB10's Hub, there is a lot of jumping around required for staying on top of all your communications.
More on iOS 7
So that's what iMore thinks about iOS 7. If that wasn't enough, sound off in the comments and give us your impressions. Also, check out these great resources: