iOS7: Apple stands on the shoulders of giants
At the World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco last night, Apple unveiled what it called “the biggest changed to iOS since the iPhone”.
A whole new look replaces the familiar on-screen feel of iOS – all Post-It notes and fake leather – with a new, simpler feel. iTunes Radio will offer a world of new suggestions for the songs you should be listening to. The App Store has been redesigned, photos are now better organised and even Ferrari will integrate iOS into the dashboard.
All of this adds up to an iOS that will draw more users to the iPhone, that will stop existing Apple fans from defecting, and cements Apple’s position as by far the dominant smartphone platform for developers. Apple reminded the 6,000 people in the audience that $10billion has so far been paid to developers, which is three times all the other platforms combined.
It was hard not to look at many of the features that Apple announced and think that they were somewhat familiar – in Mail, for instance, a new gesture allows users to swipe from the left to peek at the inbox, just as BlackBerry users can today. In the weather app, there are delightful animations that will be familiar to HTC users. The new feature of automatically updating apps when developers release new versions has been available to Android users for nearly three years.
Many will feel it’s unfair that Apple has taken many of the best bits from its rivals to build an operating system that now competes with others, but does not indisputably beat them on every aspect. There are no widgets in iOS, for instance, so you’ll still need to open an app to see when your next train is leaving or to scroll into the improved notifications centre to discover what’s going on with Facebook or Twitter.
Jony Ive, Apple’s lead designer, said that he saw a “profound and enduring beauty in simplicity”, but made no claim to have invented it. Implicitly, Apple has learnt from its rivals – it is standing on the shoulders of giants such as Microsoft, Google, BlackBerry and Nokia. Its weight may yet humble them.
In hardware, meanwhile, Apple continues to build beautiful products – the new Macbook Airs look just as lovely as their predecessors but offer even longer battery life. The new Mac Pro looks like no other computer and harks back to the days of the Apple Cube.
This is a company that is combining software and hardware like no other. Some aspects may look familiar, but Apple attracts such ardent fans because it puts everything together so well. The whole remains much more than the sum of its parts.