September 18, 2013: iOS 7 makes its public debut with a radical redesign that divides the tech world.
The biggest overhaul Apple’s mobile operating system has seen in years, iOS 7 ditches the skeuomorphic objects, dials and textures of previous iterations. Instead, it boasts stark patches of white space, simpler icons and more abstract controls for settings. The Jony Ive era of software design is truly underway.
The world got its first glimpse of the iOS 7 redesign earlier that summer at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. CEO Tim Cook referred to it as a “stunning new user interface.” That about summed it up — but people weren’t immediately sure whether it was stunningly good or stunningly bad.
“iOS7 will probably be really awesome when they do the visual design,” tweeted technologist Tom Coates.
“Multitasking, tabs, Control Center, AirDrop, and general interactions are looking fantastic in iOS 7. But wow, the ugly stick,” tweeted designer Jason Santa Maria.
“The first thing you’re going to notice about iOS 7 is how drastically different it looks. Apple did a complete renovation. The familiarity in terms of usability is still there at a fundamental level, but the OS has taken a 180 in terms of aesthetics.”
Everyone was familiar with mobile devices
The move away from skeuomorphism — virtual objects designed to look exactly like their real-world counterparts — signaled a big moment for mobile tech. It presumed that audiences no longer needed references to real objects to understand the virtual world. By 2013, the average user understood how a modern smartphone worked.
“We just completely ran out of green felt,” Apple VP Craig Federighi joked at WWDC, referring to the pool-table look of Game Center. “And wood too. This has to be good for the environment.”
Apple design chief Ive spearheaded the changes. He reportedly never liked skeuomorphism, and thought it looked dated. The major proponent of skeuomorphism was Scott Forstall, who by 2013 had left Apple following the Apple Maps debacle. A management rethink put Ive in charge of the look and feel of software design. iOS 7 was the controversial result.
iOS 7: Not just about aesthetics
It wasn’t just about aesthetics, though. iOS 7 introduced an updated Notification Center, redesigned Siri, automatic app updates and wireless file-sharing system, AirDrop.
According to Apple, iOS 7 became the “fastest software upgrade in history.” Around 35% of devices upgraded after one day. And users went on to install iOS 7 on 200 million devices within the first five days of its release. The final iOS 7 update was version 7.1.2 on June 30, 2014. iOS 8 superseded it on September 17, 2014.
Now that Ive has moved on from Apple, it will be interesting to see what the next big iOS redesign brings. Do you remember your original response to the iOS 7 redesign? How long did it take you to get used to it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.