With iOS 7, are we seeing a less confident, more malleable Apple?

By , Jan 25, 2014

Time was once when Apple was infamous for not giving its users choice. Steve Jobs himself famously said that consumers didn’t know what they wanted, and that it was Apple’s job to tell them, and he was often right. It was this confidence, some may say arrogance, that made Apple so sure of its designs. So absolutely convinced that it was on the right path. And arguably, it’s why it has been so successful over the last ten or so years.

But things are changing inside Apple. Since Steve Jobs’ death and the handing over of the reigns to the unflappable Tim Cook, Apple has been going through something of a metamorphosis, and everyone has seen how the company has changed. Countless people have written about how Apple isn’t the same company since its co-founder and visionary left it to somewhat more pragmatic minds, and the evidence that they’re right simply keeps on mounting.

The latest pointer that Apple’s outlook is somewhat different to that of the Steve Jobs era comes in the form of iOS 7. Not, as some would think in the way Jony Ive was allowed to rip up the iOS rule book in favor of a complete rethink, but in how it has reacted to criticism, and how it continues to flounder thanks to its seeming inability to pick a path and then stick to it. Apple is no-longer sure of its convictions, and it’s left worse off for it.

To see how Apple now seems less confident in itself we need look no further than the way it has capitulated on some of its iOS design decisions. With versions of iOS beyond 7.0 and continuing today in the iOS 7.1 betas, Apple has been stung by criticism of some of the decisions it has made about things like removing backgrounds from buttons, making them less obvious in the process. Now, as beta releases of iOS continue to drop, Apple is still tinkering with how it displays some of its buttons.

There’s more too. Having taken flack for its use of a new, thinner font in iOS 7, the company has added new options to make it bold, as well as adding weight to the standard font setup.

There is, of course, all the motion sickness undercurrent too. Yes, it’s a real problem and Apple does right to fix it, but the tweaking and option-adding that is still going on shows that someone in Cupertino still isn’t comfortable with how iOS 7 handles its transitions and 3D effects. The Apple of old would have thrown a fix out and that would be that.

It’s debatable whether Apple’s newfound inability to make a decision is down to the change at the top or simply a softening of an ‘our way or the highway’ stance that once made Apple both so popular and unpopular in equal measure. What probably isn’t up for debate is the fact that Apple seems less sure of itself, less confident it knows what’s right for its users and more willing to listen to criticism as a result. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing depends on what the end result looks like. Apple is certainly still fleshing iOS 7 out into the finished article we’re all waiting for, and here’s hoping it manages it before its crisis of confidence gets any worse.

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  • zabrawn

    As long as there’s an on/off switch for what they tweak, people shouldn’t be annoyed.
    Also, I’m jailbroken, so it’s been my way all the way. nothing to worry about =)

    • Matthew Cleveland

      This is why I’ll never understand why people complain about certain things in iOS. If you don’t like it, there’s an off switch. You’re given the choice. Stop complaining!

      • Rick Kreuk

        Many off switches are missing: automatic OTA update downloads, the crappy iOS 7 look, code signing checks… Especially not being able to keep the iOS 6 design is a huge fail.

      • SimonReidy

        An on/off switch labelled “the crappy iOS 7 look” wouldn’t look too good ;)

      • troothseek3r

        but would be very practical ;)

    • Carlos Reyes

      so why do we still criticize android phone owners for “gimmicky features that they will turn off or never use anyways” it’s a choice but it’s nice to have the feature if you want it.

  • Bill Do

    It took 6 years for iOS 6 to mature so it will take a few releases for Jony Ive’s design to mature as well.

    This was the same as when Android moved to version 4.

    • Virus

      i would hate to see the iOS7 theme for another 6 years I think they should change the theme and icons with every 2 year iPhone

  • rockdude094

    IOS would be perfect if users were given the option to tweak the OS according to their style. The stock OS is a perfect thing to build upon by users themselves and works just fine without tweaking.

  • Jordan Dixon

    While this is all true, bear in mind that the original iPhone OS took about 2.5 years to finish, and that was very basic. To completely redesign a very widely used OS (from children to grandparents) in only 10 months is very difficult.

    • rmgt008

      Well said. I imagine iOS 7 will look very different in a year and a half.

      • John

        Of course iOS 7 will look different in a years time… it’ll be iOS 8 by then ;)

  • James Coulee

    Well, just check the evolution of OS X under Jobs: it was exactly the same thing! Every time they gave a jump there was a subsequente fase of tinkering, tweaking and tuning.

    I understand that sensationalism is free, but I don’t feel there’s really a story in this case.

  • geekinit

    I’m a long time iOS app developer and what I’m finding is that iOS development is finally getting easy. Some of it is ARC, storyboards, auto layout, changes to how table views work… I think the more flat design of iOS 7 compliments those things. It’s clear that Apple spent a lot of time trying to preserve what worked and changed what was painfully hard for devs. I remember in the old days having to programmatically change views when the keyboard displayed. I honestly don’t think Apple has changed much. They are still doing great things.

  • Merman123

    It’s just times changing. You can only hold off on things for so long. Eventually some features become a standard necessity. In abstract , if you take a close look at iOS7, we are still very limited. Sure, things have been added but the way they are handled remains the same. Take a look at Control Center for example. Any other company would have allowed for even further customization within the features, while Apple gives us their set of toggles that they choose to be relevant.

    • Rowan09

      I agree but honestly those toggles are the most used, so that’s why they have them in Control Center. Well that’s my opinion.

      • N&LH

        Yeah right, but for example, I don’t use the brightness & AirPlane mode toggles .So for me I would like to have other toggles like one for turn on/of 3G instead of AirPlane mode!

      • Anthony

        I’m pretty sure airplane mode isn’t part of Control Centre. Just saying

      • N&LH

        No it is. When you look at Control center, you will find AirPlane mode first option at the top left

      • Anthony

        My mistake. Ya there would probably be better options for that spot

      • N&LH

        I think Apple should give the option in settings to choose which toggles you wanna have in the control center.

  • sjtod

    “Crisis of confidence”??? That seems a bit overboard, as does this entire editorial based on a few UI modifications.

    • 4p0c4lyps3

      Ya, rlly can’t believe I just read this article. Desperate and ugly.

  • jack

    You gotta be such a sensitive and bitchy person to say u have “motion sickness” from a little parallax effect on a phone

    • http://www.bearsstillsuck.com/ Simon

      As 2 sensitive and bitchy people down vote your post! Haha
      You are spot on though!

      • jack

        iDB deleted my comment.. pathetic. I’m about to move to another blog

  • Mohammed Sahib

    If steve was alive, he would’ve never allowed a half-baked os like iOS 7 to be released in the first place.

    • abc

      If Steve was alive, he would’ve never allowed your comment to be displayed in the first place.

    • N&LH

      Change is important, so do you want to have the UI for 30 years !!.
      IOS7 is a step in the right direction. There is nothing wrong when a company make new design & make improvements.

    • N&LH

      Can you tell what was new in IOS 6?

    • John

      Half-based?
      You sound fully baked, Mohammed.

      Clearly you have not been using iOS too long, have you.

  • Rowan09

    When people are use to something and there’s a change we will always have this issue. People were use to IOS 6 since 07 so it will take time.

    • N&LH

      Change is important, as I think IOS 7 was a good step. Because Many people have started to get bored, same design & no new features. Specially IOS 6 didn’t bring new features

  • oralarts

    Sometimes it’s best to not transform thoughts into pixels. There’s no story here.

  • Joey M

    Adding Accessibility options to iOS doesn’t mean that the entire company is unsure of itself. Most people are fine with iOS 7’s design in terms of usability it and the majority of people like it aesthetically.

    The entire Accessibility section of iOS is designed for people with special needs. More options = more users.

  • Joseph A. Ahmad

    In regards to iOS 7.1 beta 4, I’m not sure if this has always been achievable because I’ve seen people requesting this in the comments section on here before; you can keep the iPhone unlock for Touch ID turned off while using the fingerprint scanner for the iTunes & App Store. I’ve tested it in the app store by unlocking my phone with the normal 4 digit passcode and then immediately going into the App Store, and it requested my fingerprint to authenticate a purchase, so it does work. For anyone who’s interested or can confirm that this is new, let me know. If it isn’t new then my apologies.

    • http://www.bearsstillsuck.com/ Simon

      Touch ID for unlock is by far one of the greatest innovations Apple has implemented into the iOS. I don’t know why anyone with a 5S wouldn’t use that convenient feature!

      • Joseph A. Ahmad

        Yea, I don’t know either. But if you ever read the comments on some of the stuff, you’ll see that people will usually ask if this is possible. It’s just something I noticed, so I figured I’d give people a heads up. But you’re right, I use Touch ID as well, especially if I leave my iPhone somewhere that my idiot friends can attempt to mess with me.

  • Laszlo Gaspar

    Sadly this is exactly why I left apple for Microsoft. I loved windows 8 from the moment I saw it and I like how they just take the criticism and carry on pushing for the metro interface.

    • N&LH

      Windows 8 has nothing new. All its features come from IOS & Android

      • Laszlo Gaspar

        My point was purely based on design not features.

    • N&LH

      There is no comparison between IOS & Windows 8. There are many features are not in Windows 8.

      • Laszlo Gaspar

        They are easily comparable seing as 8 is both a desktop and tablet OS. Plus as i said to the other person, my point was based purely on design.

      • Kurt

        I love windows 8. I’ll be picking up a win 8 tablet later on. I also love my iPad air. Wish it had a stylus. Today I couldn’t click on a drop down menu on my iPad, I had to go to my Note 3 and use the stylus to be able to.

      • N&LH

        You couldn’t click. You can use your hand!!

      • Kurt

        Like how iOS has split screen/multiwindow and windows 8 does not…no wait

      • N&LH

        There is no reason to talk in this way. I am not stupid. I know you cannot do that on iPad. However, most of Windows 8 features come from IOS & Android.

  • to86

    Come on idownloadblog – you are far better than this. Absolute garbage article, with no substance at all. Fine tuning your designs apparently means you are losing confidence and direction?!

  • rmgt008

    Why does Apple’s decision to give user’s more choice a necessary result of *insecurity*? I for one APPLAUD Apple’s decision to give users more choice with the UI.

  • Kong

    I would have to agree. This article is more than stretch and is somewhat pointless. I don’t understand how Apple is being penalized in this article for taking action on feedback received by users. Isn’t that simply good business? So I guess confidence is ignoring the consumer and doing whatever you want. And unless you get it right the first time, best to simply leave it as-is to demonstrate confidence… in being wrong? There are numerous methodologies, such as Agile, that focus on the concept of multiple iterations to achieve a better end product. Tweaking a design is simply good business and I’m not sure how an article could be written to say otherwise. I would guess if they did not tweak the design and respond to feedback, we would be reading an article about how arrogant Apple is for not listening to users.

  • Karl Sullivan

    The changes made in the latest 7.1 beta are not good at all. seriously Apple rethink your direction. Its looking cheaper and more child like in every release.