So a certain financial publication that pretends to cater to the rich and informed has posted an article intended to convey the impression that designers and developers are in “revolt” over iOS 7. Certainly, the new coat of paint results in a fairly drastic change compared to the previous versions, at least on the surface, or multiple surfaces. The flattened icons represent only a small part of the picture. There’s also the multiple layers, transparency and parallax views, which gives the thing a sort of 3D effect.
So what’s their beef? The article quotes some developers who are allegedly freaking out over having to redo their designs to comport with the new interface. One of the complaints is about the presence of Apple’s corporate logo. Of course, you expect an Apple product to sport the company’s logo here and there. Why should it be otherwise?
The key point of these alleged complaints is design. Supposedly the developers in question are concerned about the huge changes and what’s required to adapt their apps. But nothing in the article mentions actual functioning features, just the artwork. The author seems utterly ignorant about such niceties. Artwork can be changed, but what about the new features in iOS 7? This appears to be a constant among the most vociferous complaints. They don’t like the icons, they don’t like the color choices, they don’t like the main font (Helvetica Neue Ultra Light), although Apple appears to be the only developer of a mobile OS to actually use a licensed version of a font. The rest appear to be relying on knockoff versions; a fine point, but one that shows the extra level of detail to which Apple subjects their designs.
Those of you who have focused on the fine details of typography will realize the significance. In the old days of traditional typesetting, the differences between the real and the knockoff versions of a typeface were extremely important issues, particularly for graphic artists, ad agencies, and the publishing industry. Some designers relied on a specific company’s typesetting computer if they released official licensed versions of typefaces, rather than imitations. It made a difference.
Yet another article, this one from Gizmodo and worth a link, focuses on the functionality of iOS 7, and there are loads of fascinating possibilities. The theory is that some of the new capabilities, or potential capabilities, pave the way for enhancements in future iPhones and iPads and perhaps “a new generation of mobile devices.”
Apple is certainly known to lay the groundwork for the future in an OS refresh, and iOS 7 may only be a harbinger of what’s to come. Indeed, some features may only work on new generations of mobile hardware, and thus aren’t obvious yet except in theory. Consider swiping the lock screen, a common gesture. But what if the next iPhone has a fingerprint sensor? The same action would be read by the onboard sensors, and your device would only be unlocked if you passed the test.
However, when supposed tech pundits concentrate on the surface design details, which are a matter of taste of course, and ignore the underlying technology, they are failing to do their jobs. A product’s design is certainly a matter of taste, and what you like I might dislike. I do not expect Apple’s themes for iOS 7, or OS X Mavericks for that matter, to be favored by everyone. Apple didn’t take a poll when they built these operating systems, nor did they take a vote when they designed a new Mac Pro.
And lest we forget, iOS 7 is still an early beta. The first developer’s release arrived on June 10, and the second developer’s beta arrived this week with some key additions and changes; a new Welcome screen for example. Over the next two or three months, there will be more releases, perhaps with unexpected changes, and maybe even refinements of the artwork, particularly the icons that have received the highest degree of criticism.
As development continues, Apple will continue to receive comments and criticisms from the developer community, and there is certainly enough time to fix critical bugs and maybe modify the artwork here and there. If developers encounter serious problems migrating their apps to iOS 7, perhaps Apple can address some of those concerns early on. But right now, even the author of that curious article about an alleged “revolt” quoted one developer as saying, “I’ve been working on redesigning the app I work on in an iOS 7 style in my spare time to see how it would work and it pained me to admit that it actually looked pretty good.”
So much for a revolt. But the most important issue of all is the fact that the author doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of the word. If a reasonable number of developers decided not to continue to develop for iOS, or to avoid an iOS 7 upgrade, that would be considered a revolt. But the article fails to demonstrate that such a movement exists, or even an understanding of the underlying technology of Apple’s forthcoming mobile OS. I just hope the writer in question hasn’t quit his day job, assuming this isn’t his day job.