NPR: iOS 7 marks a radical change
Apple has announced a press event on September 10, with many expecting a roll out of the cryptic iPhone 5C, the less cryptic iPhone 5S, and the almost familiar by now iOS 7. There has been a lot of talk about iOS 7 that has been negative, especially concerning its compatibility with current apps, but definitely a lot that is good as well. Much has been made about the overall design of iOS 7, it’s flattened and simplified look, improved visuals and animations, and so on.
This isn’t just all eye candy though. NPR’s All Tech Considered reported on how iOS 7 will completely change how users think about using their devices and apps.
The metaphor of the old iPhone operating system was that the phone combined all kinds of physical objects into one handy gadget in your pocket. Open up Notes and there was a pad of yellow, lined paper; the voice recorder featured an old-timey analog microphone; when the camera app opened, an animated mechanical shutter did as well; the Game Center even had green felt texturing.The usefulness of these metaphors is obvious; they tell the user what to do — a yellow notepad is for taking notes.
But the physical metaphors went deeper, all the way to the lowest level of the phone’s functioning. For example, something you may not have noticed: If you look at the buttons on the keyboard you’ll see that they are very subtly three-dimensional. They even cast a shadow that you can see, if you look closely. And they’re rendered with a fictional light source that hangs above the gadget itself.
In the forthcoming operating system, almost all of these metaphors are gone. The calendar app, for example, is all white and gray, with simple red dots to mark appointments. And instead of paging through days — as you would in a calendar book — the app feels like sliding around within an infinite calendar. The organization feels spatial, as if you had an enormous, zoomable wall calendar, but there is no real physical analog to how the calendar app works. It’s native to the digital environment.
So basically, Apple is cutting ties with our physical world in favor of a world of its own creation.
Considering that this update will be rolled out simultaneously on millions of devices (NPR states over 500 million) this may be a touchstone in the lives of users who worship the ground Jony Ives walks on. Users can opt-out of the update, but only at the cost of constant nagging from their i-things. And once you’ve upgraded there’s no going back. Chances are that iOS will be well received though. Apple is counting on users not just accepting but anticipating the upgrade to a degree that they can’t wait to update and try things out.