SmartPhoneBlogging

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iPhone/iPad iPhone/iPad reviews

Preview: iOS 7 beta – a step in the right direction

It’s flat! Or is it?! Apple made the long awaited step and finally presented an completely overhauled iOS version at this years WWDC. As many rumors suggested they entirely revamped the look of iOS. The best way to see how drastic the changes really are is by simply comparing it to iOS6, so let’s take a look at a bunch of screenshots side-by-side.

Note: This preview is based on information Apple has already made publicly available. No NDAs were broken.

iOS7 beta – Homescreen

You can see the big difference in design language directly on the new home screen. Gone are all those high-gloss faux 3D icons and instead Apple went for the flat look with no or only slight gradients and a brighter color pallette. It did look a little bit too colorful for my taste at first, but after a while I got used to it.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

I really like some of the new icons i.e. for calendar but overall there is not enough consistency yet. The app icons look like a wild mix of different approaches, from very flat to semi-flat and from bright colors to dark tones. The result is a very colorful new homescreen that somehow looks too busy. I’m pretty sure that Apple will change some of this until the final release, and hopefully also gets rid of the uglier ones like the email icon.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

Folders have been changed too and are expanded in the display center instead of being positioned relative to the folder that has been opened. Furthermore the folder background is slightly transparent now. While the animations are very fluid in iOS7 it takes too much time until the folder is fully shown or closed. Even on the latest iOS7 beta build (beta 5) it’s just not as snappy as it was with iOS6, i would have preferred shorter animations here.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

The left-most screen which provided the spotlight search on iOS6 has been taken out and replaced by a down swipe gesture which will pop up a seach bar at the top of the homescreen. Animated wallpapers are also new and when tilting the phone you can see a nice background parallax scrolling which creates a 3D effect where the icons seem to float above the wallpaper. I wonder why this has become such a spotlight feature though, because it’s nothing more than some eyecandy which distracts and is not really useful in any way.

iOS7 beta – Lockscreen

Even though I don’t really care how much ‘inspiration’ iOS7 took from Android or Windows Phone, I have to admit that the default animated wallpaper and lockscreen look eerily similar to one of the default Android 4.0 wallpapers.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

The clock is bigger now and you won’t find the old slide-to-unlock slider anymore. Instead there is only the text with an arrow to hint that you have to slide to the right.

iOS7 beta – Notification drawer

Android currently has the best notifications concept of all mobile OS, and while iOS7 doesn’t look like it will surpass Android the changes are still more than welcome. With iOS7 you’ll get three tabs in the notification center that will show your notifications for today, all notifications, and missed ones.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

It’s a thoughtful addition, but my main gripe with the notification center wasn’t solved. I need some indicator that there is actually a message waiting for me in the notification center, similar to Androids small notification icons at the top bar of the screen. Currently I just never think about checking out the notification center on my iPhone, because there is no hint for the user on the homescreen to do so. Most of the time i’ll be looking at past events whenever i finally remember to open the notification center.

iOS7 beta – Control Center

Up to iOS6 you had to open the settings in order to toggle WiFi or other options. This was a real pain, and much behind the competition that is working with widgets and shortcuts for a long time now. With the so called control center, which you can access by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, Apple finally remedies this.

[iOS7 Beta]

I was a little bit surprised about the design of the control center. Controls vary in their shapes, and it looks more like a messy Android widget than something I would expect from Apple. It’s also interesting to see that the bottom row of apps uses wireframe-like icons that are totally different from the regular app icons.

iOS7 beta – Multitasking

Double pressing the home button will open the new multitasking view which shows your recently used apps as cards and app icons beneath. It’s basically the same approach as Palm used years ago on webOS and many companies copied afterwards.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

You can also easily close apps by swiping the card up and out of the screen. This new multitasking view fits well into the design concept of iOS7 and will probably bring more user to actually utilize multitasking as it is visually more attractive and easier to understand than before.

iOS7 beta – Contacts

The redesigned contacts app looks much better and clearer than then old one. There aren’t even any new features to be found but the fact that Apple worked with more white space and got rid of the old blue color scheme is enough to generate a fresh new look. What you can also see on the screenshots is that Apple went away from the buttons at the top and instead uses pure text for navigation on iOS7. This will definetly be confusing for a lot of folks out there, since it affects every single iOS7 app.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

Many design elements and features in iOS7 have been borrowed from webOS, and it would have been nice if Apple also took some pages from the webOS synergy feature which pulled data from your social media sources like facebook directly into your contacts. Even though iOS incorporates Facebook and Twitter, there is still no way to combine the data with contacts effectively. At least you can pull contact photos from Facebook, but synergy on WebOS went much farther than that.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

iOS7 beta – Calendar

The calendar app always was one of the weak spots of iOS in my opinion. Having a good month view is essential if you have a busy schedule, and this is where the iOS calendar always failed to deliver. I never understood how only having single dots that represent one-or-many appointments on the month view could make any sense. It doesn’t show you how busy the days really are.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

At the moment the new calendar looks nice but still doesn’t provide the same amount of information as other calendars like the Android Google calendar do.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

I’m still waiting for some kind of time bars arriving for the month view, so I can see how busy the upcoming 30 days are at a glance. But currently the calendar on iOS7 is primarily a paint job.

iOS7 beta – Email

One of the most boring apps for iOS just got a whole lot better, at least when it comes to UI. The new email app reminds me of the default Android email client and the GMail app which is a good thing. Very straightforward and simplistic design.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

Typing wasn’t changed in any way, but the new keyboard has also transparency now and i like the white color scheme more than the old one.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

iOS7 beta – Notes

Interestingly Apple didn’t get completely rid of background textures, as you can see on the notes app. You won’t see any yellow pages anymore but there is still a paper texture that you probably won’t even notice at first sight.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

iOS7 beta – Reminders

The same is true for reminders. But I’m not a big fan of the way you can open and drag the reminder entries, it just doesn’t feel intuitive at the moment.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

Compared to iOS6 reminders there is not as much clutter within a single view. While you would see a split view of reminder data and calendar in the last version, with iOS7 this is not the case anymore.

iOS7 beta – Clock

Well, it’s a clock. And it uses more white/black now. You can still switch between digital and analog clocks on iOS7.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

iOS7 beta – Safari Browser

The biggest change for the browser is the new tab overview which looks a lot like chrome for Android and the URL bar which fades out at the top while still remaining visible when you are scrolling through a webpage. This is a nice idea as the bar will only take minimal screen estate and at the same time provides the option to directly input another URL when needed.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]
[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]
[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]
[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]
[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

iOS7 beta – Photos

The new gallery is pretty basic, and i had some difficulties hitting the correct entries in the collections view as the elements were too small.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]
[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]
[iOS7 Beta]

iOS7 beta – Camera

Camera controls have been simplified too.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

iOS7 beta – Dialer

The dialer looks more modern now and you can see the wallpaper shine through the call button and the dialer.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

iOS7 beta – Weather

Again Yahoo is the provider of weather data and the iOS7 app provides a very nice and compact way to get the weather forecast.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

iOS7 beta – Maps

Apples main problem with maps wasn’t the design but the quality of their data, so we have to see how that plays out on the long-term.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

iOS7 beta – Settings

The settings pages look much lighter now and got rid of that previous dull gray/blueish coloring.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]
[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

iOS7 beta – iTunes and App Store

Along with iOS7 also comes an updated iTunes and App store, which didn’t change all that much besides the new white top and bottom bars as well as some new icons.

[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]
[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]
[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]
[iOS7 Beta] [iOS6]

You can find more iOS7 Beta Screenshots in the iOS Galleries section.

iOS7 beta – The Verdict

So this is finally the big reimagining of iOS so many people have been waiting for. Apple really went the full redesign approach and got rid of most skeuomorphism like leather textures or other faux materials. Some people argue that iOS7 still utilizes skeuomorphism as it plays with glass surface effects (i.e. on the control center) and a new physics engine for in-app behaviour of UI elements, but you can’t deny that it’s not nearly as in-your-face as it was before.

By using much more white space and flat UI elements the whole OS looks and feels much lighter and fresh. But Apple definitely needs to work on the icons as they seem to be all over the place concept wise. Another minor gripe is the fact that there are many (albeit nice) transition animations which just take too long to be finished and will probably get on your nerves after a while.

Overall iOS7 looks decent and while I don’t think that Apple already killed the competition like Android Jelly Bean or Windows Phone 8 when it comes to modern overall UI, it’s still a major step in the right direction. Finally the OS looks as good as the iPhone hardware always did.