My Corner of the ‘Net

iOS 7: Not as bad as you think

Posted on | March 20, 2014 | No Comments

Never have I seen a mobile operating system upgrade quite so reviled as iOS7.

Perhaps our attachment to the old OS comes from the fact that we’ve all become so accustomed to it, the way Apple’s mobile operating system has become a familiar, comforting sight as we use our phone in our day to day life. Maybe it’s because of the stories that have been told about the two-dimensional icons, and the full-screen motion transitions bringing about Cloverfield-esque cases of motion sickness.

The result was most people not only tried to resist updating for as long as they could, they even tried to downgrade their phones after installing the new OS. They hate the new “flat” icons, missed their old control center, and desperately wanted to once again be able to swipe horizontally through their many Safari windows. And if you have an iPhone 4? Yeah, you’re going to be dealing with some slowdown issues with the new OS on your older hardware.

But what so many people seemed to be missing is that what we miss about the old phone is just that, old. Nostalgia is a potent thing, making someone miss the familiar and desperately want it back because we were used to it. Like a well-worn easy chair or a favorite car, it is hard to dispense with those treasured things. But like the stitched leather interface and the photo-realistic microphone on the recording app, it was time to move on and embrace the future.

The difference is subtle, but potent...

The difference is subtle, but potent… (Courtesy of Extremetech.com)

I myself was resistant to upgrading to iOS 7, until a calamitous incident involving Applecare, my iPhone 5, and a corrupt iTunes backup file left me no choice. After installing it, one of the first things I used the OS for was to search for a way to uninstall it. Especially because that I too, even as an avid FPS gamer, succumbed to the nausea of the new transition screen motions. I also  missed my old weather report in the drop-down dashboard, disliked the new Rolodex-like array of Safari windows, and lamented over the loss of my drop-shadowed app icons.

Ignoring the futility of avoiding the future (it’s not like iOS 8 was going to be a throwback to 6), I tried to find a way to make the new operating system as much like the old one as I could. After slowing down the “swoosh” effect, navigation became much less disorienting. At my local Chipolte in Davis Square I sat down and poured over the labyrinthine settings that the new OS provided. At first, it bugged me how difficult it was to customize the new interface. But as I dug through the many Skeumorphic switches and click boxes, I started to get a feel for how powerful all those settings now made the phone. For instance one could now limit ad tracking (something I wasn’t aware of to begin with). Also another consistent complaint was the inability to block calls; until iOS 7 best bet for an iPhone owner was to simply tag a caller “Do Not Answer” and promptly hit ignore.

And that was just scratching the surface. The Jony Ive-designed interface also quickly grew on me, especially the new pull-up dashboard that was available from the lock screen as well as the app menu. It might be just because I’m a hands-on tinkerer, but the inclusion of a flashlight button felt like a Godsend (before I would have to open the photo app and switch it to video so the built-in light would go on). Also the ability to turn on and off Bluetooth, control volume and brightness, was handy to have so accessible.

Overall, it was an ambitious change to the look-and-feel of the revered iPhone operating system, but it was the right direction to go in. Of special note is the decision to have Jony Ive, Apple’s head of industrial design, be in charge of the interface. He created the iPod, and he’s put out Apple’s most popular hardware products, so it wasn’t a big leap to let him take a crack at the software end of things. While people may miss their beloved beveled buttons and embossed frames in iOS6, here’s an interesting perspective one should keep in mind: websites that still use that graphical format are considered woefully out of date. The new OS, as much as people may see it as jarring, brings Apple back to the forefront of design.

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