iOS 7 Rumor Roundup: Is the iPhone broken and can Jony Ive fix it? (Updated)

 

 

The usually overflowing well of Apple rumors has been oddly quiet when it comes to iOS 7. We have heard a few whispers here and there around development, but we’re in the dark as far as what specific features will make it to the finished product. It would seem that Jony Ive is a much better secret keeper than previous iOS helmer Scott Forstall. With a new version of the OS scheduled to debut in June, it’s high time we try and figure out what might be coming, and what we want from, the next iOS.

iOS 7 Rumor Roundup

We do know that Apple’s highly-respected and eccentric industrial designer, Jonathan Ive, was recently put in a directorial role for Human Interface development (that means iOS) at the company. He’s known for his hardware design prowess, focusing on simplicity and utility over anything else, leading to the now iconic MacBook Air, iPhone, and iPad, among many other successful Apple products. He’s also known to dislike skeumorphism in software design: the act of making virtual interfaces resemble their physical counterparts (ie: the Game Center app including green felt like in casino). Judging by his design preferences, if nothing else, we can expect to see a more streamlined look coming to iOS.

A flattened, less skeumorphic design

 rumor roundup apple ios 7 podcasts app screenshotOne of the first things that happened under Ive’s new leadership of iOS was a refresh of the almost universally reviled Podcasts app. It received a number of fixes and new features like iCloud-synced stations that can download new episodes automatically, as well as support for on-the-go playlists. The biggest change, however, was a visual one. The faux-tape deck and large, square buttons were trashed for a more cohesive design that was easier to navigate.

If the revamped Podcasts app is any indication, and it is, then we can expect to see a lot more of this across iOS 7. We wouldn’t be surprised if the Games Center app had the carpet ripped up and icons were generally flattened and made more iconic and less … shiny. Whatever he’s doing behind closed doors, Ive’s seems to be making an impression. Rene Ritchie of iMore said in a recent Branch chat that Ive’s work is “apparently making many people really happy, but will also apparently make rich-texture-loving designers sad.”

wwdc_2013Sources close to the new operating system — either having seen it or been briefed on it — also point to a flattened UI, even going as far as to spark comparisons to Windows Phone 8, 9to5 Mac reports. One source said the new interface is “very, very flat” and another said all gloss, shine, and skeumorphism have been scrubbed away. The changes to iOS’ look, however, shouldn’t change the function of its core apps or the simplicity that makes it so popular and easy to use. The codename is reportedly “Innsbruck” and it will also provide a more “glanc-able” interface, especially for settings and notifications. There’s even speculation that the colorful and simplistic WWDC logo may be a teaser for what’s to come from Apple.

People pulled from OSX to help meet WWDC deadline

There were rumblings of this earlier in the year, but it has become much more apparent lately. According to Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, engineers are being pulled from their work on OS X 10.9 to help iOS 7 make its debut on time at the World Wide Developer Conference set to kick off on June 10. All signs point to an announcement for iOS 7 at the conference, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the software’s actual launch waited to tag along with the iPhone 5S (or 6, whatever it is). OS X 10.9, the successor to Mountain Lion is also expected to make an appearance, though development on iOS 7 could delay its debut.

Top secret operation

In typical Apple fashion, rumors around bizarre security practices are attached to Ive’s work on iOS 7. Gruber shared some information recently about the specific measures engineers are required to take while working on the latest mobile software. Apparently those designers with carry privileges (meaning they can take devices off Apple campus – assuming they promise not to leave them in a bar) must have a polarizing filter on the display. What this does is makes it extra difficult for passerbys and curious folks to sneak a peek at the unreleased software. This backs up claims of a “significant system-wide UI overhaul,” which would require a way to hide the new look.

What we want from iOS 7

With so little information on the specifics of iOS 7, designers, bloggers, and Apple fans have been posting words and videos either showcasing possible features or begging for changes to the tried-and-true formula. Suggestions have run the gamut of complete design overhauls to Android on the iPhone, but two areas seem to need the most love: Notifications, settings, and multi-tasking. Full disclosure: I’m not an iPhone or iPad user so I received inspiration from the complaints of my iOS-using editor.

“The iPhone should do things in the background so I don’t have to stare at every app.”

rumor roundup apple ios 7 spotify app screenshotMuch to my surprise as a Windows Phone / Android user, Apple still hasn’t mastered the art of background tasks. It can consistently throw you back into an app exactly where you left off, but that means the app usually does nothing while you were away. It’s simply frozen and unfrozen. Currently, apps like Spotify, and yes, even the new Podcasts app, need to be open to download new content. So the automatic download feature in the Podcasts app essentially just means new episodes begin downloading as soon as you open the app.

We’d like to see this fixed in iOS 7, with a nice mix of Android’s free-for-all task management and Windows Phone’s tightly managed, battery-savvy multi-tasking. Actually, it doesn’t even matter how Apple does it, as long as Spotify can sync without anyone looking at it. It’s not just media that’s affected either, the issue branches out into email (the Gmail app sends notifications, but doesn’t actually sync until you open it and refresh) and other areas.

“Notifications are still terrible.”

As a whole, notifications feel a bit like a feature thrown in as a crowd pleaser that Apple couldn’t care less about. Android is ruling the roost in this department with 4.2.2 bringing actionable notifications, meaning you can choose to read or reply to text messages right from the drop-down menu, among other tasks. Apple users want that; everybody wants that. Notifications are one of the most difficult things to manage on a smartphone and they need all the help they can get. Making them swipeable would be a great first step; a more swipeable interface in general would help iOS a lot actually.

The swipe-happy Mailbox app is a good example of the demand for it on iOS, with a long line of people signing up to access the beta. The tiny X that currently only deletes notifications in batches (all emails or none of them) is no longer sufficient. Finally, the alert system could use an overhaul as well. It’s funny that Apple has yet to recognize the usefulness of an LED indicator. All Android phones have one. The current system of completely turning the screen on not once, but two times (assuming you don’t cliick on it first) is barbaric and wasteful of precious battery juice.

“iOS needs a visual overhaul.”

rumor roundup apple ios 7 mailbox app screenshotWe covered this up top in the rumor section, but it bears repeating. Apple’s software is getting tired and it’s being left in the dust as Windows Phone continues to get more attractive and Android keeps getting more powerful. Part of that will happen with Ive’s enforcement of a more cohesive user experience that relies less on gradients and textures, but it needs to go further than that. User experience isn’t judged solely on the software’s look; it’s also based on ease of use. A unified way of handling settings would be a good first step. Currently, a random assortment of app settings are handled in-app with others accessed in the stand-alone Settings app.

Furthermore, we’d like to be able to use the apps we want to use, not the ones Apple is pushing. (And maybe Apple’s apps could be improved?) Most of the built-in apps on iOS suck, not just the mapping system. If someone wants to uninstall the built-in Weather app for instance, and replace it with the Weather Network app then that should be able to happen. And we’re just going to say it, if iOS 7 brought support for widgets – both on the lockscreen and the homescreen – we wouldn’t be upset. We might even be excited.

For those of you that enjoy a good mock-up, there are a couple concept videos that have been making the rounds lately, showing off exactly how beautiful a new and improved iOS could be.

First up is a new take on the multitasking system, a major improvement to the icon-based system currently employed by Apple. Jesse Head is the designer. He’s not affiliated with Apple, but seems to have a good handle on the company’s design philosophy as his concept would like right at home on any iDevice. The most compelling parts of his design are the access to quick settings underneath open apps, as well as live previews, which allow the user to scroll between apps while watching them update live.

The second video is a bit longer and therefore covers more proposed features of iOS. The highlight is probably the Notification Center, which the designer, Agente Apple, shows with grouped notifications including an easy way to clear them all out. There are also widgets on display for things like weather and news, as well as a quick way to access common settings. The design is overcrowded, but the idea is solid. The other major overhaul happens with the lockscreen, which Agente Apple envisions with quick links to settings, a border that can change from black to white to suit your device, and more.

Source: Digital Trends

 

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