Thought Chasm these posts, while infrequent and poorly thought out, are also not all that complex, structurally.

a whole new OS has to be simple, right

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I’m beholden to my vast investors to keep everyone informed of my own opinions, so let’s talk iOS. First: I like it, I didn’t like major parts of the previous style, and know my feedback is as valuable as it will be heeded–all important to know right off.

Good

Mostly everything is much improved and, in most cases, it feels faster. That’s maybe more an impression than reality, but it’s something. The paradigms are more consistent, if still loaded with quite a few “this is the best” decisions that maybe won’t work for everyone.

The date selector in Reminders, for instance, which should be the new default, is delightful. Sure, swapping the AM for the PM sometimes takes a bit of ritual chanting, but it’s still worth it.

The Z-axis is much stronger as a design element. Here’s to initial expectations. It made no sense. Consider these:

  1. underworld, in linen
  2. background
  3. icons
  4. apps
  5. controls, linen again

The system tray at the bottom was below the background, the notification panel would come down over the icons or apps (4), and folders split the home screen open to show icons below, all with the same background. You may not have noticed; it was aggressively horrible.

Now it sort of makes sense. The layers are more like this:

  1. background
  2. icons
  3. folders
  4. apps
  5. controls

Most actions jump you up or down a level. Notification and Control Center panels are both over everything (including the multitasking). If you keep the parallax effect on, your icons appear to float over your background. The multitasking action seems to slide in as a birds-eye view of layer 4 (call it 4.5), wherein you can control that layer quickly.

Bad

Like in most things, Apple went sort of all-out with this stuff and it expresses itself with a few issues. My hunch is they’ll come back to refine these.

They’ve given users a ton of information and controls on the lock screen. Also, the whole screen now swipes to unlock. Or just the icon as a shortcut into an app. Or on a volume slider for your playback. It’s from nothing to everything, which can be problematic. Control Center is a jumble of options, contrasting the pleasantly stark Notification Center.

Gestures are intense. They’re mostly great for getting around. But I’ve also killed apps on accident from the multitasking pane and tend to accidentally bring down Spotlight. Mostly they’re intuitive, but they still seem to have a hair trigger.

I’ve reduced the motion (Settings > Accessibility > Reduce Motion) on both the phone and iPad, not because they’re making me nauseous, but because they seem superfluous. I like my battery more than I like swoops and dancing backgrounds.

Speaking of the iPad, closing apps with the five-finger gesture is terrible. It’s jumpy. Also, elements generally feel like a port of iPhone rather than native design[1].

I’m starting to get used to it, but the animations are a mixed bag. The phone feels faster but, because of the animations, in certain interactions it looks slower. That’s not ideal, obviously, because my “getting used to it” is just my coming to terms with how long everything takes to happen. The animations may be faster on the 5S, but that’s not really the point, right?

Ugly [2]

Those icons though! They are inconsistent, sort of stabby in the eyes, and just unfinished. I talked about them a bit and they haven’t improved. Maybe that’s because Apple haven’t had time, maybe that’s because they think they nailed it with the current set, or maybe that’s because they had all that marketing money sunk into the visuals. Whatever the case, I’ll probably get used to them but a week hasn’t been enough.

And then Control Center again: I really like the ability to adjust settings rapidly and really dislike looking at that thing. Everything’s so compressed and there is just so much that it’s hard to accept they’ve finished this. It’s just ugly in too many ways.

Lastly, for a style shift so impressively in the direction of typography, it’s amazing how inconsistent the typography is. Capital-case, font weight, text alignment, use of icons or text: all are unfinished and just a bit off. It’s not enough that many will notice, and it doesn’t hurt the core experience, but it gives the impression of rushed execution that Apple isn’t necessarily known for.

End

The entire UI was updated; that’s a massive undertaking. It took them less than a year. All told, that’s pretty amazing. Apps, like Reminders for instance, appear to have fallen through the cracks or been assigned to the B Team.

Overall, it shows a shift toward logical and intuitive design. The previous UI was intuitive, but had to rely on archaic metaphors for hints. This one uses depth and gestures to reach the same level of familiarity. It’ll take a bit for people to catch up to that.

I’d recommend this update to anyone, save for those on old phones or pads. An update, hopefully one with iBooks updates, should come with the iPad announcement. That could bring some backward compatibility improvements and maybe a few tweaks. If you’re on an iPhone 4 and iPad 2, maybe wait for those.

For all its gaps and inconsistencies, it’s a clear jump into a more modern UI. Flat is the wrong word for it. Some of the elements are trendy, yes, and maybe they should get away from that, but it’s really a shift toward depth and interaction that should be fun and entertaining for designers and users for, say, five more years. Maybe three.


  1. This is on the iPad 4, mind you, so it’s not like I’m jacked that my iPad 2 doesn’t run like it did thirty years ago when I bought the refurb.  ↩

  2. See what I did there? I made that up.  ↩

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