Is iOS7 â€˜flatâ€™ out better? [Global Times]
(Global Times Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Craig Federight, senior vice president of Apple, describes the new iOS7's features at a press conference in California in June. Photo: CFP
Months after Apple's long-anticipated iOS7 was introduced to the world in June, users continue to have mixed feelings about the mobile operating system that took the US technology company years to overhaul. Unlike previous generations, the new iOS features digital skeuomorphic textures - bookshelves with wooden veneer finishes and calendars with faux leather-stitching. Embracing a flat design, the operating system also displays a fancy parallax effect on the home and lock screens, giving iOS7 users the illusion of multidimensionality and fluidity in animations when their devices are moved. But after years of waiting for the company to make such substantial changes to the mobile platform debuted back in 2007, even Apple loyalists are divided on how much they like the new operating system. They say change can be polarizing - and for Apple fans, it is true. Some love the new iOS7 while others long for the good, old days, when only the older version was available. For Li Qian, a 27-year-old Hebei-based white-collar worker, the new operating system offers a simpler and smoother user experience. "It's awesome," she told the Global Times on Wednesday. "I love how it has given me a totally new smartphone."But others are a bit "freaked out."Some users who made the upgrade have complained of feeling queasy or seasick when experiencing the 3D wallpaper effect, according to media reports. There are also tech bloggers who say that they're disappointed with the operating system's lack of 'wow factor,' given its similarities to Android's Jelly Bean. According to Florence Ion, a former review editor with US tech information website Ars Technica, Apple's lock screen, main control panel and multitasking screen all appear to have taken cues from Android. Going 'flat'The biggest difference with the iOS7 is its flat design, which provides users with a brand-new look and feel. But while many users think that the iOS7 looks weird now, they'll soon get used to it and thank Tim Cook for his "bold" move, said Liu Dalong, an industry analyst with Beijing-based consultancy iResearch. Flatness will be the general trend and key word in the mobile OS world from now on, he explained to the Global Times on Tuesday.Jony Ive, Apple's current chief designer sensed this early on, but was "held back by the opinions of Steve Jobs and Scott Forstall [former chief designer], Tim Worstall, a tech blogger with Forbes, said last month, noting that since Forstall is now out and Ive is in, iOS7 has finally popped up to "kill" the old-fashioned skeuomorphism.Google also plans to follow the trend as it is reported to adopt a flat design for its Android 4.4, dubbed "Kitkat" and due out next month.The skeuomorphism first introduced by Apple to the mobile OS design was originally intended to help people form a finger-tapping habit instead of relying on push-buttons. Yet nowadays customers are more than familiar with devices featuring touch screen functions, and many have developed superior tapping skills. It is a trend that has sophisticated to the point that has left the skeuomorphic design language feeling a bit burdensome and formal, which has been said to even distract people from obtaining information. "The audience is mature now, so OS designers and app developers no longer need to generate a nice gloss and bevel to indicate a button. Apple has once again grasped onto the pulse of times," said Liu from iResearch. Microsoft, meanwhile, which shares aspirations similar to Apple's, has also been using a "flat" Metro design - or several colored slices - in its user-interface for years though it has failed to popularize its design that went "too flat," dropping too many details needed for a smooth and comfortable transition that would not panic users. So while Apple may not have been the first to bring a flat design to the mobile arena, it is the company with the most mature technology at the moment, and this may help create balance between "new" and "now," which Liu said is no easy task. Preparing for takeover Beyond offering a potential treat for users, iOS7 has the potential to change the way application developers work. It lays the groundwork for a new generation of apps and further improves the ecosystem for app developers in general, Hao Peiqiang, a Shanghai-based app developer, told the Global Times on Monday. "The design language is easier and the bar of entry has been lowered. Using simple elements, I could develop a new app quickly, which I suspect would be as useful functionally as it would be pleasing aesthetically."Given these grounds, more developers prefer the iOS platform and are creating more joyful iOS apps, which could persuade users to continue using Apple gadgets and contribute to greater sales volumes for the company, said Liu, noting that apps make up a key component of the competitive smartphone sector. Currently, Android and iOS are the two most preferred platforms due to their combined market share of over 90 percent. But if Google fails to solve the fragmentation - apps written only for one version, which are unable to consistently run on the other platforms - in the Android community, iOS7 may be poised to become the new leader in the OS field, said Liu. Google doesn't need to look far to see how iOS' recent performance in the US could be closing in on the market either. Though Android maintained a sales lead during the three month period ending in July, with 51.1 percent of the smartphone market, it saw a drop of 7.6 percent year-on-year. Meanwhile, iOS rose 7.8 percent, capturing 43.4 percent of the market and running a very tight race, said a September research report by UK-based market consultancy Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. As for the China smartphone market, Android continued to dominate. But if Apple continues to diversify its production line and give more consideration to price-sensitive consumers, patterns in the US market could eventually carry over to the China market, said Liu. After launching the more affordable iPhone 5C last month, Apple unveiled the highly anticipated iPad Mini 2, along with the iPad Air upgrade, which are expected to be out on the market next month. With a greater variety of devices coming online, more users will be set to weigh in on iOS7, and as Apple's first real design product to enter the market in a post-Steve Jobs era, it suggests the company is capable of producing more forward-looking technologies in the future, said Shanghai-based Hao.
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