This week, Apple announced the biggest update to its mobile operating system in years. Its iOS 7 software is also the first mobile operating system overseen by British design chief Sir Jony Ive. The software, which will be available in “the fall”, will be compatible with the iPhone 4 and later and the iPad 2 and later. Here is what to expect when it lands:
The first thing you will notice is the “flatter” appearance of the home page. Icons no longer look like they are hovering above the wallpaper. They are also “smart” and will tilt to face you when you move the handset, using information from the phone’s accelerometer.
THE SKEUOMORPH IS DEAD
A skeuomorph is a design technique where one material is made to look like another. If you have an Ikea wardrobe that looks like mahogany but is actually made of MDF, this is a skeuomorph. Up until now, Apple had had a love affair with the skeuomorph. Its calendar app was trimmed with digital leather, its game centre was covered with digital green felt, its notepad featured little torn edges, where pretend digital pages had been torn out. These design flourishes were supposed to make people feel more comfortable with the switch from physical to digital but, it was starting to look increasingly dated. Jony Ive has stripped the majority of them out. As one executive pointed out during the keynote: “We just ran out of green felt...”
IMITATION = FLATTERY?
There are some elements of the new operating system that look a little... familiar. The lock screen bears more than a passing resemblance to Google’s Android, with a clearer display of notifications and a more pronounced clock. The ability to scroll between apps also looks rather a lot like the new BlackBerry 10 operating system.
LOTS OF WHITE
Grey was the colour of choice in previous generations of iOS. Now white is the default background to most apps. It gives the new operating system a fresh feeling, like it’s been given a spring clean, although there is also something almost retro to the dearth of brushed metal and dyed linen effects. The keyboard is also paler and slightly translucent, allowing you to see what is underneath.
This aspect is much improved. It is accessible from the lock screen and allows you to access handy tools like a flashlight and aeroplane mode. The screen is a translucent overlay that looks very space-agey.
A BACK BUTTON
This seemed like a glaring omission from the previous generations: going back one screen often involved some thought, instead of being a simple, standard procedure. Now a swipe gesture from the left bevel onto the screen will take you a step back in both Safari and other native apps like Mail.
IMPROVED NATIVE APPS
Lots of Apple’s in-box apps such as Calendar, Mail, Notes and Maps have been overhauled. As well as design changes (no skeuomorphs, whiter design, as previously discussed), there are lots of more practical improvements, many of which seem to be inspired by other products in the Apple ecosystem (ie designed by other companies). The Calendar is now much easier to edit and scroll through, for example, while Mail is more intuitive to search and navigate.
Spoilers were out long before it was announced this week, but Apple has indeed launched a radio service in the vein of Pandora, which is intended to introduce listeners to new music based on their iTunes library. The service will be ad free for iTunes Match users (£21.99 a year) or available with audio and text adverts for everyone else.
The in-built photo app has been improved to make better use of geo-location services, allowing pictures to be grouped by where or when they were taken.
SIRI HAS A SEX CHANGE
Siri wasn’t a main focus of this update, although there was some development. It can now access Twitter and Wikipedia, although the most noticeable change is the ability to switch him to a her.