From The Verge
Six years after creating a product category and teaching the world how to use it, Apple’s mobile operating system now exists in a world full of people who understand how to use it (and devices like it). Moving forward, iOS has the difficult task of adapting to this new world from a position of strength in the old one.
To be more clear, I’m not broadly arguing against instructive interface design here. Just trying to note that a lot of the criticism aimed at iOS’s current design trends seems to be oddly disconnected from the praise that was heaped onto those same design trends just a few years back.
I don’t dispute that iOS can be improved. It can. And I believe it will. We are at just the start of the mobile revolution. It may seem long in the tooth because it has been almost six years since the iPhone and it may seem like we are moving towards the next revolution soon–but we are not. Sure, it will come eventually, but remember, desktops took off in the 1980s. Mobile devices truly started taking off in the later part of the 2000s–about 20 years past between those computer revolutions. We can’t expect the same in six years.
So what about iOS? Does it have to be redesigned to stay pertinent? Well, seeing how many people buy iOS devices each quarter, I tend to think not. And people who expect iOS 7 to bring a complete redesign are going to be disappointed and write the “THIS TIME WE KNOW IT WILL REALLY HAPPEN APPLE IS DOOMED PLEASE BELIEVE US THIS TIME THE OTHER NINE TIMES WE HAVE SAID THAT IN THE PAST TWO YEARS WERE JUST MADE UP PLEASE BELIEVE US THIS TIME” articles. Apple hasn’t ever done that and I can say with absolute confidence that they won’t. I mean, never underestimate Apple, but a expecting a complete redesign is very silly. Remember, the overall look of OS X hasn’t changed much since 10.0 (thanks Mark!). And frankly, the look of the Mac OS hasn’t changed in terms of basic layout all that much since 1984. Apple has never fixed what wasn’t broken. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It is easy to get bubbled into the technology world where people think that iOS is stale and that Windows Phone is the best thing ever because it has a new look and appears to be fresh (more on this below). However, if you step out of the technology world, Apple devices are used everywhere and are loved by most users. The apps keep the platform fresh. Without apps, the iPad and iPhone would be boring. Everyday, a new cool app comes out with a unique interface and great features. This keeps iOS alive. Looking at iOS on a purely “is the OS different” level is a shallow level of thought. Apple is always tweaking the look of iOS (new music app, tinted status bars, non glossy toolbars and navigation bars, etc.) because what they already have is so solid design wise. I believe Apple will continue to slowly tweak the look as necessary but I think they believe a complete redesign would be foolish.
The article above touches on something that has bothered me for a while.
Just trying to note that a lot of the criticism aimed at iOS’s current design trends seems to be oddly disconnected from the praise that was heaped onto those same design trends just a few years back.
This is something I have noticed as well. A lot of people in the technology world have said, mostly since Steve Jobs died (though people also said it before he died), that Apple has lost all innovation and they have nowhere to go. This is because while Microsoft and Google completely redesigned their operating systems, Apple hasn’t. And iOS 6 certainly brought fewer features than iOS 5 (though I credit this to the tremendous amount of work building an entire maps application takes). Apple’s iOS suddenly feels old compared to these newer designs, which are using more of a flat design. People have complained about skeuomorphism (and heavily misused that word) in iOS and have praised the flatness of Windows Phone. My view is this: don’t conform to a single style. Do what works best for your app or website. In version 2.0 of my website project, I am mixing styles because it enhances the reading experience (which is what I want to do). Anyway, back to the main issue. This perceived oldness has led to complaints. “Windows Phone is better!” people in the industry cry. Yet that hasn’t translated to sales. Surely consumers pick the best option, right? The problem with these new designs is that they are empty and the applications don’t differentiate themselves. So reviews of Windows 8 have been mostly poor. It is harder to use than iOS. And that is what matters in the end. People think that design changes equal innovation. I think constantly redesigning your interfaces shows a spinning of the wheels and a lack of innovation. Android has been redesigned now so many times (not including vendor skins). It may make it seem newer, but it also is harder to use for that reason.
Apple doesn’t have an innovation problem, they have a perception problem in the technology world and I don’t think anything will change that until Apple does their next big product (which could take years). Then we will enjoy a two-year period where people praise it and then we will go back to the ‘lack of innovation’ stories. Like always. It never ends. The cycle continues.