Judge Apple’s New iOS 7 Beyond Its Visual Design

Everyone’s a critic.  By now, the heated debates taking place in the aftermath of Apple’s annual WWDC conference have become so routine, tech pundits seem to look forward to the discussion even more so than the announcements themselves.  Most critics are divided into two camps only: “Love It” and “Hate It.”  Many of them (and us) struggle to look at Apple’s new designs objectively, and with good reason.

Hundreds of millions of people now have an almost symbiotic relationship with their iPhones, iPads, Macs, and/or Macbooks; we use these things to communicate, to connect, to learn, to complete tasks, to listen to music.  So with every significant shift in Apple’s design or product line, Apple users are reminded that they aren’t in the driver’s seat when it comes to the development of gadgets upon which the convenience of their daily lives depend; and that reminder can be a bit unsettling, though granted it would mostly be a “first-world” problem.  But did this year’s WWDC prove that Apple itself is still in the driver’s seat of mobile innovation for the entire mobile market?  For now, I’ll say the answer is both Yes and No.

I’ve written previously my thoughts on Apple’s need to innovate like “the old days” of 2008 when the first iPhone was launched into the market, forever changing how we used smartphones.  While this year’s WWDC did not include such a monumental announcement, the fact is operating system design will soon become as important as the hardware and devices that run it.  Advanced gestures and hands-free user interaction are now becoming the norm (hello, Google Glass and Samsung’s Galaxy S4), not the future; and previous operating system designs simply weren’t built to accommodate the scalability needed to account for these new user experiences.

Because of this newfound flexibility with user interfaces, the look of Apple’s new iOS 7 design has very little to do with how it will perform as an operating system.  I’m much more curious how it will integrate with Apple’s newer, yet-to-be-announced hardware, beyond the handheld devices that are currently available to consumers.  While there’s been plenty of speculation about an Apple smartwatch, we cannot underestimate Apple’s ability to keep secrets about even more innovative products.  For now, we’re left debating iOS 7’s visual elements like color palette, typography, and translucency; and while all these are an important part of the debate over iOS 7’s design, they certainly shouldn’t frame the argument.

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