I consider myself a design enthusiast, mainly within the realm of technology and even more specifically, in software. I only know basic HTML and CSS and my Photoshop skills are mediocre at best, but I do love to admire or critique what people far more talented and experienced than I am come up with.
When iOS 7 was first announced back in June and I got my hands on the developer beta shortly after, I wasnt really all that impressed. I loathed the new home screen icons with every fiber in my being, the new white backgrounds and bright color palette were a bit too much to take in all at once, and there were a lot of little imperfections across the board.
Now its been a little over a month since the entire public has been able to install iOS 7 and use it on their iPhones and iPads on a daily basis. Quite a few Fisher Price jokes have been made about the color palette, and they summed up my initial impressions as well. The elegance of the beautiful new typography and faux 3D browser tabs seemed to clash with the practically neon blue navigation and boring, flat tab buttons. I thought it was pretty obvious that iOS 6 looked better. From the glossy blue text bubbles in Messages to the intense level of detail in each icon, it was just gorgeous.
The good news is Im finally starting to just get iOS 7. I know that on a touch screen device youre supposed to make taps, but ironically its all now starting to click. My favorite part of the OS is actually that it no longer tries to be anything its not. Text messages dont try to be glossy bubbles, icons dont try to be shiny or 3D, and the Music app doesnt try to be a modernized jukebox. Everything seems to have a clean purpose.
The blurred transparent background of something like Notification Center is to indirectly tell the user the content you were just viewing is temporarily behind what youre viewing now. The parallax effect of your home screen wallpaper serves the same purpose to the icons. The gloss in Messages is replaced with a simple blue (or green) text background because the gloss was unnecessary eye candy. Tapping an icon now transitions to the app itself by zooming in directly from the icon to make clear what youre opening. The new software design principles put focus on content and functionality above all else, including how appealing and attractive everything might actually look.
Now I certainly dont want to give Apple all the credit here because I think its naive to deny it received any inspiration from competitors. However, contrary to popular belief, I think Apple drew more inspiration from Windows Phone than Android. Windows Phones UI has been "flat" since its start. Its also heavily text-based. Many parts of iOS 7s UI that once relied on buttons and shapes are now represented solely by text. Multitasking is nearly identical, too, although both iOS and Windows Phone owe their multitasking designs to Palms webOS. Im not accusing anyone of copying anyone here, but I do think some existing ideas are being built off of.
Not everything about iOS 7 is perfect though and it still does need work. Navigation buttons are sometimes too hard to see since they are often outlines rather than filled, some of the home screen icons are still mediocre to my eye, and theres some minor touching up needed throughout the OS. Im still not completely adjusted to the bright color palette, but I dont necessarily think its an ugly design choice just a different one; one some people including myself need to get adjusted to.
What Im even more interested in at this point is the future. How might iOS 7s fresh design influence the competition to potentially follow the trend Apple is setting? How will Apple eventually apply these design principles to the Mac with OS X? How might the competition solve some of the problems or critiques people have with iOS 7? These are all questions Im looking forward to having answers for.
For those of you who havent quite gotten used to iOS 7 yet, give it more time. Expect that Apple will incrementally improve on the design and UI in the coming months and years. Its not perfect, but iOS 7s simple yet purposeful intentions are worthy of admiration, an emotion that comes in time.