iOS 7 – A Convergence of Mature Features

In my previous article I took a look at the potential issues of Apple introducing a flat design language into iOS 7. On Monday, Apple showed the world what it had been working on and it was indeed flat(ish). Is Apple copying or are our mobile design patterns simply maturing towards an ideal solution?

There has been a lot of discussion from people who either don’t like the new look or just see it as copying other mobile operating systems – namely Android.

iOS 7 explosionThe first issue I want to discuss is that of the looks and how they relate to the user experience. Rian van der Merwe has written a nice article about how iOS 7 is an interface, not a piece of art – and cannot be truely appreciated or judged until it has been used.

I fully agree with this. A user experience is the experience a user has whilst interacting with a product. Not the experience of an actor in one of Apple’s promo videos, not the experience of Tim Cook waving it about on stage. The experience of living and using this operating system as part of your life, every day.

Whilst visual design certainly has a part to play in shaping that experience it’s less important when it comes to how easily you can fire up the camera or how your endless Facebook notifications are dealt with by the operating system.

So unless you are one of the few developers with beta access to iOS 7 than all you can do at this stage is comment on whether or not you like the look – not whether the operating system as a whole is good or bad or provides a good user experience. You need to get down and dirty and live with it in order to make that judgement.

The second issue is whether iOS 7 is simply copying Android. I think we can certainly say that iOS 7 has drawn a significant amount of ‘inspiration’ from it’s competitor although I see this mainly as a result of a mature smart phone feature set.

Android & iOS 7 NotificationsThings such as notifications, photo taking and email have been around on phones for a good few years now. I believe we are reaching the stage where multiple iterations on design patterns to deal with them by Apple and it’s competitors are reaching a natural convergence to the ideal solution.

In the same way best in class e-com checkouts contain very similar design patterns and best practice elements – allbeit with different branding – we are seeing the same with mobile operating systems.

People are complaining about Apple’s lack of innovation but innovation for the sake of it adds nothing. If there is a design pattern that works intuitively and is the best way to deal with the task then I have no problem with Apple ‘borrowing’ it.

In a few years I strongly suspect all mobile OS’s will be so similar that the only difference will be in the hardware and brand a consumer chooses to use. We are already getting there.

Images Courtesy Apple

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