Just prior to WWDC 13′, John Gruber said the changes coming in iOS 7 would be polarizing, which in a word, encapsulates reactions to the user interface of Apple’s next major software release. Any change would have had resulted in some level of discontent, with some actually mourning the loss of green felt and rich corinthian leather. In order to move forward, you need to leave some behind. Apple gets this, probably more so than any company. They dropped the floppy disk and shipped a full-sized laptop without a SuperDrive. They often know what we want before we do. Those moves were panned by industry critics, but it didn’t hurt sales. Customers embraced those changes, but will the same be said for iOS 7?
Tim Cook called it the “biggest change to iOS, since the introduction of the iPhone.” Apple’s new campaign talks about how they “spend a lot of time on a few great things.” With Scott Forstall’s ouster late last year, it appears that Ive had roughly seven months to put his mark on iOS. It would seem to me that if you are going to rock the foundation of your operating system, you’d spend more than a few months. For every yes, there are a thousand no’s. Did anyone say no to the heavy handed pastels? Anyone raise their hand to ask if they were serious about using the current camera icon?
This is not a company who creates products based on timetables. Perfection cannot be timed. Yet, iOS 7 seems rushed. Sure it still has a beta tag and will for the remainder of the summer, but are we seriously expecting the interface to change that drastically between now and the fall? They still haven’t released a beta for the iPad and will be busy fixing bugs inherent with any major update.
Beauty isn’t skin deep and iOS proves that out. There are some genuinely awesome improvements such as Control Center that are coming in iOS 7. The visual stylings of the new Calendar app is just one example of an revamped look that is fresh, bold and light years ahead of what we currently have in iOS 6. The lockscreen imagery moves with every tilt, creating a fluid, moving interface. There is plenty of goodness, but unfortunately it gets buried under the weight of negative attention brought on by the icon design.
Since the advent of the iPhone, the home button has been central to the experience. My daughter who hasn’t turned two yet, knows enough to press the button to return home. It’s a security blanket for new and advanced users alike. We all spend a significant amount of time looking at our homescreen, underscoring the importance of now only how it works, but how it looks. When iOS 7 ships this fall, its success will not be dictated by journalists, early adopters or developers. Customers have and always will be Apple’s focus. It will be their experience that ultimately determines if the polarizing changes made by Apple were well-founded.