iOS7 is great for developers but Apple's own apps continue to suffer

Last week Apple realised iOS 7, the latest version of its mobile operating system. It was a very large update reflecting the design choices of Johnny Ive rather than Steve Jobs. I have been using iOS 7 for about six weeks now and I can say that it is a pleasure to use. It feels easier to find things and go about my daily business. And there is actually something to flatness (where you expect things to be touched and for other things to happen) and translucency (where there is always a link between where you have got to and where you have been leading to less surprises or breaks that can be confusing). These are not things you fully appreciate in just a few days of use.

What I had not focussed on since I left them some time ago were Apple’s own apps. This is what most people use because Apple makes it hard to use other apps. These are actually poorly designed in contrast to iOS 7 in general and what other developers do in particular. Let me give you some examples.

First, consider the calendar. Yes, it is now a simple design rather than some datebook but it is not very economical on space. The following shots compare it to Fantastical (which is my calendar app of choice and hasn’t been updated for iOS 7 yet).



Notice how the Apple version holds far less information on a page. It is really quite annoying. It is also hard to navigate as month view requires a swipe back.

Second, consider the clock application. The following pictures show how the timer and alarms are set.




It uses a dial, just as you would find on alarm clocks. But these are bugs not features. What would be quicker would be to use a keypad and just enter the time. Or, alternatively, as other apps have done for timers, offer presets. This is really just poor design.

As a final example, consider the compass app. This app includes a compass which makes sense but also something more useful, a level. Now levels have been around since Day One of the app store. This one is better and quite functional. But what is it doing in the compass app? It has nothing to do with that. That makes it hard to find. Craziness. Is Apple in the ‘all in one’ app business that arose in the early days of apps when you could only have 148 on an iPhone?

I could go on. Now this may all be just Apple’s plan to encourage and not kill app development by third parties. But, in that case, it has to get better about a user’s ability to specify default apps. Start with the Apple stuff but, if we are really all grown up now, I think we can handle a change in defaults. Alternatively, Apple need to keep to design principles and standards and deliver a great experience on their own apps. If Tim Cook says they don’t ship junk that really has to apply to everything.

2 Replies to “iOS7 is great for developers but Apple's own apps continue to suffer”

  1. I’m not bothered by the limitations of the Apple apps that you mentioned. If someone doesn’t want to use them, there are many 3rd-party replacements.

    What *does* bother me is a font-size problem in the App Store app, which (for obvious reasons) has no 3rd-party replacements. I’m old enough to need bifocals, and find that app’s font sizes too small to read without eyestrain. There’s no good work-around, because unlike Apple’s other built-in apps, App Store ignores the global Text Size setting.

    The App Store app had the exact same problem in iOS 6. Since Apple didn’t fix it as part of the transition to iOS 7, I doubt they intend to fix it anytime soon.

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