iOS7: The good, the bad and the ugly

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This week at Apple’s WWDC event, the firm unveiled their ‘new look’ operating system. Now whatever you think of Apple we all know the show wasn’t going to go without a bang.  The brighter look for the interface is the first to be overseen by its design chief Jony Ive.

Ive himself said he wanted the operating system to become  “cleaner” and to help “elevate” users’ content.

The main change with the OS is with the actual, well… design. Apple have moved away from their famous skeuomorphism design, this is the use of leather, wood and other real-world inspired textures and artifacts in apps. You can see an example to the right.

Highlighting the new look of the Game Center, which has been stripped of it green snooker table look, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said: “We just completely ran out of green felt and wood – this has got to be good for the environment.”

Another new feature showed off was the ‘parallax effect’ which allows icons to shift against the background image as an iPhone-user tilts their handset one way and another, based on feedback from the device’s accelerometer sensor. This is great… for about five minutes until you get bored of it and realise it is utterly pointless.

“The new version is almost unrecognizable, which will make it polarising,” said Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst. Some people will love that their phone feels new and different, while others will be disoriented by the newness.”

And this sums up the changes pretty well. While Apple have made some leaps and bounds it all feels very delayed and a little too late. iOS7 has taken much of its design from Android and the Windows Phone – while this could be a criticism itself it can also be perceived more as Apple trying to catch up, realising that what they were doing before just wasn’t enough.

A breakdown of the new icons:

Another problem Apple hopefully will fix before the full release of the operation system, penned for this Autumn, is some of the ugly icon designs. While the removal of the skeuomorphism design has worked well for some icons others look just plain ugly.

The settings ‘cog’ looks like something unrecognisable and many of the core apps just don’t link together nicely. “Finding your Settings app is hard when the icon has totally changed, and the many people who easily get disoriented by their gadgets may well have a negative experience.” said Dawson.

Something Apple has done well is the new notifications centre and the pull up settings from the bottom of the device which allow you to turn on and off Bluetooth, Wifi, and also access tools such as the calculator and flashlight – very useful! Another change which brought cheers from the crowds was that App’s will now automatically update themselves with no need to keep visiting the App Centre to click update.

The firm also announced iTunes Radio – a streaming music service offering access to themed stations which can be tailored according to a person’s listening history on iTunes, as well as tracks from specific bands which they do not own. Sound familiar?

The launch comes a month after Google unveiled Play Music All Access, a similar facility for Android devices. But unlike the search firm’s pay-to-use model, Apple is making iTunes Radio accessible without charge if users are willing to listen to adverts, as well as an ad-free option to consumers who buy an iTunes Match subscription.

It feels like Apple is catching up again with someone everyone else has already done. They have have a huge market share, but this could all change in a matter of years if they don’t create a product that is once again desirable.

What do you think of Apple’s iOS7 release? Comment with your thoughts below.

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