Apple hits and misses with iOS7 at WWDC

As expected, Apple used today’s keynote presentation at their WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) to launch the latest version of their mobile operating system: iOS7.

The launch has been greatly anticipated, not least because iOS7 has been completely overhauled by Apple’s design guru Jonathan Ive. Ive’s involvement with Apple has, until now been restricted to hardware design and he is responsible for some of the company’s most iconic output, including the iPod, iMac and of course, iPhone/iPad ranges.

The keynote began with introductions to new Apple products, including a new version of MacOS and the astoundingly Vader-esk Mac Pro, that will launch later this year. But it was clear from the reaction of the crowd in the auditorium that it was the announcement of iOS7 that had been most anticipated.

There had been much debate as to whether or not Ive would adopt a flat design approach, and it was clear immediately that although iOS7 is substantially more minimal than its predecessors, he hadn’t done so:


The first thing you encounter in iOS7 is is the new unlock screen. Conceptually the same as all previous iterations, it is sleek and minimal. The new font — which seems to be a variation on Helvetica Thin — is evident immediately. The round buttons that replace the old input keys were widely anticipated and are evidence that many of the changes had been expected.


The second thing you’ll encounter is the parallax home screen. By tilting your phone, the wallpaper on the screen will move slightly, the icons appearing to float above it. It’s a fun party trick, but feels a little gimmicky.

Ive’s output for Apple has predominantly been black, white and polished metal. However, the first generation of iMacs hinted at his color tastes and the current range of iPod Nanos are similarly bright. Looking at iOS7 it’s clear to see why Apple have steered him towards the mono-tonal palette we’re used to: the washed-out neons that adorn the new iOS7 have none of the sophistication of Android or even Blackberry and surely have more to do with the fashion tastes of an aging hipster than a young design maverick.

The consistency of icon design that we were promised is notably absent, and don’t look like a fully resolved design.


Where Ive’s design is successful is in making the interface unobtrusive, and during the keynote he spoke on video about the “profound and enduring beauty [he finds] in simplicity”. The UI is substantially reduced: the dominant black of the current iOS being replaced with a dominant white; bevels have been removed; and buttons themselves now resemble the ‘active areas of screen’ that they are, rather than actual buttons.


Something that iOS users will like less than Android or Windows users is the adoption of a ‘control center’ which seems to muddy the water of an otherwise brilliantly simple OS. The control center’s pull-up tab contains ‘essential’ functions and features, and is otherwise much like the pull-down info in the current iOS.


A huge criticism of iOS in the past has been the inability to multi-task, but having solved the battery issues iOS7 will enable multi-tasking for all apps instead of a select few.


One fact that was slipped in, almost casually, was that rather than offer the option to search the web (using Google) as is now the case, in iOS7 Siri’s search will be directly integrated with Bing. Whether this is a result of the cooling relations between Apple and Google, or whether Bing genuinely offers a better product is hard to judge. What is certain is that Bing rankings will now be far more significant for clients and future SEO will need to focus on more than Google page rank.

Safari has also been revamped: it has an all-new look to match the other native apps; much of the clutter has been removed to allow your eye to focus on page content. The biggest change being the new tabs view which is an updated version of Apple’s coverflow — expect to see this copied everywhere starting now.


The most pleasing changes are the ones heralded with least fanfare, especially the typography, which has been completely overhauled to create a more spacious and consistent feel across the device.


Apple began their presentation focusing on iOS’ market dominance and customer satisfaction. Undoubtedly they’ll hope that iOS7 will arrest their slipping market share and ensure a healthy future for their device range, they’ll have to wait until Fall to find out.


What do you think of the design of iOS7? Is it an improvement? What’s missing that you hoped to see? Let us know in the comments.

  • Som

    I appreciate your critique, Ben. One has to remember that iOS feels ideological and this new release is merely foreshadowing the things that lie ahead. Ivy had to set clear goals, and I find the result impressive – it’s been just a couple of months since Forstall got fired. The new iOS has some proper potential to grow and will surely shine in its next iteration.

  • gastrophase

    These floating tabs have been present in Chrome for a while I think?

  • Alex Sinnott

    I for one, am not the best at embracing changes, especially not at this scale. The first reaction was “Ah! >.< ", and I feel the same will be shared.

    Now I'm in some confused state, where either,
    a) The design is slowly becoming better… OR
    b) Apple Marketing is getting to me….
    c) I'm just getting used to it.

    Either or. I'm starting to like the design, but the home-screen doesn't come off "finished" enough.

  • Chris Timberlake

    Chrome’s Tab system was a spin off from the Apple Coverflow design.

    • palf91

      No doubt, as most things that surround us are by nature derivative, but the tab view for Safari more resembles Chrome for Android’s solution than it resembles Cover Flow. Since Apple has the patent for Cover Flow, why borrow Chrome’s interpretation?

      I hoped that Apple would differentiate from the existing market, but then again, maybe it’s about comfort and familiarity, and receiving better feedback from internal testing. And since Chrome is derived from Chromium, the open source fork, it’s not a crime to borrow features either. Everybody takes turns :)

  • Pankaj

    Very smilar to Android and Windows look. What is new?

  • Andrew Jones

    Overall I think its a beautiful new interface. A lot of the design choices do reflect concepts that can be found on other UI’s, but I’m happy to see the skeuomorphism gone. I definitely agree that some of the new icons do not seem be a final, polished completion.

    My heart did sink a little when i saw the “vertical itunes carousel” as the tabs in safari (not a lot of “flatness” there that’s for sure).

    I’m looking forward to playing with it, that will be the final determination.

  • Tom Durkin

    Think the new icons look terrible, but it might just be years of being used to the current iPhone interface. Looking forward to updating to this and casting my own judgements from a more informed position.

  • jaystrab

    “need to copy android/windows 8”
    The “need” was made essential by people clamoring about how the current iOS looks and wanting something new. No matter what, you will not be able to please everyone.
    That’s why they should have enabled themes so that people can switch to whatever theme they want. Then I could make my own icons and not care about anything else.

  • jaystrab

    The only thing I care about in iOS 7 is that they remove that incredibly awful linen background texture that is everywhere (and in Mac OS as well). And the second thing is GIVE ME A SPAM FILTER for Mail!

  • Jack Nycz

    The total inability to customize the home screen will still keep me away. I really like having Feedly and Flipboard right there on my home screen, where I can look through news stories without actually getting into an app. They still want you to completely buy in to the “this is an iPhone and you get what you get” deal, which just doesn’t appeal to me.

  • bretteo

    I seriously hope this is all one big damn joke, the look of iOS 7 is just.. well I am lost for words.

  • Tara

    Unfortunately, I agree with you. I have been a hardcore Apple fan for years and years. For the first time since I started using Mac 6 years ago, I’m actually considering switching from iPhone and iPad to Samsung Galaxy. Actually, I was considering it up until WWDC. Now, I’m going to switch to Samsung as soon as I can. Apple is just playing catch up now, which is so tragic :(

  • addvocate

    50% more time! Tim – I’m fully aware that time is spent fighting with Siri. Why won’t anyone believe me! She says such awful things and tries to starve me! Then leads me down dark Detroit alleys in search of pizza places that went out of business 13 years ago. I suppose on paper, yes, I am on my iPhone 50% longer.

  • rottenapple

    Not happy w/iOS7… even less happy with NOT being able to downgrade to iOS 6.1.3 thanks to apple pulling it. Whatever happened to freedom of choice…..and why does apple think that by “stacking” the reviews out there that everyone will believe what is being said…..not the most honest approach from apple….. was a die hard apple fan since the first iphone…..but no longer….apple care is a joke. They won’t even listen to any criticism of the new software, and when I asked how they intended to fix the problems, they just hung up……