iOS 7 Reminds Us To Be Careful What We Wish For

begged-apple-meme

It’s our own fault. We all asked Apple to dramatically change the look and feel of the iOS operating system, which, until yesterday, remained largely unchanged since the introduction of the original iPhone back in 2007. And we all complained when it didn’t do that with iOS 6 this time last year.

But I can’t help but feel the Cupertino company is now punishing us for all those requests, and all that complaining we did before about its skeuomorphic designs.

When it comes to design, iOS 7 is vastly different to its predecessors. It still functions in much the same way — though there are some new features you’ll need to get used to — but it looks completely different. As soon as you power it up for the first time the minimalistic feel is staring back at you, but it isn’t until you’ve completed the setup process and arrived at your home screen that you want to vomit in your own lap.

I’d be happy if it weren’t for the icon designs.

The majority of Apple’s own app icons in iOS 7 are completely different to those from iOS 6. Apple has now adopted the “flat” design we’ve all been hearing so much about, doing away with the funky reflections that previously made icons look like they were almost sat on top of the display.

The iOS 7 home screen.

The iOS 7 home screen.

And I’d be happy with that if it weren’t for the icon designs. There are a couple that look good. The Clock icon is great — maybe because it’s one of the few that haven’t changed dramatically — and it now shows the actual time (finally!). And the Music, App Store, and iTunes icons are… okay, too.

But then there’s Game Center, Weather, Newsstand, Reminders, Safari, Camera, Mail, and Settings. Oh, Settings… what happened there?

These icons look amateur — like someone installed Photoshop on Jony Ive’s Mac for the first time, and he knocked them up in 30 minutes before he went out to dinner. They’re inconsistent, and many just look out of place.

The Game Center icons looks completely different to everything else, as does the Maps icon, and the Weather icon looks like it was designed for a toddler’s play phone. Some icons have gradients, some don’t, and others others just have too much white space.

When you mix them all together, they look like a mismatched mess — a jumble of colors and textures that don’t belong together. If Apple had followed some kind of theme, then it wouldn’t have been so bad. But as I noted on Twitter last night after installing the iOS 7 beta, it’s like every Apple executive (or intern?) was allowed to design one app icon each, but they weren’t allowed to see each others’ before they were all thrown together.

Although I didn’t mind the skeuomorphic look in previous iOS releases, I can understand why some people didn’t like it. But trust me, this is worse. At least the previous icons looked like someone painstakingly agonized over the designs and spent hours perfecting every little detail.

But there are no details to perfect with these ones; they’re just blobs of color with what looks like bad clipart stuck on top.

How are these improvements?

How are these improvements?

Then there’s Control Center, which provides you with quick settings toggles, a brightness slider, music playback controls, buttons for AirDrop and AirPlay, and shortcuts to a flashlight, the Clock, the Calculator, and the Camera.

There’s no sense of organization in Control Center.

There’s hardly any color here; there’s a slightly transparent background with dark grey text and icons on top of it, and sliders and active settings are white. There’s also no sense of organization, and again, no consistency. For example, the Clock and Calculator icons looks nothing like their actual app icons.

The Control Center isn’t customizable, either, so you can’t replace shortcuts you don’t use with others that might be more helpful to you, which is a shame.

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. In places, iOS 7 looks great.

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. In places, iOS 7 looks great, and actually very impressive.

The Notification Center has lost the linen background in favor of a dark transparent panel, and it looks nice and modern. It also displays the date, a brief weather forecast for the day, and your upcoming appointments. Notifications are split into two sections now — “all” and “missed.”

I’m also a big fan of the new dialer inside the Phone app. Like Notification Center, it’s modern and simplistic, and it has a really nice touch — when you press a digit, your wallpaper shows through, and it looks really nice.

The Mail app also looks fantastic, and it kind of reminds me of Windows Phone.

Notification Center, Phone, and Mail.

Notification Center, Phone, and Mail.

iOS 7 isn’t a complete shambles, then, but I’m really disappointed in some of the changes Apple has made. Although iOS 6 and its predecessors weren’t perfect, they were at least beautiful.

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  • LTMP

    I didn’t expect to like the “flat” icons, but I actually really like them when combined with the rest of the new look.

  • Unis Zuurmond

    This article summarises my take on iOS7 perfectly. Thanks Killian, I’m 100% in agreement.

  • gnomehole

    The colors are a big easter egg, but I really like it and think this is the right direction for iOS.

    Some just don’t like change… some flat out can’t handle it. Life is so rough…

  • nagypaltomi

    i like the new design much better… the -ios6 design is boring and not interesting at all

  • Bazza1

    OK, get rid of the leather, stitching and green baize from within their apps, but what’s the point behind bland pastel icons and app backgrounds? If Apple doesn’t force 3rd Party providers to match this design, Apple’s own apps will disappear into the background, even on a black one – visually and practically. If Apple does force the change (adapt or get pulled), it may have copyright issues to deal with but, perhaps more importantly, will result in quite possibly the most visually bland device out there.

    Then again, maybe that reflects the lack of real development / improvements on the iPhone recently.

    Sometimes, an industrial designer is just a (misguided) industrial designer – regardless as to whether their is a Sir prefix or not.

  • bilgepipe

    “But trust me, this is worse.”

    No, I won’t “trust you”. It’s a matter of personal taste as to whether iOS7 looks good or not. Don’t talk as if you know better than everyone else!

  • Confusion_Lives

    Love iOS 7, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. The best change yet.

  • iFreek

    GRADIENTS are the problem.

  • GuigoSerafim

    Worst article ever on Cult of Mac. Seriously. You’re taking what you think about it and putting it like it’s an absolute truth. And, sorry, it’s NOT.

  • Glenn

    This article is spot-on. Pundits griped about buttons, so there aren’t any more buttons, deal with it. Pundits griped about white space as on Android and WP8, so there’s lots of white space, deal with it. Pundits hated skeumorphism, so it’s gone, deal with it. Pundits wanted painfully thin fonts just like on Android and WP8 that are unreadable at distance. You got them, so deal with it. And on & on. The gripes & complaints came right on schedule as I knew they would.

  • dcdevito

    iOS went from boring to ugly.

  • Stuka_UK

    LOL… 1st world problems !

  • brnmbrns

    Open camera app and show me the consistency there, please. iOS has become quite a mess.

  • esterill

    Well, I didn’t ask Apple to change anything. However, I like a bit of fresh design – and change is good especially when we are in a fast-changing business (technology that is).

  • Boo Radley

    Negative, Ghostrider. I like all of the changes and I suspect after a week I’ll wonder what the old icons looked like.

  • man4mac

    This might be the last straw for Cult of Mac. I’ve been considering dropping my readership because of the overwhelming ads, relatively poor writing, and terrible spelling that makes me think it’s run by middle schoolers, but this article really crystallizes those feelings. First, I’m not saying the icons are awesome, but lambasting them for their initial sensation is like getting upset about a major haircut. They just take a bit to get used to. You even say the clock icon is great. Figures…it’s the only legacy icon that already matches the new grid form…and you like it! It’s just because you’re used to it already. Having the center peice of the icons stretch further out to the edges is modern, but takes getting used to. This article was written as a click magnet. I’m not disappointed with apple at all this time, just cult of Mac. No worries, just one less reader for you.

  • scophi

    According to the keynote, 93% of iOS users have already updated to iOS 6. Let’s see if they reach the same percentage with iOS 7.

  • JaySt

    Some people are afraid of change and want to stick to the very familiar. Others get what they wished for and still can’t be happy. I suspect his is exactly what happened with the author of this article and with many other Apple users.

  • JaySt

    Some people are afraid of change and want to stick to the very familiar. Others get what they wished for and still can’t be happy. I suspect this is exactly what happened with the author of this article and with many other Apple users.

  • cprblak

    The update would have gone over a lot better initially if the design classy aesthetic that Ives puts into hardware came across in the graphics. Maybe by the final release things well get toned downed and more refined.

    I hope.

  • dust

    Each to there own…design is subjective…the change is visually a big one…if you were one of the designers that loved the chrome metal plug in in photoshop in the 90′s you probably don’t like the new look…

    Some people feel uncomfortable with no hard or obvious line around things. iOS 7 is a mature design in-spite of its playful colors and vibrancy. I haven’t heard any regular non tech industry pundit not like it… To the avg consumer it will look as intended fun, direct and easy to use.

    To those who currently aren’t fans will look back on what they have written in 6months and feel rather silly.

    Design is evolution and good designers evolve…it’s been my experience that agendas get in the way and old habits die hard…

    Monet received incredible critique…no lines…no definition! Was they cry from the critiques and peanut gallery… It was not understood at first but eventually skyrocketed to popularity…I predict much the same will happen here human behavior can be quite predictable at times…

    Here http://globerove.com/france/french-impressionism/2403

    So, for now, if you really are having an issue with no lines, when turn on your phone with iOS 7… Don’t be mad… just take a breath… And use it, then, once you’ve used it put it away and move on with your day.

  • Avenged110

    Well I’m glad someone realized what happened. I never asked them to change the look of anything. But this is ridiculous, it looks poorly done. The iPhone looks like a cheap toy. And usability is so much worse; it’s difficult to easily glance at or see what you want to do. They crippled iOS while removing any sense of consistency. It’s so sad. Hopefully someone makes the new features available for an iOS 6 jailbreak.

  • dust

    *their own lol

  • NeoTech09

    “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”… don’t be so negative and afraid of change!

  • tdmac

    Hear hear, looks infantile and the tiny iphone screen doesn’t help. Thanks for being so honest Killian.

  • Gradly

    You missed the fucking new Newsstand icon that looks like a shit groceries bags

    Animations and functionality are cool but the UI is terrible, awful messy icons, inconsistent color, iOS has lost its iconic design elements that made it mainstream, gone are gorgeous icons and “slide to unlock” and thanks to cheap rip-off of Android, Windows Phone, WebOS, Cydia tweaks.

    iOS 7 now is so forgettable with no personality as it used to have.

  • scatteredthings

    Please write more content like this Killian. Great analysis.

  • enderwiggin21

    Good write up Killian. I agree with some of what you said here.
    The icons do seem out to lunch.
    I do like the Control Center though, but then…. oh you’re right, that IS the clock icon! Ha. I couldn’t intuitively tell so finally had to just press it to see what it did. I, too, wish it was customizable.
    White is everywhere, even when looking at Photos, and the Photo organization seems very, well.. disorganized. Until finally I realized I can click the Albums tab and feel much more comfortable. I wish that was the default, but maybe I just need to get used to the way the Photos tab is laid out for a bit.

    I don’t know. I’m just glad I installed this on a spare phone instead of my main one (ps if anyone wants to buy a nearly new ip5 64GB, hint hint)

  • elijahrlb

    I am glad you wrote this. I honestly thought when I first saw the screen, “this has to be another poorly executed joke, kind of like the Sea Lion thing.” But then, I was wrong. As you said, some are okay, while others are awful. I was never a huge opponent of Forstall’s stuff, and in fact, some of it was kind of nice. I am glad that the leather and felt stuff is gone, but like you, I’d take it back in an instant to oust the Safari icon, and some of the others.

    I do like a lot of the apps internal stuff, it is just the icons that blow me away. I guess hardware and software should be developed differently. I think somewhere, someone failed to show up at the meeting to tell the team what Steve would have said: “Oh, this really looks like sh**!” This is where Steve’s philosophy of having two polar opposites sitting on either side of him arguing was really smart. This probably would have been vetoed.

    Maybe someone at apple is actually listening to the feedback and things will change before the public release: fat chance, but I can hope, right?

  • sefid

    nothing can be worse than the settings icon.. looks like they left the design of icons till the end ,and then just rush them.. dont get me wrong I am totally into the change and new things, but it should make some sense, and it shouldnt be for the sake of changing things.. I like the transparent effect, it will bring some freshness..

  • worthyofed

    This article is absolutely horrible. Metathesiophobia, anyone?
    Why don’t you take a good objective look at your current (iOS6) home screen. Then tell me with a straight face that it’s actually consistent and organized looking. Because it’s not! Some icons are flat, some are not. Some have reflections, some don’t. The game center icon has never looked like anything else! There was certainly no consistency to the design or proportion of any icons prior to the new iOS 7 grid system. Some icons go edge to edge. Some have small images in the middle. Some are simple, some are complex.

    Is iOS7 perfect? Absolutely not. But like so many have said, it is a matter of personal taste. It’s modern. And it’s change. Change is not death. Fear of change is death.

    Could you have done better? Having to navigate this horrific, clluttered, disorganized, gaudy website makes me think not.

  • DJR

    I’m glad somebody said it: iOS7 looks *horrible*. It’s the first Apple product that doesn’t look like it came from Apple. But you’re too kind on the internals of the apps. I could get used to the icons and don’t really care that much about them (as horrible and garish and juvenile as they are). But every app I’ve seen that is text heavy looks like something I literally won’t be able to force myself to use. Mail and Calendar, especially. No buttons, no texture, no subtlety, no style. Just some simple text-based interactivity and that godawful Helvetica Neue Ultrathin font that designers have an inexplicable fondness for.

    Honestly, you could have created the visual elements of the new Mail app in Microsoft Word. It’s that undesigned. Massive, massive fail.

  • aardman

    Talk about tearing your hair out over your first-world problems.

  • DJR

    Oh and by the way I find that wallpaper-behind-the-dialed number creepy, not cool. At least when there are faces in your wallpaper as in your screen shot.

  • markymac

    As the old adage goes, “Watch what you wish for ’cause you just might get it”.

    I understand the frustration but it’s like you said, people have been screaming “GO FLAT!! GO FLAT!!” and now that they have you regret ever saying anything.

    As I’ve said many times, the icons for iOS were incredibly detailed with most people taking things like the lens highlights in the Camera icon for granted.

    While I do agree that some of the icons are off-kilter (the Game Center icon is pretty stupid) the overall look and feel is consistent and my guess is that we’ll have to live with these icons for another 5 to 7 years until someone takes the design reigns from Mr. Ive and injects some personality back into the icons.

    Icons I do like are the Clock, PassBook, Reminders and most of all the Photo app.

  • sosickitzill

    People making the loudest noises for change, then it happens. Then articulately writing a piece how ‘this is not what i wanted’ but to be fair add in “It’s beautiful though”. Reevaluate where your day is heading. #ImJustSaying

  • TheDoctor

    This is exactly like an ios 7 concept you guys put on here. This also looks like jqilbreaks you guys do to your phones. Maybe Apple wants the morons who jailbreak wonderful iPhones, making them horrible, to buy ios devices.

  • easydone101

    Good write up Killian. I agree with some of what you said here.
    The icons do seem out to lunch.
    I do like the Control Center though, but then…. oh you’re right, that IS the clock icon! Ha. I couldn’t intuitively tell so finally had to just press it to see what it did. I, too, wish it was customizable.
    White is everywhere, even when looking at Photos, and the Photo organization seems very, well.. disorganized. Until finally I realized I can click the Albums tab and feel much more comfortable. I wish that was the default, but maybe I just need to get used to the way the Photos tab is laid out for a bit.

    I don’t know. I’m just glad I installed this on a spare phone instead of my main one (ps if anyone wants to buy a nearly new ip5 64GB, hint hint)

    What’s your offer?

  • lambaline

    ok, so you bash skeuomorphism, want something more minimal, and when it’s finally here, you bash it…

  • Polite_Offender

    Be on the look out for a “wah-wah” cry from Samsung. Claiming that Apple did this and that. LOL.

  • Timothy Williamson

    Don’t you want app icons to look unique and different from each other so it’s easy to differentiate each app?

    Once you add your own apps to the home screen, the app icons will no longer be consistent anyway. So really all this hoopla is over nothing.

    Also, has anyone noticed the new Settings.app icon appears to be gears within a watch…maybe a sign of things to come. ;-)

  • DJBabyBuster

    I have no idea what all the complaints are about? Apple addressed almost all the reasons I’ve previously jailbroken every iphone I’ve owned.

    Everything just looks prettier, the animations are smooth, and everything seems more intuitive. I personally love the minimal design, the more white and simplicity, the better. But that’s just my preference. They may tone it down slightly from dev feedback, but I’d say get used to it.

    People actually want their old icons back? I’m sure there’s gonna be plenty of jailbreak skins to get your old crappy icons back if you miss them that badly.

  • Berian Lowe

    Careful what you wish for indeed. I actually quite like the new logos, although in all fairness I liked them before too. Most improved icon goes to the FaceTime logo. It no longer looks like a Webcam on it’s side!

  • AlupaCreative

    Very disappointing. I took some time to design an icon that (interpretively) demonstrates my feelings. http://drbl.in/hVnM

  • cprblak

    …and that godawful Helvetica Neue Ultrathin font that designers have an inexplicable fondness for.

    That is then accentuated with gobs of unnecessary leading. Lines farther apart do not make them easier to read, but do make users scroll more.

  • Fjord Prefect

    Personally, I never ever wanted Apple to change the look of iOS. I liked it and still like it a lot. The only people I heard complain about the look was the bloggers who had nothing better to comment on. They kept saying that iOS looked too old compared to everything else out there (6 years is old? Well I suppose when that comprises half of your life experience then yes, it’s old) and they claimed that customers “weren’t happy.” Right, that’s why everyone and their cousin wants to cop the iOS style and every Pacific Rim knock-off looks first to iOS for its design motivation. In fact, I never actually met a person who complained about the look of iOS. Apple got it more or less right back in 2007, so changing it at this point could only result in something not as good. Which is exactly what happened. Effing sad.

  • sockboob

    Actually, NO, “we” did not all ask for a major overhaul of the look and feel of Apple’s iOs. That seems to have been solely the result of the impudent and childish demands of a handful of egghead tech bloggers who always expect something new and shiny, functionality and ease of use be damned.

    And then there’s fools like Jony Ive … Who never seemed to have learned the simple wisdom that you don’t try to “fix” something that isn’t broken in the first place. Judging by sales numbers, the average user didn’t think iOs was broken. And yet now we have this hideous, degraded, stupidly executed iOs 7 that has been hyped as the greatest design improvement ever.

    Flat out: it sucks. I hate it. It’s ugly and washed out and genuinely cumbersome. I don’t have eyesight problems, but I can barely read the system font. The icons are ugly too. Where, exactly, does this egghead obsession for a “flatter” design come from? Flatter is better… why exactly? Because it’s flatter? Ugh!

    If Steve Jobs were still alive, he’d be rampaging through Cupertino right now kicking over tables and firing people right now for this total abomination in design.

    This awful re-design represents the total repudiation of his entire life’s work. The man who pioneered the 3D graphical user interface must be rolling in his grave right now. Thanks a heap to all you egghead tech bloggers for this wretched piece of garbage. I’ll never understand why you all so desperately wanted Apple to look like Android & Windows, but you got your wish.

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a staff writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also covers Android over at CultofAndroid.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell.

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