Hands-on review of iOS7 beta – first impressions

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The new lock screen of iOS7

iOS7 has made the most radical changes to the iOS since the introduction of the iPhone, and I had the chance to experience the new OS firsthand. Needless to say, it was simply an astonishing work of art, and many users of the iPhone will undoubtedly appreciate its new look and feel.

The web is already flooding with news that meticulously compare each element of the OS, so instead of boring you with minute details, here I will try to focus on my personal experience with the OS.

Brief Overview

To start off, everything looks fresh and new. This is a huge plus, and as Jony Ive pointed out, it’s just as though the users got a new smartphone. However, at the same, iOS7 manages to keep the familiarity of the previous version of iOS. I had no problem accessing most features offered by iOS7, including the lock screen and the notification centre, when they were radically different from its predecessors when taken a closer look.

New spotlight sits right on top on the springboard
The new Spotlight for iOS7 is hidden right on top on the springboard. Pull down the springboard to call.

As well, there is flatness in design elements, but they are given depth mainly through layers and animations in the iOS7. It shows that designers at Apple did not take that trendy design pattern for granted, but gave it a thought and improved it for the iOS7. Unfortunately, this is harder to capture with a few screenshots, and there are many who criticize the OS for the face value of those few screenshots.

Let’s take a closer look at the iOS7.

Elegant UI design

Instead of cluttering the screen with obscure symbols and dense information, designers at Apple took a step back and gave users a break with simple words and spacious layout. This is in line with “Clarity”, the first principle of the iOS7 design.

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The new Notification Centre for iOS7. Background blur gives depth while extra space directs user’s attention to the words. Today tab will provide you with a succinct summary of your day, and tapping on the weather description will launch the weather app for details.
Scrolling down, you can take a quick look at what's going to happen tomorrow.
Scrolling down, you can take a quick look at what’s going to happen tomorrow.
All tab shows all the notifications. Missed tab only shows messages, emails, and phone calls.
All tab shows all the notifications. Notice the bigger space in between notifications. Missed tab only shows messages, emails, and phone calls.

As a result, there is a lot less going on at any time, and each piece of content that does come up are given the spotlight it deserves. Even the controls are squeezed and pushed all the way to the sides to make way for the content, and hence “Deference”, or humble respect to content, the second design principle for the iOS7.

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Music app. “Repeat” and “Shuffle All” buttons are right on the edge of the screen (more noticeable firsthand).

Vibrant colour scheme is truly noticeable on the main screen. Each app that comes with the iPhone have all received a radically different look, with colours so vibrant and intense, almost to a point of being lavish and over-the-top.

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Springboard for iOS7. Each app shows off its vibrant colours, inviting.

What they say is very clear to the eyes: They beg for interaction with the user.

They are ambitious apps, and do not settle for a little more estate in the springboard. Instead, they charm the users to tap on them, so that they can take over the entire screen, and bring the user into their unique world. It’s not hard to imagine that in iOS7, only the apps that can fully deliver such immersive experience to the users will survive and thrive.

Improved UX

First and foremost, this is one mobile OS that does not skim on the animation.

From apps dropping onto the springboard each time it loads to message boxes bumping into each other when the screen moves up and down, there is always rich animation to please the eyes in iOS7. Now mundane tasks are more interesting to look at, whereas when it comes to performance-critical moments, such as quickly switching to an app to finish a task, it is as swift it can get.

The way users can interact with the iPhone has been improved for the better. To take the lock screen as an example, users can now directly access the Activity Sheet and the notification centre in addition to the camera. Also, when the phone wakes up by a push notification, the iOS no longer jumps to the app that woke it when unlocked (unless the user specifically swipes the app icon), giving the user the freedom to access the springboard.

Newly added Activity Sheet for iOS7. Most commonly used features are now at your fingertips. Swipe from the bottom of the screen to invoke.
Newly added Activity Sheet for iOS7. Most commonly used functions are now at your fingertips, including the flashlight. Swipe from the bottom of the screen to call.

App Switcher is given a new look as well, showcasing each app with a gallery of previews. App Switcher automatically moves to the last app used, so switching between apps is easier, and saving memory is just as easily done with the new swiping up motion on the preview screen which terminates the app.

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The new App Switcher for iOS7 looks refreshing, and browsing through apps is now a breeze.

Finally, after using iOS7 for a while, I noticed that iOS7 and stock apps are generally better at giving the right piece of content, and typing feels better. It is an overarching UX improvement that is harder to notice and articulate with only a few minutes of using it.

Conclusion

iOS7 does not disappoint its users with supposedly copied elements and weird choices of colour and design. On the contrary, it is provides so much more than its competitors with motions and layers that build up a unique experience in its own right. This is “Depth”, the third and last design principle for iOS7.

iOS7 is refreshing, unique, and provides solid foundation for apps to deliver its full potential. iPhone users will be very excited to run this brand new OS to their iOS devices when it is fully polished. I also look forward to developing my first app for iOS.

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6 thoughts on “Hands-on review of iOS7 beta – first impressions

  1. I’m happy they put at least a little tiny tinsy little bit more space between the play/pause and forward/backward buttons … that’s always a high concentration precision work challenge when dozing off to music, podcasts, or feldenkrais lessons …

    1. Yeah, even though I usually use the controllers on my earphone to skip songs.
      For me, the greatest change was the new look of the notes app. I use it all the time, but always hated the terrible felt-marker font… reminds me of Comic Sans.

  2. I dislike the new OS. It has changed the entire human interface and is hard to find out how to make things work. I was going to buy an the latest version of iphone and will likely wait until my contract runs out and look at other vendors.

    1. The new OS certainly brought some radical changes to the user interface, and seeing that quite a few design changes have been made since the initial beta version of iOS7 tells me that the engineers at Apple are working to create a better user experience. As for myself, I find the new design very refreshing and stimulating. But its slow performance in older devices makes me wonder if further adjustments to optimizing the speed in those devices would have made any difference.

  3. For the most part the iOS7 updates have not bothered me. Until now. Being on the road alot I usually have a couple of books in ibooks. Instead of the book shelf that was there and gave it a personal feel I now have this sterile white screen with pictures of the books on it. If that is what is considered elegant I don’t need it. They should have an option on it for the type of background you want.

    1. Actually I had no idea what you’re talking about until I updated my iBooks app. So much light I almost got blinded lol.
      To be honest I liked the old interface better, but keeping at that would mean inconsistency. Interface overhaul was called for across all apps as soon as the iOS 7 and its newness were announced, so I would say this was long overdue if anything. On a side note, Moves app recently changed its interface as well.
      As for the option to keep the old interface… I’m sure the devs could have implemented it in a heartbeat, but chose not to. That is probably because those who choose this option is very likely to stick to that when the next round of interface change happens, and it can go on until it actually becomes a big problem. I’d cite the Start button on Windows, but I’m just making stuff up out of thin air.

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