As promised, I’m back with more on Apple’s latest iOS offering, a “little” update known as iOS 7. Things started off a bit rough yesterday as I tried to get iOS 7 to install and activate on my test iPhone 5 (CDMA) in order to get to know it better. I was able to install the beta but then could not activate the phone. The result was, effectively, a bricked device.
Fortunately, I was able to boot the iPhone into DFU mode and revert to iOS 6. I actually ended up doing this twice due to trying alternative install methods using iTunes. One, the usual wipe and restore and the other an upgrade to iOS 7 over an existing install of iOS 6. Neither of these resulted in the iPhone going all the way through the activation process.
What finally ended up working was a wipe and restore using Apple’s development tool for iOS (and OS X) called Xcode. Using Xcode I was able to wipe and restore iOS 7 to the device and then, this time, the activation completed and I had a working iPhone. This was after several hours and went on into the night.
Consequently, I haven’t had a lot of time to get into the intricacies of the new OS. However, I did have a chance to play with it a little bit and following are my thoughts so far.
First (and this is a big one), I’m not sure I like the new look. Sure, the skeuomorphic aspects of iOS 6 are pretty dated and probably needed to go. I won’t miss the leather-bound elegance of the Calendar app or the simulated wood grain of iBooks. I’m just not sure iOS 7 is going in the right direction either.
In its present form, I find the font and lines around elements too thin and the colors too similar to be very distinct. In my several hours of use I’ve found myself clicking on the wrong thing or trying to slide something to the left or right that can’t actually be slid. Plus, the contrast between UI elements seems much more muted as well. When everything is flat and looks similar with similar colors and little contrast, it’s difficult to tell which elements can be interacted with and which can’t.
I find this especially true when using the new keyboard. A key with a thin black line around it over a light grey background is harder to hit, at least for me, than a key with a heavier line against a darker background. Contrast is good and not something to be scared of. Of course, more contrast makes things look less flat. I get that.
I also get that I’m not a designer, but I have participated in the design of many projects and supervised designers of various kinds over the years. I also know what I like and what I think looks good. And I’m not sure this color scheme and lack of contrast is it. Although, maybe it’s because I’ve haven’t spent much time with the Yahoo Weather app.
Yes, I know, Jony Ive is a genius and I can clearly see what he was going for with iOS 7. You only need to look at the man himself and see what his wardrobe looks like to know he’s not a fan of contrast. He prefers uniformity and order. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But that doesn’t mean his taste is the right taste for everyone. Some people might prefer things to be different. I might be one of those people.
As this is a beta, and an early one, many things also don’t work as expected or seem unfinished. This is especially true with a few apps I use regularly, like Gmail, that haven’t gotten the memo about using the new keyboard. Consequently, when you need a keyboard in the Gmail app, the old one pops up.
This is actually one of the ways I know I don’t like the new keyboard very much. I still have occasion to use the old one and find it much easier to type on than the new one. I’m also not a fan of the seemingly arbitrary change from lines to dots to show cell network signal strength. I didn’t mind lines. What’s wrong with lines? They were used quite a few other places in the new UI, why not for signal strength?
I’m also not sure why I now can’t double click on the home button to get a list of running apps, press and hold on one of the icons to get it to vibrate and then press the “X” to quit it. I’ve had more than a few apps crash on me so far and the old way to get them to work again was to make them stop running and then launch them again. Now, it’s all different.
The way you do it now is to double click on the home button to get thumbnails of the running apps. Then, you swipe the thumbnail upwards to close an app you want to quit. I was able to do it but I also found myself bringing up the control center from the bottom of the screen several times too. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like a rather convoluted “new” way to accomplish a previously simple task.
On a positive note, I do like the new static wallpapers and that cool 3D-looking effect when you move the iPhone around. Plus, the motion wallpapers are kinda nice too. I’m using one right now, in fact. I don’t know what effect they will have on battery life but so far, somewhat surprisingly, I’m getting pretty much the same battery life as when the iPhone had iOS 6 installed on it. Let’s hope that continues.
With any massive change, there’s bound to be bumps and rough edges. None of my issues with iOS 7, at least so far, are hugely annoying, would prevent me from continuing to use it or make me switch to Android. Although, I’m entertaining that thought for other reasons. But that’s a subject for a future article (or two).
I’m sure as iOS 7 matures, many of the things that bother me about it will be addressed and corrected. At least I hope so.
Once I’ve had more time with iOS 7 I’ll bring you another exciting round of observations. I’m also going to be installing the new version of OS X, code named Mavericks. More on that later too.