Big news in September was the release of Apple’s iOS7 for their mobile devices.
As a long time user of Apple Computers (back in 1986 they were the only real option for graphic designers) I have watched with interest how Apple products have evolved from being the preferred choice of a small minority to a must-have fashion accessory.
I’ve been true to the brand because the fundamental advantage for me has always been that their products and operating systems are just easier to use. I guess that the fact that they now look great too hasn’t done them any harm either!
So what about iOS7 then? Well forget all the tech specs, in simple terms what it really comes down to with most people is three things: “Is it quicker?”; “Will my battery life be less?” and “What does it look like?”.
Is it quicker?
I put iOS7 on my iPhone 4S which, despite being only 7 months old, is an older design in phone terms and first off, I wouldn’t say that it is noticeably quicker. What I’ve found generally with computers and mobiles over the years is that no matter how much faster the processor is, or how much bigger the RAM and hard drive is, the new software and apps always seem to need more anyway, so you end up in pretty much the same position.
With regard to battery life, I do think it exhausts the battery more quickly, which is frustrating because one of the reasons I didn’t get an iPhone 5 was its short battery life. This is partly due to additional software improvements, plus some design features such as parrallax where when you tilt the screen, the background picture moves, so the display looks like it has real depth. Clever, but of no practical value.
What does it look like?
If I dare mention the elephant in the room, it does kinda look a bit like …(whisper it) Windows. This is a shame because it was always the case that where Apple lead, Microsoft followed. The whole look (especially with some of the backgrounds) is very bright and uses a modern, thin Helvetica typeface which may a be a bit hard to read for some, although this can be changed in the settings. But the most noticeable thing for me is the absence of skeuomorphism, which is a word that I’d never heard of previously and something I only miss now that it’s gone.
So what is (or was) skeuomorphism? Well, it’s a style of design where digital elements resemble real world objects, so your phone’s address book icon looks like a real life leather-bound one, or your calendar looks like it has had pages torn off, for example. It hails from the early operating systems where files were put on a ‘desktop’, into a ‘folder’ or into the ‘trash’. Steve Jobs was an ardent fan because it was exactly this kind of thing that made his computers so intuitive and easy to use, but latterly it has been more of a design style than a practical issue. For me though, I actually liked it and worry that the more simple (and garish) style might be a bit of blind alley.
Of course, some elements of skeuomorphism remain as they have become part of the language of computers – email still looks like an envelope and a camera is still a camera, it’s just that they are now just icons without any shadows or texture, so they seem to have lost their distinctive style along the way.
Despite all of this, I’ll still be keeping iOS7 on my phone (I wouldn’t want to be out of date now, would I!) and I still like Apple, it’s just that I’m not one of those iSheep who worships everything that comes out of Cupertino, California without criticism. And I can’t help thinking that Steve Jobs might be turning a little in his grave.