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9/13/2012
09:16 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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iOS 6: Apple Headed For Design Rut?

iPhone 5's evolutionary hardware update may disappoint some, but the real problem lies with Apple's failure to improve iOS 6.

Along with the iPhone 5, Apple has unveiled the final version of iOS 6, which, for better or worse, looks exactly like iOS 1. Apple may have buried 200 new features in the latest rendition of its smartphone and tablet platform, but the operating system badly needs a visual and functional overhaul.

The basic user experience of iOS 6 is identical to every version of iOS before it. The home screen has little icons arranged in a grid. You can rearrange the icons, but not control them fully. You can have one home screen or many. The home button always takes you back to the main home screen. The fonts, the icons, the colors, and all the other design elements that go into the user interface have been tweaked over the years, but not changed in any dramatic fashion or function. Users have almost no control over them.

Don't misunderstand me. The new features in iOS 6 are great. What's not to like about synced browser tabs, email VIPs, PassBook for tickets, FaceTime over cellular, better Siri, and deep Facebook integration? All good stuff, though all also catch-up features compared to Android.

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which Google unveiled in June, makes a number of visual and function changes when compared to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Android 4.0 itself made dramatic changes when compared to Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Google has offered continual improvements of its operating system not only in terms of features, but in terms of home screen control and customization. Google does this to keep things fresh. Android 1.0 (released in 2008) looks ancient when held side-by-side with Android 4.1.

[ iPhone 5 delights on a device level, but has plenty of rivals to worry about. See Apple iPhone 5: Opportunities And Threats. ]

Windows Phone 8, due out later this year, will also offer a bit of a visual change when compared to Windows Phone 7.5 and Windows Phone 7. It offers a wider selection of Live Tile sizes, and lets users customize the home screen more fully. WP8 may not be a drastic redesign, but it goes a long way to improving the usefulness of home screen behavior and how users will interact with their devices. Compare Windows Phone 8 to any version of Windows Mobile (which Microsoft ceased developing in 2010), and Microsoft's efforts to modernize its OS are apparent.

BlackBerry 10, when it is released early next year, will be a completely new operating system. Everything about it will be different from the previous versions of BlackBerry OS. BlackBerry 7 was released just one year ago. BlackBerry 7 and BlackBerry 10 are wholly different.

The original iPhone, along with iOS 1, was released in June 2007. Here we are more than five years later and iOS appears mostly unchanged when compared to the original.

One might argue that you don't mess with success. The iPhone, after all, has been a huge success for Apple. The iPhone ecosystem generates more revenue for Apple than all of Microsoft's products combined do for Microsoft. It's a massive business, and with 400 million iOS devices out in the market, Apple clearly knows how to make a product that people are willing to buy.

What's worrisome is that Apple may get stuck in a design rut. Just look at OS X. It's been available for more than 10 years and looks almost the same as when it first debuted. Can iOS really remain (essentially) unchanged for that long? I don't think so. Google is innovating quickly. Microsoft and its OEMs are stepping up their game, too. In a few months, we'll have a clearer picture on how far RIM aims to take its redesign.

iOS 6 may be the best and most powerful version of iOS yet, but it still runs the risk of being boring.

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tufurzero
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tufurzero,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/23/2012 | 8:58:32 AM
re: iOS 6: Apple Headed For Design Rut?
ANON1244069316589, an upgrade to '4.04 ICS' for your HTC EVO 4G has been out since August 2012. Contact your phone provider to learn how to update. Those phones not upgraded still receive ongoing support with improved security and function code.

http://www.htc.com/www/help/an...
ANON1244069316589
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ANON1244069316589,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/19/2012 | 2:01:38 PM
re: iOS 6: Apple Headed For Design Rut?
The major difference? When iOS 6 is released one will be able to automatically update the OS on an iPhone 3GS, which was released in 2009. My HTC EVO 4G, released a year later, is stuck at Android 2.3, a couple of pastry shelves lower than the current version. And no promise of an upgrade path is evident unless I dig into the guts of the beast, but having a real job I'll take an off-the-shelf option.
So only the geeks wonder why I mothballed the HTC in favor of an iPhone 4S. Buying into a walled garden does entail a risk, but one does it every day outside of their mobile choices.
While iOS might not merit a full integer monicker tick up, it's ubiquitous application among devices does provide comfort that a year-old piece of hardware is not left behind.
ANON1245092820117
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ANON1245092820117,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/18/2012 | 11:24:29 PM
re: iOS 6: Apple Headed For Design Rut?
If you think OS X looked the same 10 years ago ... that is bogus. I was there at Apple running OS X on a system and OS 9 on another bcz OS X was just starting up and ugly. They have made HUGE changes in OS X and I enjoy it now.
andrewst
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andrewst,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/18/2012 | 7:27:23 PM
re: iOS 6: Apple Headed For Design Rut?
What an ignorant article and author. First and foremost, if the author wanted to complain about UI design, the title should have reflected that. In one short sentence, he rapid-lire lists the actual new features that I was expecting to be critiqued, and then spends the rest of the article lamenting Apple for simply not changing the iOS pictures and layout, for no reason other because it's been "five years." If iOS or anyone changes their UI and appearance significantly for no reason other than "we need to keep things fresh" they are basically giving the finger to users' opinions on their usability. You lose more customers to UI issues than anything else, and you're kidding yourself if Apple doesn't know this. Any company spends (or should be spending) big money in privately piloting UI enhancements and analyzing feedback long before introducing them. The reason I for one enjoy iOS and Apple products is because new features integrate quietly and passively into the UI instead of sloppily being staple gunned on the side as "widget menus" or God knows what else Android calls their next overlay container. Apple pioneered the modern mobile App world because of the care they took in polishing their devices' appearances and UI designs.

"If it's not broken, don't fix it."
DTOTH1954
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DTOTH1954,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/17/2012 | 1:18:30 PM
re: iOS 6: Apple Headed For Design Rut?
In response to the iOS 6 look and feel still being like iOS 1...
My single biggest gripe with my desktop OS is that every time Microsoft releases a new version of Windows, they move every key function and disrupt the layout. I spend the next 2 years trying to find everything which I'd finally gotten figured out on the last version, just in time for them to disrupt it again.
Seriously. Change the static IP address on NT4, 2000, 2003, 2007, XP, ME, Vista, Win7 and Win 8. How many different places? And to what benefit?

I'm quite happy with a stable user interface which adds incremental function within that structure. In fact, that's part of what I'm explicitly willing to pay for and sacrifice (some other things) for.

But, this is why there is a wide open market with iOS, Android and Windows options. Some people prefer chaos and rapid change, some prefer cohesiveness and predictability. What you view as a weakness in this case, others view as a strength.
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/15/2012 | 1:52:43 PM
re: iOS 6: Apple Headed For Design Rut?
Ummm. You haven't "really" looked at Win8 much now have you?
ANON1237925156805
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ANON1237925156805,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/13/2012 | 10:35:18 PM
re: iOS 6: Apple Headed For Design Rut?
Point taken, Erc: Apple, grow or die. Folders, search screen, notification center are examples of how Apple has already changed its look and feel to accommodate useful enhancements. There would need to be more changes to insert a widgets bar create access to a directory tree for stored documents, etc. Eventually it may be time to start over. Apple has to be open to that.

But here's a pushback. Don't understimate the value of continuity. The current iOS design is pretty timeless and effective. It doesn't look stale. Change for change's sake serves no one, and lack of change in superficial look and feel does not equate to lack of innovation.

You cite OS X. Under the hood though Mountain Lion is a very different animal than Jaguar. Timeline, support for gestures on a touchpad, spaces, document versioning are just a few innovations that were big deals for users. Because the core of how things work has stayed the same, users can learn the new features very quickly.

Google gets the power of continuity too. How often do they change the basic all-white Google search screen? The original look and feel of Android wasn't a radical departure from iOS, which of course built on Palm OS, RIM, etc. Why? So users would know how to use the phone right out of the box and because some designs just make sense. There's a reason why most towel racks have been horizontal for centuries.

As another poster suggested, the rapid changes in Android's look and feel do not reflect innovation so much as the fact that Google released Android in a not quite finished state. (Brilliant decision, btw.) Now that it's a grown up, I'm guessing that the rate of change that users see will slow down while innovation continues under the hood and in infrastructure.

If that doesn't happen, then the combination of too rapid change and variability across vendors and devices will hurt Android in the enterprise, especially if Windows makes inroads and/or RIM rises from the grave.

Bottom line, it's a little more complex than one thinks.
wehaveyourpants
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wehaveyourpants,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/13/2012 | 5:38:48 PM
re: iOS 6: Apple Headed For Design Rut?
You haters still don't get it... Apple is about product perfection. Adding a bunch of junk no one really wants to a device or making it overly complicated to use is not what the consumer wants. Microsoft?! The iPhone's revenue is worth more than all of Microsoft. This is the post PC world. Apple builds the nicest, highest quality product on the market. It does everything the MAJORITY of users want a device to do and does it seamlessly.

Best part is, when I am ready to sell it two years later, I make a profit! Just sold my iPhone 4 on eBay for 347... Considering it is 2 years old and has a crack on back means that Apple has built a device so well that even after it has been outdated twice it is still worth more than I originally paid for it. If you bought a GSIII in June you can't even make your money back today, much less 2 years from now.

In the 90's everyone made fun of me because I used a Mac... Now in the post PC world the same people are hating because just like then you are totally wrong about the product.

You can put the new iPhone next to every phone on the market and it will win... In case you were unaware, Jony Ive is the world's greatest Industrial Designer. Take your piece of junk Plastic and PVC Samsung phone somewhere else and stop talking about things you have no experience with.
bitNine
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bitNine,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/13/2012 | 5:38:04 PM
re: iOS 6: Apple Headed For Design Rut?
I'd like to offer a couple of corrections and comments

First, the home button doesn't always take you back to the main home screen. It takes you back to the last home screen you were on. A second tap takes you back to the main home screen. A third tap takes you to search.

Second, one big thing they have changed, that you didn't mention, is the addition of being able to organize icons in folders, rather than having multiple home screens. I don't know what you mean by not being able to control them fully.

But most importantly, Apple isn't stupid. Apple caters to technological morons. People who don't like change. People who are so tech clueless that if they changed the size of the icons, that person wouldn't know how to use the device. Simplicity is key with their devices, and while those of us who aren't technological morons would love to see a bit of customization, it's not as if the setup is bad. Is it boring compared to Android, yup. But Apple is smart in this regard.

You watch what happens with Windows 8. They "moved the cheese" with their crappy new start screen and complete redesign that will confuse users, and cause many to revert to Windows 7 or not upgrade at all, even despite its low upgrade price. MS realizes there is a learning curve, but to force people into that learning curve is dumb. Why not just go out and buy a mac, if you're going to make me learn a completely new interface? Microsoft will realize their mistake when it's too late, and they will lose market share to OSX. They will then have to bring back the interface that people have been using for the last 17 years, as a secondary to the new modern design of the start screen.
EdnTampa
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EdnTampa,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/13/2012 | 5:34:05 PM
re: iOS 6: Apple Headed For Design Rut?
Here's a difference. In my opinion Android OS up until 4 had a lot of room for improvement. Android has a ton of features, but I always felt like the UI was dated and rough. When iOS launched, it had a polished UI.

I agree some new options need to be added. I would like see a widgets panel. Not the way Android does it, but the way OS X does it. OS X has had widgets for years. I have and android 4 phone now. I thought the ability to change the icon was a nice feature. However, the icon only changes on the shortcut. You still see the old icon on the task managers and task switcher. So to me this is a feature that sounds good on paper, but is not implemented completly.
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