It’s been almost a year, but Apple’s management shakeup last fall has finally paid off. At their annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in California yesterday, among a string of interesting announcements, Apple unveiled the highly anticipated iOS 7, the software that powers their iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. But this was more than a software update for Apple – it was a complete transformation of design and functionality for the company in the post Steve Jobs era.
iOS 7 has been completely redesigned with a flat and simple look. For some of the apps, they’re barely recognizable if Apple software had it not been wrapped in an iPhone. Stealing some pages from Microsoft’s WIndows Phone and even Google’s Android, the new flat design is carried throughout the OS and into every app, creating a unified experience, which is something that Apple does superior to the competition. However, many of the new features, such as Control Center, come directly from Android and have been on that platform for some time.
When Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPhone in 2007, he said the design was intended to mimic the real world – skeuomorphic – to create a sense of familiarity for the user. That’s why the calendar app included leather stitching and notes looked like a yellow notepad. In 2007, there was nothing like iPhone on the market, so it made sense to make users comfortable and connect them to familiarity. It worked. Over 600 million iOS devices have been sold since iPhone launched. In the past two years, however, the competition showed what else could be done and many believed Apple had lost its magic. Familiarity had turned into a dated design, although it was still the easiest to use and understand.
The attention Apple puts on design is what sets them apart from the competition. It’s an art, not a science. Design focuses on the experience and getting the software out of your way so the user can focus on what’s important (content, texting, etc.). Everything molds together in a way that’s absent in the existing iOS 6. This is noticeable in the design layers and how the foreground and background graphics appear; it’s unobtrusive.
Looking at the bigger picture, iOS 7 shows what Apple as a company is about and where their focus is: the emotional connection with the user and their experience with the product. It’s seen in their marketing (especially their new TV advertisement) and it’s something that doesn’t have a price; the emotional connection is intangible and it’s what Steve Jobs was able to perfect. It’s why you have Apple loyalists camping out when new products are released – marketing doesn’t do that, experience does.
iOS 7 brings new competition to the competitive smartphone market. Once downloaded (I’ve been testing it all day), it feels as if you have a new device, thus a new experience. Apple’s simplicity defines their brand. After all, “simplicity is quite complicated.”
Bonus: Check out Apple’s new “Our Signature” TV advertisement and their “Designed by Apple – Intention”
“If everyone is busy making everything, how can anyone perfect anything? We start to confuse convenience with joy, abundance with choice. Designing something requires focus. The first thing we ask is: What do we want people to feel? Delight. Surprise. Love. Connection. Then we begin to craft around our intention. It takes time… There are a thousand no’s for every yes. We simplify. We perfect. We start over. Until everything we touch enhances each life it touches. Only then do we sign our work: Designed by Apple in California.”