WWDC – iOS 7 impressions

by davidnielsen

The most anticipated announcement of the WWDC keynote was without doubt iOS 7.

I expected there to be few new features due to the Forstall to Ive transition and boy was I wrong. Not only did iOS get a modern visual makeover but it added 1500 new APIs for developers to leverage and great new functionality such as easy data sharing via AirDrop between devices supporting it (which apparently does not include my 3. generation iPad, something I can’t really see a technical reason is the case).

The iOS 7 user experience

The best way to get an idea of the new style is to go to Apple’s iOS 7 page which has a gallery showing off the new style and the redesigned core applications, as well as a video of Sir Jonathan Ive explaining the philosophy behind the design of iOS 7.

John Gruber also has nice write up of how to think about the new style on Daring Fireballs which is highly recommended.

What iOS has gained with the interface update in my mind is a modern slick style and a consistent visual design language. It clearly draws inspiration from the flatter, simpler look that Microsoft pioneered with Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8, but also from OS X, WebOS and even some concepts from Android. If you like the way games like Letterpress look then I think you will enjoy what iOS 7 brings to the table.

It already visually speaking feels very complete which is amazing given the amount of time that has been available to redesign and develop iOS 7. I would not have expected them to have implemented such broad changes, adapting the core applications. Not only did they do that but they added a lot of new features and polish in the process.

I like iOS 7 a lot, it is obviously still an early design and we will see spit and polish being applied between now and its public release this fall. Apple clearly have not had time to fully consider deeper application changes in how things will work rather than what they will look like, what Ive tends to call the essence. However they have the fully formulated language to express those changes in now and they have taken the first major step down that road.

iOS 7 appears new, yet still familiar, meaning users will not have to relearn how to use their devices from scratch once they install the update but it will feel like they got a new device in so many ways. I think Apple has struck a good balance that will not scare existing users and still feels very fresh which will help with adoption. It certainly is not as polarizing as some people feared.

The big question is how many developers will be able to redesign their applications to fit visually into the new interface before this fall brings it to users. I expect that the first year or so will be encumbered by applications that will not visually fit in, especially free applications which tend to lack the resources and incentives to perform such big tasks.

The new design will likely to force a lot of developers to either keep separate versions for compatibility with non-iOS 7 or dump anything older than iOS 7 from their support list. It is a big change to adapt to and it seems impossible to create a single application that visually fits into both iOS 7 and older iOS releases. I think we will see developers will use this as an excuse to drop support for non-iOS 7.

Being able to rely on a certain level of hardware and on certain technologies being present will make for more elegant, less buggy applications with better performance, at least that is my expectation and hope. It is a big amount of work and updates to these, which realistically speaking will be completely new applications will likely be paid to recoup the costs involved.

iOS 7 is going to be a clean break, it is going to be some what painful at first, especially for developers who will have to scramble to adapt. That being said I think it is about time it was done and the new design language will serve both developers and users well for many years to come by providing a consistent guideline for developers to make beautifully simply application. Applications that leverage what modern hardware can do and which will work to the limits of what your device can do, not the limits set by the physical items from whence they came once upon a time.

I, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on iOS 7, I think you will like it when it arrives and wish my developer friends a good time exploring what it can do over the couple of months so they can bring us truly awesome applications to compliment the new world of iOS 7.