On Monday, Apple announced iOS 7, the latest version of their mobile operating system. The most striking change is the new style of the interface. Instead of buttons that look 3D and textures that mimic real life objects, the interface is now flattened out and full of pastel colors. It looks new and fresh, which puts Apple on equal footing with the great work coming out of Microsoft and Google.
However, the new look is far from perfect. Some of the icon designs border on terrible and too much of the type is too thin for decent legibility. Apple will likely improve aspects of this new look over the coming months and years. OS X was similarly garish when it was first released, but now it’s more muted and tasteful.
Apple also made welcome interface tweaks, including a revamped Notification Center and multitasking interface. I’m particularly happy that they added a quick access panel called Control Center for toggling the WiFi and Bluetooth radios. I fiddle with those settings a lot when I’m travelling and it will be nice not having to dig into the Settings app.
Even with the slew of nice new features, there are still some big omissions holding iOS back. Apps have no great way to communicate directly with each other1. More annoyingly, you can’t register third party apps as the default for web browsing, emailing, or navigation. Many of Apple’s default apps are simply not best in class2, and users should have the freedom to pick from the vast number of alternatives on the App Store. Unfortunately, I doubt these features will be added at least until iOS 8 is announced at next year’s WWDC.
Apple Maps is a perfect example. Google Maps is superior to Apple Maps for many people (especially those of us that use public transportation). Yet we can’t have the system route mapping requests to Google’s superior app. ↩