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First look: Can iOS 7 give Apple back its mojo?

updated 05:20 am EDT, Wed June 12, 2013

Sir Jony Ive remakes iOS with a new design language, features

Back in February this year I wrote, "A new design and look for iOS will be nice (as will the banishment of skeuomorphism), buy in many ways it is not essential from the perspective of pure functionality." It would seem that this is indeed the approach that Sir Jony Ive and the design and software engineering teams have taken with the new iOS 7 beta. With iOS 7, the iPhone still functions in fundamentally the same way that it always has - apps will still take center stage. iOS 7 is not a fundamental rethink of how iOS works, but it does bring some long-sought after feature enhancements to Apple's latest mobile operating system along with a gorgeous new look.

Following Apple's WWDC Keynote, I have had an opportunity to play with Apple's latest mobile operating system. I can report that Apple CEO Tim Cook's decision to put Sir Jony Ive in charge of software design, in addition to his duties as Apple's hardware design maestro has been a masterstroke. While reaction to the new, flatter and more minimalistic design has been mixed, I am in the camp that absolutely loves the new design. At the same time, however, I still believe that Apple has more to do before it can again be considered the overall leader in mobile software - even if it has reclaimed the mantle as the most beautiful mobile OS on the planet.

So what has Apple got right with the new UI? For starters, the new, flatter UI is much more consistent across the device, from the system interface through to the way the built-in applications look and work. It really feels unified and cohesive in a way that it may have been previously lacking. Transitions and animations are incredibly fluent, creating a seamless, elegant user experience. The new 'layers' of UI also makes for a much more sophisticated experience. The approach is very much consistent with Apple's hardware design aesthetic, but now applied to its software - if you had thought that Apple's software and hardware were well-integrated in the past, the whole experience has never been better integrated than it is now.

Changes abound in iOS 7. The only sign of skeuomorphism that remains is a very subtle allusion to parchment in the Notes and Reminders applications, which look very attractive. Gone, however, is the impression of torn pages from a notepad, any sign of leather, faux stitching or linen. Safari now has a unified search and URL window, while tabbed browsing has been improved with a new animation effect that looks like a cross between Cover Flow and the Windows Vista switcher. Swiping to the left of the home screen no longer activates a system-wide search; instead it is activated by holding the screen just below the top of the display and then dragging from the top down. A swipe downwards, however, reveals a much cleaner and minimalistic Notification Center. A swipe from the bottom up reveals the new Control Center, which is a long-awaited addition to iOS, bringing with it much faster access to frequently used controls, switches and utilities.

Also new are dynamic wallpapers, which have long been a feature of Android. In fact, along with the new Android-like Control Center, there a several enhancements to iOS 7 that have been present in Android for some time including the look of the revamped and animated Weather app. Other new features in iOS 7 that resemble features in other mobile operating systems include the new multitasking function that now also includes a screenshot from open/suspended/background apps that looks similar to both Windows Phone 8 and Web OS. While Safari has new tabbed browsing arrangement, users can now also peak between two open webpages, which is reminiscent of the Peak function in BlackBerry OS 10, although it is implemented differently. Not to mention the new 'flat' design look that follows a similar aesthetic to Windows Phone. None of the new inclusions seems bolted on, however, but integrated quite organically into a new, vibrant, whole that is Apple iOS 7.

There are still some functions that Apple has not implemented this time around, although quite frankly, it has done much more with iOS 7 than I would have thought possible in such as short time frame. Perhaps in future versions of iOS we will finally see the introduction of live widgets that can be placed on the home screen. While Calendar has always shown the correct day of the week, the only new 'live' icon is the Clock app, which even shows a moving second hand if you look closely enough. Others would still like Apple to introduce a mobile version of a file manager to iOS, multi-user accounts (although this could still appear in the yet to be released version of iOS 7 for the iPad), and further user customization of the UI - for example, users still can't place an app to any position on the home screen without iOS arranging it for you. I would also like to see Swype by Nuance pre-installed as an alternative keyboard.

When iOS 7 is released in its final form, Electronista/MacNN will revisit it with a more comprehensive review. In the meantime, it can be safely said that (after a long and unnerving period of silence) Apple has emerged from its self-imposed exile raring to go. If iOS 7 is the first real taste of Apple without the late great Steve Jobs, then it leaves a very pleasant aftertaste. Steve Jobs once commented that one of the design goals for OS X's original Aqua UI was that "when you saw it you wanted to lick it." I think that Steve would have wanted to lick iOS 7 too.

By Sanjiv Sathiah

by MacNN Staff



  1. kerryb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-05-01

    I am puzzled by the press and other that remark Apple lost its edge or "mojo" when no other tech company has achieved the quality of products that Apple has and continues to produce. I see Apple's approach similar to an older and wiser person that speaks less but with more meaning compared to a younger person that shoots their mouths off about this that and everything without a real clue. Samsung has become the biggest competitor for Apple in the smart phone market. Their throw it out there and see who buys it approach has it benefits but it is also proven to be hit or miss and what I imagine as a waste of money and energy. Apple is the master in this regards while other such as Samsung are the apprentice when it comes to bringing a refined, thought out product to the market. The insistence of investors that expect revolutionary device from Apple every 6 months is just ridiculous. Apple has disrupted the tech world on more occasions than any other company than I can think of and to assume that revolutions come about every calendar year is naive and more in line with the expectations of a spoiled child. I guess in tech as in the dating world you can pick a spouse that has everything you need and continually delights you or you can chase after the next thing wearing a short skirt.

  1. MisterMe

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 05-04-07

    your comment

  1. pairof9s

    Senior User

    Joined: 01-03-08

    My immediate affect from iOS 7 is to look at iOS 6 now as so ordinary. Reminds me when OS X beta first became available in comparison to the currently running OS just makes you wish it was here now!

  1. jscotta

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-30-02

    @kerryb, you are right on. However, you really don't need to ask why. Journalism, true journalism, is really dead. Replaced by click-bait headlines and *content* – I use the word 'content' loosely.

    For Apple, it is even worse because so many of the Wall Street analysts and the traditional tech pundits have been anti-Apple for so long they don't know any different.

  1. mytdave

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-16-00

    Ya know, I never felt they lost their mojo. I think the only folks that did were the 'press' looking for a story.

    Apple's new products are evidence their mojo continues, rather than "getting it back".

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-25-07

    That's sorta like asking if new shoe laces will restore a person's mojo. If indeed the mojo went missing, it'll take more than shoe laces to get it back. Austin Powers had to travel through time to get his back, only to discover he had never lost it in the first place.
    But that presumes a perceived loss of mojo, which in Apple's case, is not so much missing as overlooked. :P

  1. airmanchairman

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-08-11

    Let the unwise speak all ill that they want of Apple and refer to the company in the past tense till they're blue in the face... the actual sales and growth data speak volumes for the state of the company's health.

    The staggering reality comes home when one considers that the only companies that even approach Apple's market valuation are gigantic Petroleum conglomerates like Exxon-Mobil ($402.2Bn) with Google and Microsoft a distant $291Bn away.

    It should come as no surprise that, 6 years after its ground-breaking debut, the design language that sparked a revolution in touch-screen interfaces is undergoing a quantum-leap overhaul. Surely the intervening period is more than enough time for the most Luddite of conservatives to understand the basics at muscle-memory level by now.

    Time to move on... onwards and upwards.

  1. RobOnTheCape

    Senior User

    Joined: 01-16-04

    Yes, but will Siri finally be as quick and accurate as Google voice?

  1. graxspoo

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-22-08

    I for one have been disappointed by Apple's releases over the last few years, beginning with Lion. Not a fan of that OS version or it's successor. Mavericks, despite having a name that reminds me of Sarah Palin, looks to be moving in the right direction. In terms of the iOS7, it adds some long needed amenities, but I don't like the color palette. It's too neon and "my pretty pony" looking for my taste, but it's going to look fantastic tucked into purses next to glitter lipstick and chewing gum. (Has anyone else heard this meme that Android phones are for guys and iPhones are for girls?) I think the real thing that is going to signal if Apple is getting serious about competing with Android is whether or not they release a low-cost iPhone this year. I suppose they attract some caché from selling super-expensive phones, but they can't compete in much of the world given their current pricing structure. The same can be said for the iPad. The iPad's dominance is about to get a serious run for its money now that Android tablets are competent and inexpensive. For example, this week you can get a Nook HD+ high-res 9" tablet for $150, less than half the price of an iPad-mini.

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