Apple’s next-gen iOS needs exclusive, distinctive features, not just a flat UI

“There’s intense interest blooming around reports that Apple plans to revamp the look of iOS 7 with a flatter appearance,” Daniel Eran Dilger reports for AppleInsider. “But there’s more reason to believe that Apple is – or should be – focusing on features, not a radical new appearance.”

“Pundits like to say that iOS 6 is ‘boring,”‘ pointing out that little has changed in the iPhone’s general appearance since it arrived in 2007. This is essentially true; iOS on both the iPhone and iPad continues to serve as a rather plain springboard for apps, rather than lots of chrome that attracts undue attention to itself,” Dilger reports. “This tends to make any adornment at all (such as the use of leather accents, ragged paper skeumorphism and Game Center’s craps table background) a subject of attention, even though these accents are simply a minor graphic embellishment, not a radical shift in the user experience.”

Dilger reports, “In contrast, Apple’s competitors have all focused on completely revamping their mobile user interfaces, in large measure because iOS so clearly leaped ahead of the market at its launch… Beyond a focused face lift, what iOS really needs is exclusive features that make the iPhone and iPad more useful everyday. In large part, Apple has left this task to third party app developers, but Apple has some core apps that it needs to shore up with modern functionally. ”

Much more in the full article here.

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  1. So Apple can’t revamp the UI and provide new features at the same time? Why does it have to be either or? Plus 9to5Mac’s article claimed there would be new festures. And the guy who wrote the story said he had more coming. So it’s possible before WWDC we’ll hear what some of these features are. I can’t believe anyone would be dense enough to think Apple would hold a 4 day developer conference just to show off a revamped UI. Of course there will be new features for developers.

  2. Dilger doesn’t seem to identify what’s ‘missing’ – he just wants to be wowed.

    The CPU is powerful enough to run far more than it does simultaniously. So for my 2 cents the iOS has got to deelop cross app integration.

    1. Better yet, improve traffic information and the way it’s shown on maps. Currently it’s inaccurate and poorly displayed. Please Apple, fix that for those of us who do a lot of driving and need to figure out the best way to get from point A to point B!

      1. with John,

        if Apple is to seriously hit the auto-industry with Siri (hands free) navigation and messaging system – it needs also to improve Maps.

      1. Agreed – it worries me also.
        Apple does not need to appear a follower.

        10.8 brought us windows adjustable from all corners – as seen in Vista – Apples only adjustment was to refine the look – but its still copied in order to woo converters to OSX.

        The voice dictation microphone icon was added exactly in the same position on the iOS keyboard as Androids; when Siri came around.

        Lines are being blurred and Apple doesn’t need to follow anyone, Apple should always find a better way to implement improvements and avoid the look and feel of the competition.

        A UI that is flatter – will need to prove easier to use, more memorable of an experience – the intuitive Apple way.

        Also, if OSX and iOS are to be seamless to users, OSX must also become flat graphically. My take on Flattening is the compression of the two OSes a better unifying – similar looking inter face – flattened together but not that of Metro.

    1. its a great article – I’m not bashing it.

      iOS is not boring, it serves the purpose it was designed for perfectly. OSX lead the way and look for iOS, technology capabilities let Aqua set the table. Apple apps on iOS are still the worlds best mobile apps, Apple could greatly benefit from doing some house cleaning in iOS. A graphical unification on functionality and intuitive processes can be a focus better suited for both OSes. Apple needs to polish not re-invent.

  3. Since we don’t really know anything, better to wait for June 10th when Tim Cook and company announce or reveal what they really do have to offer. We could go on and on about if this, and if that. But really folks, that isn’t going to change anything.

  4. Some products do mature, reaching a point that is near-optimal, after which further tinkering with their design brings more frustration than convenience to their users. Aesthetic improvements can be good if they provide visual cues that enhance user interaction. While Mr. Jobs was in charge, Apple maintained an interest in delivering style as well as excellent technology and functional, intuitive design for the sake of the best user experience. I expect that will continue.

    1. @ LateRegistrant, I expect the sun will keep on rising from the West to the East unless we expect the best user experience, then it will keep rising from the East and set to the West!

  5. I don’t see the difference between the iOS, Windows, and Android UI. You poke at an icon of varying sizes on the screen and something happens. In that respect they are all as boring as a light switch. But if you think about it, getting that first light to go on was quite a trick.

    1. For me, Apples iOS is merely a directory of all apps in a grid layout seen as buttons – the home screen. The Apple iOS is the most easiest to use. And, proven over and over again by a range of age groups.

      Naturally the finger presses buttons – a process since the days of the typewriter or the days of touch tone phones.

      In comparison, the obvious difference Android offers is its application directory is created by the user with alias or short cuts to its home screen. Its far less direct, less honest, and this layer, allows other venders to display their set of buttons as desired.

      Android came second. Dangers mobile development steamed from Apple when Andy left. Has anyone posted and seen what Andy Rubins mobile OS looked like prior to Google buying Danger? Like the Google phone it was ugly and no different then other smartphones those days. Apple changed the world with iPhone.

      Swipe happy has been the innovation of the competitors. Top, bottom, left and right — but swiping is not intuitive – however once learned its powerful.

    1. Microsoft didn’t invent flat design. It’s been around a lot longer than Windows 8. People have totally lost the plot if they think iOS will now have live tiles ala Windows phone. People need to quick freaking out. The home button and grid of icons isn’t going anywhere.

  6. And no – polish does not mean adding eye candy – nor stripping out the technological capabilities iOS has with retro graphics of pong.

  7. All of this talk of “flat” vs. “skeuomorphic” never gets beyond skin deep.

    While one is a general appearance that describes a level of depth, sheen or glitz, the other describes the use of design concepts that heavily mimic real world physical items (such as books, calendars or even reel to reel audio systems).

    I guess I don’t see why they have to be mutually exclusive. What I expect Ive to do is parlay his amazing design aesthetics into software that accomplishes goals in extremely efficient and simple manners that do not rely on reminding people of physical things to know how they work.

    This could be accomplished with a “flat” appearance. It just as easily could be done in a way that still holds lots of depth and glitz but gets rid of the metaphors that were once very useful to users’ understanding of how software works but have, over the years, become very limiting.

    In essence, if Ive and his teams have performed well we will see some new ways of doing things that will lead to a bunch of the “aha!” moments we’ve all experienced from great Apple products over the last 30 years.

  8. An Operating System is at heart just that, a method to operate the system as unobtrusively as possibly. The best OSes do what they do without involving the user in minutia of control and setup. It should be identical from unit to unit, so multiple users can pick up a phone and not have to relearn someone’s quirky idea of an interface before basic functions can be accessed. . . a core failing with the fragmentation of Android. The OS is there to provide background for apps to run under. . . It is not an end in itself. Android loses sight of this. Apple iOS provides a framework for apps to be the best they can be. Apple provides native apps. It is in these that we want to see an improved UI and better appearance. What we want in the OS is under the hood, greater efficiency, faster speed with a given processor and graphic chip, more and better use of memory, better switching of apps, APIs that support interoperability between apps, synching to iCloud and other iDevices, sharing, data integration and translation, universal system resources, etc.

  9. this all interpretation sounds like copying android & windows OS to me. just take a look their OS. how they are simple! so apple can’t find alternative and revolutionary way to develop UI anymore? so I guess that Steve was a genius. Johnny is not even closed. I see that apple slowly seems to go down to ground.

  10. iOS should focus on improving user control & security in order to make itself a candidate to be a “digital wallet” and forget about a “flat” GUI altogether. The phones already have the hardware to deliver stunning graphics, “flattening” anything would be wasted effort to accomplish nothing. Proving to users that the platform is more secure than Fort Knox, however, would be the coup required for a critical mass of users to stop carrying around plastic credit cards — and vendors to stop cowtowing to the demands of the expensive credit-issuing banks.

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