Thoughts on iOS 7

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iOS 7 is out and after a tedious brawl with Apple's servers, I got to play with it for a while.

Now let me just start this off by letting the cat out of the bag from the get-go: this is a mostly positive update. It really is, I absolutely love it. In a nutshell, it's quite the breath of fresh air iOS needs and it feels like a weight's been lifted. But if you want to know what I think makes this thing look and feel so good, go on Apple's website or any other tech website. It's all been said, especially in this article by Ellis Hamburger on The Verge, which is pretty spot on.

So yes, this post will mostly be about the bad things I took away from using iOS 7. Not a little nit-picky rant, but things that Apple may actually decide not to change or improve upon going forward, particularly given the fact that they've changed enough to somewhat affect their design philosophies this year.

Let's get straight to it. The first thing I noticed about iOS 7 was despite the fact that it definitely had a greater on-screen fluidity and motion, it sort of stuttered and lagged. I found myself swiping and tapping twice when I only had to once before. It had me scratching my head for a while since my iPod touch, being the latest one and having a capable A5 chip, should be able to handle the software fairly well.

It didn't take long for me to realize it had simply been the new animations. You know, the stuff that should've been positively influencing the user when it comes to their perception of the device's speed. The biggest example for me is the home screen zoom animation. Before, the zoom just happened instantaneously, because the icons zoomed in at the same time. In iOS 7 however, that isn't the case. The icons zoom in at different times. I have to admit it looks pretty cool, but I have to wait for about a second before I can actually swipe between the pages or open an app.

There are some positive implications of animations of course, the main one being emphasis on hierarchy of the different screen elements. You zoom into folders when they're tapped, so does the wallpaper. It implies that the folder is a subset of a larger collection, being the entire home screen. The difference between these animations and the ones that make the iOS 7 experience cumbersome is that they're either unnecessary (to me, the new home screen icon zoom doesn't really imply anything obvious) or that they take too long. Or both.

So bearing that in mind, I proceeded with my journey through iOS 7. Then my worst fears came true, it actually was lagging. The frame rate of scrolling dropped, apps took quite a lot of time to open. It reminded me of my experience with my last iPod touch. *cringes* Just a while ago, Facebook took about 10 seconds to open. 10 solid seconds. This isn't a memory intensive app, this is freaking Facebook we're talking about.

Of course, you could argue that this is just a result of v1.0 bugs and that Apple's already working on it as I write. On the other hand though, to convince developers to do the same with their apps almost directly after the labor of scratching their iOS 6 aesthetics for iOS 7's might be a different story. I think it's way too early to tell, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see when (arguably if) the lag issues will be addressed.

The one thing that simply punched me in the gut when I started using iOS 7 was the home screen. Yes, the whole thing. If you could see me right now, I'd be gesturing its entirety. This may just be a culmination of pet peeves I have with it, but the culmination is too large I just can't ignore how crappy it is. I've already mentioned one thing about the home screen, but the icons are what really, really drive me nuts. They haven't changed them a bit since WWDC. Sure, the Camera icon is a lot better than I thought it would be, and the Message/Phone/FaceTime icons seem synonymous now (in a good way, since they're all based on communication). But other than that, nothing seems to have changed. They might look okay at best, but they're still inconsistent from one another. The only commonality between them is their flatness.

What do I mean by inconsistent? Just look at, let's say, the Newsstand icon. I don't think it's a bad graphic per se, but as an icon amongst others, it's a misfit because there are just so many details and variables that make up the icon. What about the Game Center one? Three dimensional bubbles, 'nuff said. The App Store and iTunes Store icons have weird proportions. The circles surrounding the central logos are so large that it feels like if I'm tapping the circle and not the icon as a whole.

And in general, the neon colors are still horrendous. Absolutely, indubitably horrendous. They look a lot worse on the new iPhone 5s and 5c packaging. It's almost vomit inducing. Want to argue? There are hundreds (if not, thousands) of redesigns by designers on the internet, and I'm sure you've encountered at least a couple (for example, this popular one by Leo Drapeau on Dribbble). I'm just saying, there are numerous alternative aesthetics Apple could've gone with...

One last thing, the parallax effect. I'm mixed on this one. I love it's subtlety, and because of that, it isn't distracting. Also because of that, it doesn't seem to work. It doesn't look like it contributes to the intended illusion of the icons floating above the backdrop. When I tilt it vertically, it's almost spot on and the icons seem to be almost pasted to the glass surface. But when I tilt it horizontally or all around, there's some movement but that's it. It just moves, there's not much of the 3D illusion to it. This one's not too big, but if you're gonna do something, you better do it great, especially if you're a multibillion dollar company known for scrutinous attention to detail.

Update: I also find the parallax effect stuttering sometimes, maybe due to rapid movement or the gyroscope going haywire. Also, I found out that the parallax effect works better with certain wallpapers over others. Quite odd this feature. I think I have to get used to it a bit more over time...

Anyways, I sense the obligation to do the good stuff justice since I actually really love the overall design and feel of iOS 7. Here's a short list:

  • Despite the lag and my efforts to work against muscle memory (but that's just a personal problem), I've actually been able to do things more efficiently and get things done faster. Or it feels like it, at least. Either way, it's a positive effect.
  • The new Spotlight rarely ever stutters anymore. A long overdue feature.
  • There are more good animations than bad. They make the variables and buttons seem to float.
  • It feels so light, it almost makes the devices I use it on seem lighter to hold.
  • Speaking of light, there's a lot less to look at, but less is more.
  • Control Center, my goodness, this is a bombshell of a feature. Works as advertised.
  • AirDrop looks good in the long term. I'm looking at total interconnectivity between Apple devices here.
  • Third-party redesigns are looking good. I love Instagram and Facebook (despite the lag), especially with content on the forefront of it all.
  • No more heavy textures. I never really hated the textures before (with Find my Friends and Game Center as an exception), but I don't miss them and would never go back.

I guess that's it. Tune in for something that finally isn't about Apple.

PS: The first post for AM might be delayed. I repeat, might. Expect it within this week or the next, but most likely this week if I survive my homework spree.

PSS: My last post taught me that formatting and creating graphics is probably a little too much work for me. Don't get me wrong, I think it looks great, but I really want to get posts churning out a bit quicker. So in a nutshell, expect less pictures but more posts.