iOS 7: A World of Difference

iOS 7 represents the biggest change (visual and otherwise) from the OS that changed the computing landscape six years ago. Most of the skeumorphic traits are lost and replaced by something else. What is iOS 7 presenting to users? And how does it differ from iOS 6?

iOS 6

Previous versions of iOS, up to iOS 6, were a digital representation of our world. In there, you could find switches, buttons, rich corinthian leather textures, shadows, and pretty much whatever great developers were able to code for it. With each iteration of the OS and the advancements in hardware, these representations got better, or more accurate if you wish. Turning pages like in a book became possible, and retina screens glued closer to the glass made the impression of richer textures “being there”, right at our fingertips.

This served a great purpose. It helped people get familiar with an otherwise new UI. Understanding the conventions was easy, as they are a representation of the same rules of our world. This path probably wasn’t a dead end, and having an even more accurate representation of the real world could have been achieved as well, but is it really what we want to be looking at in 5 years? Just look at all the futuristic UIs we’ve seen in movies. Does any of these look like an accurate representation of the world? Then why our futuristic devices should look like one?

iOS 7 World

iOS 7 changes all of that. Instead of a representation of our world, it presents users with its own world. A world where overlapping views blur what’s behind them, and where things obey the rules of gravity.

It’s not trying to imitate our world, but instead is building on new conventions. A futuristic world, where our apps will live in.

The amazing thing is how iOS 7 pulls this off while maintaining familiarity for the users1. I believe this is achieved by a few things:

  • The conventions that have been built from iOS 1 through 6 are preserved. Navigation bars work mostly the same, toolbars, scrollbars, tables, etc. Even if they don’t look exactly the same, they are similar enough.
  • The iOS 7 world rules are the same ones (or very similar to) than those in our world. If we lift something up and drop it, we expect it to fall. Try the same in iOS 7, and you’d get the same result. This familiarity helps introduce users to a new world, in the same way virtual worlds in games work for its players.
  • The way iOS 7 reacts to motion is similar to how you’d expect real objects in to react. In this way your device becomes more realistic, in harmony with its sorroundings.

A great future ahead

With iOS 7, as it did in 2007 with the original iPhone, Apple is again pushing the boundaries on what a device that fits in your pocket can do. Now we’ll have devices that not only have a world of their own, but that interact with their sorroundings. I can’t wait to see the evolution of iOS 7. If you look backwards from iOS 1 to iOS 6, the incremental updates made it better every year by building on top of the same conventions created for the original iPhone. With the foundation iOS 7 is laying, I can’t wait to see the upcoming versions of the OS and apps that leverage this new world.

  1. I only installed iOS 7 on daily use iPhone with beta 3. Never once have I felt out of place or lacking familiarity. I understand I’m a developer, so maybe I was more prepared on what to expect, but I believe the same will happen for every user.