Some may say Android and Windows Phone are no longer lagging behind Apple’s iOS, and that iOS developers are taking cues from the others in terms of features/functionalities, turning into follower. Is the iOS still the most advanced OS in terms of functionality/design/experience? Is there anything more in the new iOS 7 than stripping of the skeuomorphic design and replacing it with flat design?
Another questions logically latches onto the previous one – Is demand for iPhone developers going down? Considering that the development community is the most important factor of the OS’ ecosystem (period) it become logical that once such questions emerged the entire concept of what iOS means to all of us will be shaken.
Source: Mobiloitte Insight Center
We wish that was the only thing. The launching of the seemingly innovative iPhone 5C turned out… well.. Not so innovative. The majority of the iOS community nodded their head ready to admit a possible disappointment. Check out this video:
Are some of you feeling nailed after this, or is it that these guys are master of deception?
Is the iOS really getting old? Is it really just trying to catch up with something which has already been there for quite some time already?
The answer is as easy as a paradox. The first thing you can be certain of is that Apple is working on something new. The second thing you can be certain of is that nobody expects Apple to be working on something new.
Let’s start with the most important factor in the equation –developers. Data show that developers remain pretty satisfied by what the iOS ecosystem can offer them. iOS developers were and still remain the highest financial beneficiaries from their mobile apps compared to the remaining major iOS with over $5.000 average monthly income from mobile apps and services.
Do we really understand what iOS 7 is all about?
Let’s highlight iOS growth timeline from the beginning
- iOS1.0 – first version. Revolutionary. Getting so many aspects right.
- iOS2.0 – Development API – allowing third party apps, which are compiled, and exploit Cocoa.
- iOS3.0 – The push notification is rolled out. Obviating the need for apps to perform polling. iPad “big screen” version.
- iOS4.0 – Apple rolls out a solution for multi-tasking which avoids the need to leave apps running un-necessarily in background.
- iOS5.0 – Has lots of under the hood changes to improve memory management. Siri. iOS cuts the cord. iCloud
- iOS6.0 – better maps
- iOS 7.0… new icons?
Indeed not many changes can be spotted by the common user. Or is it because we are spellbound by iOS’s, magical UI and we expect the same revolution on the surface with every new release without being aware what has changed under the hood. This indeed can shed light to the possible answer.
What has actually made iOS developers champions?
In all honesty, it is really the user experience and sleekness that iOS blew us all away with. However it is my personal opinion (many of my counterparts who are iOS user and developers would agree on this) that this has become the alfa and omega of the iOS experience.
However, the market has changed. Competing OS have become so much better at delivering smooth user experience on smartphone devices. Windows Phone 7 has become a champion of delivering smooth experience that feels different whit a very simple design. Google holds back each version of Android until they can optimize their services (Mail, calendar, search, etc.). Microsoft has Xbox, Office, partner relationships, etc. These can make a compelling alternative.
Lets talk a little bit about iOS7’s redesigned UI. It turns out that iPhone’s greatest pride has now turned into a major disappointment. Both normal users and power users complain on bad choice of icons which look like stuck between realms or opinions, screen which is too light, thin fonts that blends with the background and can become sometimes impossible to read, no contrast or shadows. As per the words of Boris Veldhuijzen Van Zanten, one of the founders of The Next Web magazine:
iOS 7 is flat, and although it is described as an interface where all the unnecessary design elements are gone, what we are left with is an interface that is less intuitive and doesn’t invite the user to touch and play around. It feels more like a well designed magazine that you’ll be afraid to touch because you might smudge the pages.
The menu is indiscernible from the app, it isn’t clear where the titles end and the body text starts. ‘Is that a button, just a text, and if it is a button, how wide is it?’ — I often felt like I was looking at a web interface with a missing CSS style sheet while I was browsing around on my iPad.
So is the iOS really stagnating?
Users may not be persuaded and impressed by the iBeacon and AirDrop. Design could definitely make Steve Job wishing he could wake up from the dead. Few features may be stagnating. But not the entire iOS.
Innovating for its own sake is a zero sum game. For example Palm’s WebOS was innovative but made no impact at all. Apple’s UI innovation turned out to be another fallen champion. Innovation is only good if it sells product and provides value to end users beyond just being the latest flash-bang no one will care about in a year. Apple seems to have different philosophy about how products should be developed and prefer focus over feature creep. This video explains it well:
In fact Apple has brought the real revolution with its new recommendation engine. Smartly, wisely proactive, rapidly reactive, based on real-time awareness of where we are, who we are with, what we are doing, and combined with the massive amounts of data contained within the smartphone and linked to us and the device, via the cloud, the recommendation engine, one that actually works and thinks, will alter, fundamentally, how we conduct our business, connect with our surroundings, interact with friends, integrate with information, databases, social media, search queries, and the near-infinite number and kind of computing resources and applications available.
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That would be a revolution. That would tear up the very notions of an ecosystem. The hardware, the local data, the cloud data, and the real-time *wisdom* from the recommendation engine, combined, would be its own (new) ecosystem. No notifications, as they are now meaningless. Search would be likewise irrelevant, with a device that knows what you seek before asking. The pieces to achieve this vision, with Apple at the core, are (falling) in place. Apple has the hardware, the smartphone operating system. Then comes Siri, the ‘voice search’ Apple integrated within the iPhone.
Only, it’s not simply voice search. Siri is a personal assistant technology. But, the potential for Siri was then, and is now, the ability to provide real-time, contextually relevant information, regardless of person, place or such mundane functions as notification settings. Siri knows, in theory, that you are with your date, where you are at, and suggests, possibly purchases on its own, two tickets for the next showing of whatever movie Siri knows you *both* will like, and for the appropriate time. Can you tell an app for that.”
The User Experience and the entire ecosystem with the App Store/developer model really set the iPhone/iPod/iPad apart. On the physical hardware side, Apple remains competitive and they have a huge lead in Apps which is what matters right now. I think if you were to evaluate the UI by itself, you would find it slightly aging compared to Windows Phone 7 and some of the Android based UIs.
What matters to you the most?
Would you try to comprehend the era Apple heralds on a level deeper than few app functionalities and bad UI? Or you want the good old adrenalin shot every time a new iOS arrives? Difficult one, I know since Apple and Steven Jobs main pride were the iPhone’s UI, a shining rod of art and design.
Share your thoughts with us.