Thoughts on iOS7's New Design

At first, I thought some of yesterday’s news — mainly the Mac Pro and iOS 7 — were in a departure from Apple’s normal way of doing things. Then I thought about this image - 512 Pixels

With the iMac lineup there where two clear breakpoints: the switch from CRT to flatscreen, and the move to the flat all-in-one design. Or, when looked at from a different point of view, there’s one Mac that doesn’t belong in the lineup: the G4 iMac. It’s the only iMac that moves away from the all-in-one device to a Mac with an attached monitor.

Apple did this due to technology and design constraints put upon them by the move to an LCD. It’s the most beautiful of the entire iMac lineup, for me at least, but it’s the one where Apple compromised to make future evolutions possible.

When looking at iOS7, I have that same feeling. It’s the first iOS device that moves away from the iOS design language, it has similar ideas, but moves away from perfection, in order to make a future iOS possible. It’s a move in the wrong direction, a short detour with ugly icons, on the road to an iOS with clarity, depth and a consistent user experience.

I like what Ive has done in the last seven months and the potential is there, it’s more focused on gestures, text and vibrance, but it loses coherence, consistence and emotion. It feels like someone stripped iOS to it’s bare code, started with new building blocks, but didn’t have enough Lego’s to finish it, and added some Duplo’s to the mix to finish it up.

I truly hope Apple can find the time to get a few more Lego bricks and finish it up, scratch things that don’t work like some icon decisions, and refine, improve and reiterate on their design. The fact that they didn’t release the iPad version yet, is a sign of good things to come. They started with the iPhone in 2007 and it took 3 more years to finish the iPad, which only got to its full potential one year later with the release of iOS4. The fact that they decided to release the iPhone beta first, makes me think that they’re starting from familiar grounds again, before tackling the iPhone’s bigger sibling.

Which brings me to my only remaining thought: with Back to my Mac two years ago Apple set in motion a congruence of iOS and OS X with familiar apps and icons on both platforms. They differ on the implementation but share a similar look, feel and nomenclature. It came to its completion with Mountain Lion (or greatly improved on it at the least), but with iOS7 Apple moves iOS away from OS X again. And I’m not sure that depth, clarity and motion in OS X will make as much sense on a MacBook, as it does on a touch based device. So will Apple let their to OS’s divert again with two distinct styles? Or will they change OS X to the new style as well?

Apple has clearly shown that they are still willing to improve, change the status quo and risks their success to try something new. Whither these choices are the right ones, remains to be seen, but I think people at least have to admit that Apple can still think different. Or to put it in Phil Schiller’s words:

“Can’t innovate anymore my ass”