Option-click Restore. Find and choose the iOS 7 IPSW. Install. My iPhone 5 brings me through a very quick set-up process, then I come to a screen that says “Welcome to iPhone” with the text “OK” underneath. It’s just thin, black text on a white background and nothing more. I guess “OK” is a button. I tapped it and entered the very new world of iOS 7.
From a design perspective, iOS 7 makes a very bad first impression. The default wallpaper is simple periwinkle with a darker gradient at the bottom and tiny, scattered dots. On top of that (or perhaps pasted onto, since there’s no more drop shadows) are the icons. They are absolutely hideous and inconsistent. The Next Web recently revealed that Jony Ive put the marketing team in charge of designing the icons and it shows. The horrible gradients combined with neon colors and that baby girl’s room wallpaper all look like Jony Ive puked rainbows onto the home screen.
Okay, but the icons are forgivable because I find it hard to believe they won’t be updated in time for iOS 7’s public release in the fall. Start tapping some of those icons and you fully realize you have stepped into a new era of iOS. All skeuomorphism is gone, for better or for worse, and everything now looks very white and flat. For the most part, the clear design of a button is missing because Apple assumes you’ve grown up and you know when text is meant to be tappable. That’s a fair assumption I think because while it’s a fresh coat of paint, everything is where you’d expect it to be for the most part. That’ll be very important down the road.
The experience is pretty solid for a beta. Stable or not, unfinished or finished, it’s extremely clear the direction Apple is aiming for. The UI is distraction-free with some polished new animations that make sense during usage and frosted glass overlays to depict hierarchy of elements. Speaking of which, you probably won’t see that frosted glass anywhere more than in Notification Center and the new Control Center,
two features I highly enjoy in iOS 7. There’s more breathing room in Notification Center now and the new “Today” and “Missed” views are welcome additions. On the other hand, some have complained that Control Center is an unorganized box of random controls. I disagree. I don’t think it’s unorganized and perhaps it is a bit random but I wouldn’t expect anything less. It’s not a primary UI aspect because all the controls are just shortcuts. I like shortcuts.
On the topic of shortcuts, iOS 7’s new multitasking is nice. I like seeing a thumbnail view of the apps themselves. Pro tip: dragging your finger slightly can let you position two app windows for viewing side by side. Yes, it steals from webOS and Windows Phone, but stealing is hip nowadays.
The Camera, for instance, takes multiple cues from Instagram. You can take square photos now (in addition to regular, panorama, and video modes) and apply one of eight filters. I’m utterly convinced that no one would give a shit about photo filters if Instagram didn’t make them popular. The Collections and Moments features in the new Photos app aren’t as smart as they look, by the way. They improve organization, but need work. I’d like to be able to rename them, for example.
There are other improvements and new features of course, but I don’t want to make this a full review of iOS 7 because it is very ripe for change. Though the design language will be similar for release, I don’t anticipate the actual design itself will be the same. There’s plenty of work to be done. Plus, since this is just a beta, there are obvious bugs and some apps just flat-out don’t function at the moment.
The new design does take some getting used to, but I think most people will grow to like its simple nature, or at least appreciate it. I do have a few gripes: the home screen icons, overly bright color schemes in apps (see Messages), the contrast of a very white UI on a black iPhone, and design inconsistencies throughout the OS. These can all be rectified in time for the fall though.
Make no mistake that while iOS 7 may look quite new at first, it is the same operating system from Apple you’ve come to love. It’s familiar, yet unfamiliar at the same time. It’s the iOS 7 for grown-ups
stripped away of gloss, physical buttons, and relatable skeuomorphism. Instead, you are left with Jony Ive’s obvious love of simplicity with a touch of elegance. I’ve found that the new features are far from gimmicky and usually quite useful, too. Your first impression of iOS 7 might not be one of total embrace, but that will come in time.