iPhone users have been clamouring for Apple to make changes to iOS for the past few years, and Tim Cook and company have finally delivered. Apple executive Craig Federighi was on stage today at the Worldwide Developer Conference keynote to debut iOS 7, the next major version of the mobile operating system that powers the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
Before I dive into my first impressions, it is important to note that iOS 7 is a product that needs to be felt firsthand. My early negative opinions of iOS 7, based entirely off screenshots, have completely changed after installing the software on my iPhone. And, second, iOS 7 is pre-release software and should be judged accordingly.
For months, we heard that iOS 7 would be all about a flat, minimalistic design. And while that turned out to be very much true, the new experience is much more than a simple aesthetic refresh. Apple didn’t just give iOS a user interface facelift, but rather gave it an entirely new set of features that greatly expand on the functionality of the platform. I’ll touch on that later.
I wanted to start with the new look of the icons. Simply put, I dislike them. For the most part, it looks like a five-year-old took the original iOS 6 icons and gave them an atrocious looking redesign using Microsoft Paint. Not all of the icons look bad — I’m quite fond of Calendar, Music, Messages and Weather — but the others look cheap and insulting to longtime iPhone users. However, this is an area of iOS that I can see improving with time.
Outside of the less-than-attractive native icons, the rest of iOS 7 is snappier and delivers seamless navigation with fluid animations and transitions. The entire iPhone software rips a page out of the Android and Palm textbook, ditching green felt and stitched leather and replacing it with clean and simplistic elements that put functionality at the forefront of the user experience. That’s right: function over form.
From the addition of Control Center and a revamped Notification Center to the new multitasking screen and enhanced Siri design, virtually every facet of iOS has been reworked in a way that benefits the user. An iPhone — any smartphone, really, in addition to technology as a whole — is supposed to make your life easier, and iOS 7 does just that right at your fingertips.
As a plus for those that viewed iOS as becoming stale, the change in typography to Helvetica Neue Ultra Light gives the platform a much-needed breath of fresh air. The crisp font compliments the overall shift in design that Apple has taken with iOS 7, and truly makes you realize just how crystal clear the Retina display is.
As the intelligent John Gruber of Daring Fireball put it, the hardware and software design of iPhone is now working together in unison. iOS 7 isn’t the perfect update, and critics will have their flaws to rightfully point out, but Apple is taking a step in the right direction with iOS. And I’m glad to be a passenger along the way.