The design of iOS 7: Simply confusing?

“What I saw today at Apple’s annual WWDC event in the new iOS 7 was a radical departure from the previous design of the company’s operating system — what CEO Tim Cook called ‘a stunning new user interface,'” Joshua Topolsky writes for The Verge. “But whether this new design is actually good design, well, that’s a different story entirely.”

“Apple did indeed tout a completely rethought mobile OS, one which isn’t technically a great distance from its predecessor but is an incredible deviation on design. Gone are lush, skeuomorphic objects, dials, and textures (in fact, Apple took several potshots at itself about the faux-felt and wood textures of the iOS of yesteryear),” Topolsky writes. “Instead, they have been replaced with stark, largely white and open app spaces; colorful, almost childlike icons; pencil thin, abstract controls for settings. New, Gaussian blur-transparency layers slide over your content, creating thick smears of soft color; notifications and other incidental information float above your work area on semi-translucent panels. The icons are striking to see, and they’re the first sign that there are points of confusion and even missteps in Apple’s new approach.”

Topolsky writes, “But it’s not all a loss, or a miss. In fact, there are some extremely beautiful aspects of iOS 7 — aspects that lead me to believe that the raw materials for a more cohesive and useful OS are there, if perhaps a little buried. The typography in the majority of the apps is gorgeous, leaning heavily on Helvetica Neue and putting an emphasis on bigger, more readable type. App redesigns from the Calendar to the Camera introduce welcome changes. A new multitasker finally gets it right with what amounts to a carbon copy of the webOS card methodology. Little changes like the subtle, gyroscope-responsive parallax wallpapers, the ability to open notifications and controls on your lockscreen, and the new back gesture within apps show that Apple is still invested in the tiniest details.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We’ve been using iOS 7 for a day now and, yes, believe it or not, we had to learn some new things, but, even in its beta state, iOS 7 is hardly “confusing.”

In fact, as iOS 7 users, “confusing” is not among the words that spring to mind today; these are: Potential, clarity, useful, easier, and new.

Also of note: Use iOS 7 even for a minute and it becomes abundantly clear that it’s been designed for Retina displays. Use it for a day and then pick up the same model iPhone running iOS 6 and it looks and feels old.


    1. I think tech writers feel the need these days to go into an article with snark and derision just to prove their street cred. They believe that the label of “fanboy” is the kiss of death and work very hard to prove that they can find something they don’t like in just about anything. This article could have just as easily began with all the positives, followed by the few concerns or dislikes he had. Instead it’s “boy, I don’t know about this…could be a disaster…hmm, hah… but maybe there are a few good things to like”, when the good stuff he like far outweighs the dislikes. Sad.

      1. More likely that some of them receive compensation of some type for putting the FUD out there, before the product is officially released.

        With this release (for iPhone and iPod touch), Apple consolidates the user base on A4 or later and the Retina Display. In terms of iOS advancement, I’m sure not having to accommodate the iPhone 3gs is a very good thing. It also explains why that new iPod touch was released, just before WWDC. It’s an ideal “tester” for developers.

      2. Question for you, Spark…

        I am a graphic designer, and I have not yet used iOS7.

        From watching the demos yesterday, and checking out demos on today, it seems to me that a minimal effort was taken to define separate elements of the interface. Things like headers and icons blend in with the rest of the content, which makes the eye search for key elements. This is particularly apparent to me on the Control Center screen, where all of the elements seem to merge into a single, undefined block. Buttons in particular lose their precedence.

        So… my question: Is this the case with you?

        I am excited about many of the design changes, and I hope that I will quickly adapt to the new direction of iOS.

        1. But then you learn them, right? If I’m using something 96 times a day every single day do I need the separateness to yell and smack me in the head every time? See, that’s the difference here, the restart. The old/current system yells to explain. The new one just gets out of the way.

  1. I’ve had it on my iPhone 4S overnight. I think it is stunning. It’s an upgrade that all but the most cynical will welcome. It’s easy to see one icon or one page from new iOS7 and poke fun at it. But when you see the new look and actions across the whole interface it is really impressive.

  2. I have been playing with iOS 7 for about 12 hours now. It’s beautiful. I thought I would miss the skumorphic design but I think what was displayed at the presentation was a great improvement and actually using it I still agree that everything that was shown was as well as it did or better. I am not disappointed and my apps will be written only for iOS 7 and newer.

      1. Yeah it breaks a few notable ones… Clear, eBay and even Apple’s own Podcasts are useless.
        The camera app is also gimped (IMHO) with the camera button keyed to touch down instead of the traditional touch up inside.
        Mind you it is a beta.

  3. Agree 100% with the MDN take. iOS7 is not at all “confusing”.

    I was amazed at how the Retina display was brought to life by iOS7. This is another one of those instances where you don’t TRULY notice it until you compare it to the previous version. When I looked at one of our other iPhone 5s that is still running iOS6 after using iOS7 for a while, it was amazing how much better iOS7 both looks and feels.

    1. okay, well until i use it let me ask this to those who have:

      is iOS7 more intuitive?
      is iOS7 easier than iOS6 or 5 or 4?

      i see more words and less icons,
      and I see windows influencing

      deny or defend that

      1. What’s to defend…everything…and I mean everything, is derivative anyway. WP8 can’t claim to own ‘modern’ and the basic functionally is common to all phones.
        More intuitive? Wrong depends on the user and their level of familiarity. Still intuitive? Yes
        Easier? Same answer…but it’s certainly more convenient to have instant access to settings.
        My observations. Gorgeous. Use in full sun is much better – the 3D’ish effect brings icons and text into bright contrast in whatever light you are in. Very fluid on a 4S so the 5 and 5S/6 will be even better.
        It’s broken ROI navigation app, the early Angry Birds app and my London Underground app but most other stuff is ok. eBay works for me but hangs a bit. BBC iPlayer crashes on occasion.
        Compared with ios6, the dullness has disappeared. No way would I go back.
        Reference complaints about icons being less discernable…the wallpaper you use is important – mid tones are best and easier on the eye.

  4. Confusing his attachment to” rich textures” for confusion. Ios7 maintains a great blend of intuitive function and modern appearance. It looks sleek and the improvements are common sense if you are an iOS user. If you use android, well, why would you even care what the iPhone does. Unless, of course, you are insecure about the iPhone. Hmmmm…..

  5. Apple finally aped the webOS Cards system and I couldn’t be happier . I’ve wanted that for years, since I first saw the Palm Pre in action (and got blasted around here for inferring its superiority to the clunky app tray). iOS will be so much better with the new multi-tasking system.

    1. Count me in as another who used to get harassed for saying that webOS did a LOT of things right.

      I’m already loving the new “webOSish” multitasking.

    1. I agree with too much white, but that is really my only complaint. I think the rest of the elements work so well that I will be able to get used to the white.

    2. I’m concerned how all the white, bright colors will impact battery life. I’m making the assumption that darker muted screen conserves battery by requiring less from the screen. I’ll defer my opinion of the aesthetics until I can use it hands on.

      I did LOVE how the icons moved on the desktop wallpaper as the phone was moved!

      1. I may be wrong, but I do not believe the colors on the screen have any effect on screen/battery life, because the colors don’t affect screen brightness. The screen brightness setting affects screen brightness, and thus battery/screen life.

        Anyone have a qualified tech answer on this concern?

        1. Apple uses screens with LED backlights, which means that it does not matter how big screen area is light or dark, power consumption remains the same.

          If Apple will switch to OLED technology, then palette will take major role. OLED is energy effective only if equivalent white area of the screen is not bigger than about 20% of its size. White backgrounds kill “Samsung Galaxy S” phones.

  6. This article’s sentiment about Apple is greatly attributed to the tireless work of Samsung’s and Google’s social engineering marketers jumping on anyone that mentioned Apple on any popular tech website’s forums for the last few years. They’re just organized, well-paid bullies.

    1. I beg to differ. Not that I wish to defend the honor of Google and Samsung, what little they possess, but because I think it would’ve went down this way regardless. Apple with its insular ways will never be the kid on the block with all the friends. All they have is each other and their loyal fans.

      1. I think you are both right. I confronted one of Googles blog bunnies on twitter after he made some stupid comment like ‘I’m a Fanboy’ but Google are really kicking Apple’s ass of late’. So I asked in what way and never got a constructive reply then when I pressed he actually caused me of being aggressive. These people don’t even feel the need to back up their outlandish comments they feel people are such sheep.

  7. I’ve never really regarded Joshua as a design guru to know what is good design.

    But that aside, we all wish that elaborate new products can drop out of they sky fully realized, but rarely does that happen. Missing bells and whistles will be added down the road. We were after all looking at a beta version 1.

    I’m so far impressed by what Apple’s development team have come up with, and the level of collaboration that seems to be happening. I also think it bodes well for the future, as this keynote really felt “post Steve Jobs”.

  8. The “confusing” meme is apparently picking up steam. It is really a stretch.

    I clicked through to read the article and his reasoning is even worse than I thought. He is actually claiming that because some icons got a full makeover, people will be “confused”. Because they are illiterate? The name of the app is still present, after all.

    Then apparently Control Center is confusing because several types of functions are there. The words he uses are “odd” and “jarring”. That’s odd and jarring because when I saw Control Center I though, “great that I can use a single swipe to get at many common controls”.

    These seem like manufactured complaints more than actual issues.

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