iOS7 icons, love them or hate them?

There has been furious debate in the last twenty four hours on the merits and failings of Apple’s iOS7 update, and the most hotly debated subject is the new icons.

They’ve been hailed as a daring, and radical move, and they’ve been condemned as a half-hearted Android rip-off.

Apple are hoping that they’ll mark the start of a sustainable alternative to skeuomorphism that isn’t constrained by flat design.

Personally, I’ve always hated most of the iPhone’s native icons, I find icons like the sunflower image — I’ve never taken a photograph of a sunflower in my life — to be both naïve and a little lazy. I was optimistic therefore that a redesign would mean carrying something a little more thoughtful in my pocket in future. The result however, is a mixed bag:


iOS6 & iOS7 comparison by nielsboey.

Some consistency has been attempted; the communication icons (Phone, FaceTime and Messages) are the same ectoplasmic green. Whilst the FaceTime icon is an improvement if only because the original icon was so poor. The white phone and speech bubble have considerably less contrast than their prior incarnations and are therefore less clear.

The Passbook icon may be a success, it blends more easily with the rest of the icons than the previous version. The Mail icon is also a success, despite the poor gradient, the well established icon is clean and easy to read. The Music player icon is also a success, its color differentiating it from the rest of the set, although the brackets joining the dots to the main stems on the musical note look a little clumsy.

Much was has been made of Apple dropping the green felt and wood look from icons like the Game Center, but it’s hard to see the icon’s new incarnation as much more than a middle weight designer’s attempt to portrait everything, and nothing in one fell swoop.

There are the traditional issues Apple has with americanisms: the Maps icon looks like an American sat nav, but it’s unlike a map elsewhere in the world. Surely a map is one of the simplest icons to draw?

By far and away the biggest flop is the re-design of the Newsstand icon. Featuring the words ‘News’, ‘Art’, ‘Travel’ and ‘Sports’ it is supposed to represent a variety of magazines. Will it be redesigned for Germany, or Japan, or China, or Swaziland? If there’s one rule that icon designers should live (and die) by it’s this: if you have to add text to explain your drawing, you didn’t draw it well enough.

The rest of the icons are largely an attempt to ‘flatten’ the existing designs. So Stocks is a flat version of the earlier version. Weather looses its gloss as does Videos. Curiously the Camera icon has managed to retain inner shadows and a similar gradient to its earlier version.

The singularly biggest issue — apart from the color — is that so many of the icons are clearly intended to be round, but are crammed inside rounded rectangles. iTunes, Clock, AppStore, Compass, Safari, all feature circles larger than their predecessor. With the exception of Clock — which has never had enough space — each circle has been enlarged to decrease the amount of space between it and the edge of the icon. This results in an awkward, uncomfortable effect.

I suspect that these icons were originally designed as circles to match the circular number input elsewhere in the OS, and Apple either lost their courage, or couldn’t rationalize the other icons in a similar vein.

And that is probably the biggest problem with the iOS7 redesign; Apple set out with good intentions, but their fear of profit margins kept them from designing something truly exciting.

What do you think of the icons in iOS7? Which is the best, and which is the worst? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Featured image/thumbnail, uses flat smartphone image via Freebiesbug.

  • Nelly

    Totally hate them. They look as if a novice designer made them.

  • agitated

    The consistency is gone. Some have gradients (mail, video, weather) while others are completely flat ( contacts, calculator , newstand). Even the illustrations themselves are a little all over the place with some going in the abstract direction vs simplicity.

    Overall it seems to have lost the initial finess that apple usually has with their design, not that the overally glossy feel was great but it was uniquely apple. Now it all seems a bit schizophrenic. The kiddy colour scheme doesn’t help either.

    At least they fixed the map icon so that it wasn’t providing directions to drive off a bridge.

  • jeffreylowy

    I am looking forward to iOS7, but hate, HATE the icons. It looks like a playskool toy… I really expected more from Mr. Ive… (Sorry, Jony!!!)

  • bilo

    looks like Apple is striving to look vanilla. Apple is dumbing down to accommodate the johnny-come-lately PC masses. pitiful. steve jobs would be appalled at the lack of creativity. amateurish.

  • Stephen_Macklin

    Looking at it you can almost hear the give and take and negotiating between the flat design advocates and the status quo folks on the committee.

    That and they no doubt were trying to mute some of the howls of outrageous outrage they would have heard if they had gone completely flat!

  • Daniel

    Just plain awful.

  • Chris

    I hope that Apple goes back to the drawing board or at least offer the end user the ability to choose from a variety of “themes” from Apple or third party developers.

  • Matt

    I like the overall UI but these icons really suck, they look immature and rookie built. I was hoping Apple could really deliver something gorgeously flat but keeping the polished feel. I really hope they sort these out during the beta period, of which i am a tester :)

  • TestShoot

    I don’t hate them as much as the new WDD standard font “iskra”. Hint: I really don’t like the new icons

    • jaystrab

      OMG, I just commented on that, too! Hahaha

  • TestShoot

    Flat UI = flatline
    beep, beep, beep, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep

  • Siti

    Newsstand – Worst!!
    Phone, Mail, Music, Video, FaceTime – are they going to 80’s icons?
    Game Center – What’s this?
    Stocks, Weather, Compass – Better than iOS6

  • emerazea

    Not to mention Settings, which isn’t on this list. I can still barely tell what it is. I see gear teeth… but that’s it.

    I’m really hoping these icons are beta version, and they’re going to be improved before launch this fall. They’re really, really not good.

    Leo’s redesign is substantially better.

  • Nodws

    so to sum it up: iOS is now Android.

  • Pankaj

    they lost their identity

  • MyPostcardFrom

    Agree with agitated in that there is no consistency between them with some having gradients and others truly flat.

    Wouldn’t surprise me if these we altered before release though

  • Doc Pixel

    The debate isn’t that the icons and interface is awful at this time, but why. First of all the short time that Ives has overseen the project, and second everyone from print, web, packaging… and marketing(!) getting their hands in.

    Don’t forget: this is Beta 1 of iOS7.

    Rest assured, these are NOT the final icons or GUI that will be released in the Fall. I think Apple was up against a rock and a hard place and had to show something. That they went the extra step and claim it as beautiful is marketing hubris. Hence: always tell marketing to leave please! (I despise marketing with an unhealthy passion!)

    • HateNewIcons

      Just updated my iPhone to the new os version 7 (not beta). I hate the new icons! They look childish and all the bright colors hurt my eyes. I had to dim my display to subdue the icons! I loved the classy look of he old ones.

  • Plyphon

    Hate them. I want to wait for the next iPhone to see what they come out with, but the OS is forcing me away. Samsung have my money for the next 24 months.

  • Nela Moore ♡

    I love Apple ios but icon like Safari, Calendar, FaceTime, Reminders are totally horrible! I hope that in final ios7 will be another icon! PLS

  • Amber Lara

    What happened to apple?

    • miloskov

      No Steve Jobs that happend to Apple. This is over guys time to move on.

  • kylemac6

    Not exactly great. Not much consistency at all, the circles inside the rounded boxes look awkward, some gradients seem a bit extreme while other icons have no gradient, clock could be more simplified, etc. Newstand just looks awful. Games definitely needed a redesign, but I look at this icon and think “WTF?”

    There actually are a few i like, but the set just seems a mess.

  • jayaraj

    Hay Apple, I can’t argue with my friends anymore :(

  • jaystrab

    I don’t love them, but I don’t hate them. I don’t think they will be the final ones, as there are several months before release.

    What I do hate is the Iskra font you guys are using for your headlines/subheads. It’s awful.

  • Julesfrog

    Trash and start over. Apple has always been about innovation. How about not copying the “flat” trend to begin with.

  • Manikos


  • Doaly

    its like the the Good the Bad and the Ugly but the Good had the day off

  • Luís Ferreira


  • Ally

    Was planning on purchasing a iPhone this Christmas… now it is out of the question. Sorry but I do not like the icons at all!

  • designcouch

    Knowing that Ive tasked the Apple Marketing Department to design the icons explains a lot; these were not done by anything even approaching UI designers; these were marketing designers that do ads for the web and print. Cannot understand his thought process there, but that’s where we are. I’ve got the iOS7 beta on my iPhone right now, and there are some glitches here and there (it IS a beta after all) but the most glaringly amateur part of the OS is these horrible icons. By and large, I love the other touches—particularly the attention to typography.

  • bgbs

    I appreciate the simplicity. I like the comparison between the new and old icons, and I find that I like the new icons more than old ones.

    On the new icons I would slightly dial down on the saturation and and make the gradient affect more subtle.

    But come on people stop being hysterical. Where are you going to go? Android?
    Here compare the new icons to the latest S4 icons if you think new iPhone icons look horrid.

  • Ron Akanowicz

    This is Apple’s “jump the shark” moment. The current icons are unique, beautiful, convey much more information than the plain, ugly, and poorly designed iOS7 versions. I plan on sticking to iOS6 and not upgrading if things don’t change.

    • Greg Brown

      You’re kidding, right? Everything else about iOS 7 is pretty awesome, and Apple has already said that these icons are not likely to be final…

  • Tony_Morelli

    Those gradients are so drastic drastic, with minimal feathering and falloff. I cannot stand the lack of consistency here. I think I will jailbreak my phone just so I can replace these god awful icons.

  • Joshua Dillon

    Apple has lost it’s design soul to the marketing team. This sums it up:

    • Talentonloan

      Right on Josh; see my comment; I think there is nothing wrong with making an

      icon beautiful; that was something that apple did well before it ‘ios7’ it’s soul

  • 8bitjeff

    whatever…its a button on a phone you press to open an app. Really, it’s the content of the apps that matter.

    • Talentonloan

      ahhh ha hah coming from an 8-bit kind of design-luddite, cough I mean guy
      watch out! Kong is about to drop a barrel on you!! That’s-a not-a safe-a

  • Casper

    Love them, just not the stock icon…
    That is realy ugly.

    But love the ios7 design.

  • savalina

    Hate them. All the icons look totally unprofessional. When I looked at them the first thing that came to mind was Android icons, saturated and crappy. What’s with those gradients? They look like something made by my 8 year old cousin in Paint. All that I loved about iOS is gone. Epic Apple fail.

    • Joshua Dillon

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. It’s not that the base shapes are the issue, it’s the EXTREMELY poor choice of colors that create the biggest problem. I feel like the 80’s threw up on the UI.

  • busmayhem

    why the added rounded corner radius, that leaves less space to play with

  • bilo

    never thought i’d see the day when Apple would steal from Microsoft. Design by committee never produces superior work.
    Mac is now McMac

  • Quan Do

    The concept and user experience of the entire OS is great. But those icons are way too under developed. Who the hell approved such gradients?

  • Unlock My

    I have been testing iOS7 on my iPhone 5 for the last few
    days. Being honest I fell a little tepid about the whole experience. After
    years of design innovation why have apple decoded to make their OS look like a
    poor cousin of Microsoft’s Windows 8. On the other side it seems to have
    borrowed heavily from Android. You can now swipe up to turn on/off WIFI, blue
    tooth, very similar to Android.

    In summary I like: Newsstand, the inbuilt torch, screen
    transition, new compass interface and mail interface.

    I don’t like, no bulk delete feature in the mail
    application, it’s still message by message deletion. The pseudo windows
    interface and menu movement. The settings menu is a bit of a waste land of
    while space.

    Like an aging married couple I am finding more faults with
    it as time goes on but I grow to love it the more time I spend with it.

  • Alex

    “Simplicity is somehow essentially describing the purpose and place of an object and product. The absence of clutter is just a clutter-free product. That’s not simple.”

    I hope iOS7 is not your answer to this Jony .
    #fff text in #e7xxxx background colour in news stand, links in Note app, light-weighted font + fluorescent like colour scheme = I don’t get it, my eyes are getting tired.

  • bretteo

    Screw updating to this shit!

  • Tara

    I absolutely hate the new icons. I kind of get what they were trying to do, but the gradients are wayyyy too harsh and it looks like a beginner made them. Super unprofessional looking. It makes me sad :(

  • zews39

    Hate them. They look like they are designed by 5 year old children in kindergarten with a box full of too bright crayons.

  • Talentonloan

    hate hate hate hate hate skeuomorphism forever baby! for example, I like the reflection on the glass on the lens on the ios6 camera app. There’s retro, then theres god awful devolution. ESAD you ‘hip’ apple icon ‘designers’

  • Awilson089

    The calculator one. Just wow.

  • davelowe85

    Massive hate!

  • Ari

    Android on a Nexus with Holo looks so much more attractive. I also dont like these icons and dont like things like phone, messages all the same color and looking the same. Its itneresting to read the articles that compare these new features to the ones on Android but still we cant have a third party keyboard.WHY

  • Raffaella Ciavatta

    It looks like a 7 year old did it.

  • Risa

    This is what I think. Needs more unicorns >_>

  • Agnieszka Garofeanu

    Horrid. It’s like they were designed by a drunken vision impared intern. This is not flat design.

  • I’m Batman

    Love the clock and the calendar

  • André Morgan

    Love them

  • jackster12

    Mixed bag is a good description. Honestly, some of them are fine… as in, I can learn to adjust. None knock me over as an improvement. The few I actively don’t like are those with gradients (app store and itunes store)… plus Safari, Facetime, Game Center, and Newstand… and the ones that have been over-simplified and made way too unserious for what they do, like the Calendar and Reminders. In the latter two, I hate what they’ve done inside those apps too. Just amateurish.

  • James Pylyp

    Face Time and Notes are the only ones that got better.

  • mind-architect

    love them, because they look fresh and clean. i had the first iphone and hatet the “real” looking icons, for me it was a step backwards in design. and yes i love the design of my windows phone 8 OS. first time in history MS is a step forward in design.

  • Pat

    I am a text person and icons are simply counter-intuitive for me. I would be prefer an alphabetical list of names, not icons. This was an option on my old Android phone (over 3 years ago) but I have yet to see it on the iPhone.

  • Steven

    I Dont See Why People Are Hating On The Icons. The Icons Are Simple And Make The iPhone More Modern And Is Unique. I Don’t See Anything Bad In It :/

  • Appleunfan

    Hate them. So disappointed. They look like downgrades.

  • ray

    hate the hole thing!! going to try to go back to the old.

  • rs11gps

    A huge leap backwards. WHO said we want to go back to 800×600 resolution and pancake graphics. Why not the ‘green screen’? GThat was minimalist. I switched to MAC and Apple because they WERE elegant, Now it is…. nothing…. blah…. kindergarten….

  • Disappointed in Apple

    Some nice new features but I do not like the icons nor the color scheme. Icons are too big. Looks like kindergarten. The interface looks unfinished. So much for innovation.

  • paco

    ios7 = sh*t

  • Judy Bird

    Hate them, and the look of apps like Messages, and how email now looks. Worst change ever.

  • upstateny0101

    They look like Windoze 8 icons.

  • Randy

    They are terrible – I hate that the most! My phone feels like an android!! It sucks! Apple has always had a neat clean feel – now, it’s just totally horrible…….worst update ever

  • RaggedRobin

    Hate everything about the ios7 design concept, can’t you give up an option for old or new so we can choose.

  • Lisa M Smith

    Terrible, just updated my iPhone 4s and this might be my last iPhone. If this new look is what I have to look forward to, there is no reason for another iPhone. This is design gone backwards.

  • dfisher44

    I absolutely hate them. They appear anemic and not nearly as pleasing to the eye.

  • Shazza

    The new icons make me fell like either my Mother (bad eyesight) or a kindergarten child. Can not even improve the overall look by using my own background – it does not scale my photographs correctly. UCK

  • Jerry Brewer

    You now cannot delete a city under the weather app or just clear a text message within a contact. Really sucks.

  • Tmidiman

    I do not like the icons, nore how Calender and Notes are completely white. This was a bad move by Apple. But maybe this is just so they can wow us with iOS8, which will bring back the look we love.

  • Pomppone

    AS STEVE JOBS WOULD SAY: It’s a piece of SH!T….APPLE has been OFFICIALLY Dethroned!!!!!!! New flat icons look/feel like DOS environment, it’s so slow and drains battery! New features are so lame…

    Whoever thought of this was the first human brain donor!

  • Livinda

    I wish the designer would re-design the icons because the interface looks poor and I can’t stand with the gradations of color.

  • GW

    Looks like something from a really bad designer….also the type face is too week ….
    Liked the old look and feel much better.

  • Pam

    You know when you would bring up the icons at the bottom of the page and tape them and get the minus sign and glean them up? How do I do that now?

  • Vika

    HATE these icons. They look like weak cartoons compared to the previous icons.

  • John R Mangiardi

    Flat design is old (1920′s – ’30′s), boring and restrictive. It
    reduces reality to a cartoon, and a childish one at that. A palette
    limited to pastel colors is a killer too.

    Granted, high contrast, simplicity and minimalism have their place in
    the real world, but when the visual is crammed into the straightjacket
    of flat design, they lose their desirability.

    When I was in a certain town in the Midwest years ago, I was asked why it was not a fun place to be, and I responded:

    “The food is flat, the landscape is flat, the humor is flat, the imagination is flat, and the women are flat….”

    Flat, flat, flat…yuck! Give me soft and supple curves, color
    transitions along evolving lines, and depth of field…use flat techniques
    only in limited doses to create contrast when needed.