Sam Doran

My little corner of the Internet

Matt Gemmell on iOS 7 →

Matt Gemmell on iOS 7:

iOS 7 is a decluttering of the most exciting, profitable, desirable mobile operating system available. It’s a shift away from artefact, and back to essence. It indicates a clarity of vision, and a continued willingness to pursue simplicity ruthlessly.

Gone are embellishments like gloss and bevelled edges, shadows and borders. Visually dead areas that provoke tension rather than inspiring relaxation. Weight that suffocates, rather than open air to breathe.

The new iOS is designed for a different environment, and a different maturity of mobile user: one who recognizes simplicity for what Jony Ive believes it is. Not something as pedestrian as familiarity or consistency for its own sake, but rather focus and clarity.

I haven’t found a more astute analysis of the philosophical shift behind the iOS 7 design. He also has some great images comparing iOS 6 and iOS 7. I especially love the pixelated version. The changes are breathtaking and polarizing. I will admit that Microsoft was the first to ship an OS of this style1 with Metro in Windows Phone 7 (System Series Phone System 7). I believe iOS 7 is a better execution of this design.

I will have to wait to use it before I pass judgment, but I have a feeling I will enjoy it. The new aesthetic is striking, but I’m more interested in how it feels in daily use and how well it works. I appreciate the intelligent use of layers to give a sense of place and add depth2 to the interface. There are some glaring problems with the linen layer in iOS 6 that are blown away3 in iOS 7.

Here are some new features apart from the UI that I am quite excited to see:

  • Shared Photo Streams - Now my wife and I can have one place to put cute pictures of our kid that we can share with friends and family.
  • Video in Photo Streams - This makes it much easier to send video to many people. Much better than group iMessages or posting it online then sending a link.
  • AirDrop - Sending files between iOS devices always involved using some transport over the Internet. Easy device to device sharing is elegant and easy and a boon for education.
  • Quick access to settings - They put the most common things I do on my phone two taps away. And I can now get rid of my flashlight app.
  • Less restrictive multitasking - This will allow developers to do much more amazing things. As John Siracusa pointed out on ATP, the whole device will feel faster because apps can update in the background.

It really feels like a breath of fresh air.

  1. Though one has to wonder if iOS would have looked like this sooner if not for the design tastes of Steve Jobs and Scott Forestall. The dots for cell phone signal certainly aren’t a brand new idea.

  2. Let’s just kill the word “flat” once and for all. iOS 7 is the complete opposite of flat.

  3. I couldn’t resist a cheap stab at skeuomorphism. All the cool kids are doing it these days.