Apple’s software problems go deeper than skeuomorphism

Though it took a lot of people by surprise, the overall feeling on Scott Forstall leaving Apple is mostly positive. The long-time SVP has been painted as extremely difficult to work with, and the leading advocate for the controversial skeuomorphic elements in iOS.

Forstall’s duties will be split up among several executives, with all Human Interface stuff, for both hardware and software, now rolling up to Jony Ives. A lot of folks think Ive’s talent for aesthetics will transfer over to software and give iOS a much needed makeover.

But are rich Corinthian leathers and dark linen backgrounds Apple’s biggest problems in software?

Kontra, veteran designer and author of counternotions says no. In a blog post that started making the rounds yesterday, Kontra explains why Jony Ive might not be the iOS savior that everyone is hoping for, because for starters, its worst problems aren’t UI-related.

“In the end, what’s wrong with iOS isn’t the dark linen behind the app icons at the bottom of the screen, but the fact that iOS ought to have much better inter-application management and navigation than users fiddling with tiny icons. I’m fairly sure most Apple users would gladly continue to use what are supposed to be skeuomorphically challenged Calendar or Notebook apps for another thousand years if Apple could only solve the far more vexing software problems of AppleID unification when using iTunes and App Store, or the performance and reliability of the same.”

Of course, there’s a lot more to Kontra’s piece. And the entire thing is worth reading. But this really summed it up for me. As successful as it has been for Apple, iOS is inherently broken in many areas. There are still several major features that are either missing or subpar.

Like why is it so hard to transfer files and documents from one iOS device to another, or to a Mac? And why is it that it still takes several taps to access settings like WiFi, Bluetooth, and screen brightness — things that all have a substantial impact on a device’s battery life?

Obviously, this list of problems could go on forever. And I’m sure everyone’s would be a bit different. But the point is, Apple’s biggest problem in software goes far deeper than skeuomorphism. It goes all the way down to functionality — heck, just look at iOS 6 Maps and Siri.

Maybe Mr. Ive will make iOS look [feel?] better, but for a guy with little background in software development, I doubt he’ll be able to do much for the OS’s bigger problems. Luckily, other Apple leaders like Craig Federighi, SVP of software, and Mr. Fixit Eddie Cue are on it.