Apple's success in recent years has largely been due to its ability to design and create products that appeal to a wide variety of users, from tech enthusiasts to mainstream consumers and business users.
Other companies have tried to emulate Apple's designs and its successes, resulting in numerous MacBook Air and MacBook Pro look-alikes in recent years and various parts of the OS X design incorporated into the Windows platform. (This goes both ways: While Microsoft has copied features like Spotlight, Stickies, and Widgets, Apple cribbed the Finder sidebar and the Back and Forward buttons in Finder from Windows.)
But the iPhone has been something truly remarkable from the start; it redefined the smartphone market almost overnight upon its arrival in 2007. Having done that, however, Apple has found it increasingly difficult to stay ahead of its Android-based rivals, who have mimicked features in iOS and even moved ahead of Apple in some areas. Microsoft, on the other hand, entered the smartphone market late, leaving it far behind the competition.
At this month's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple unveiled the next version of its mobile operating system, iOS 7. I know this is a beta, and much can change before iOS 7 is ready to ship later this year, but what I've seen so far has made me question Apple's design team and the direction it's taking. The company as a whole seems to be flattening its various components, from Jony Ive's job title (he's now senior vice president of design) to the icons utilized in iOS 7. (I'm not alone in this view, though not everyone agrees about the flatter design.)
At WWDC, Apple CEO Tim Cook said iOS 7 represented "the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of iPhone, [with] a stunning new user interface." I couldn't agree more that it is a massive change, except that the "stunning" UI leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
My first impression was that iOS 7 looks like the love child of Android and Windows; it is an unpleasant departure from Apple's innovative design ideas. To begin with, the lock screen no longer includes the "slide to unlock" switch, which would not bother me had Apple given the lock screen a face-lift. While sporting a cleaner digital clock, the style looks oddly similar to what you see on an Android screen. At first, I wondered whether Apple had left something out or was joking, just as it did during the keynote speech in announcing OS X "Sea Lion." Without the unlock switch -- which has been a part of every version of iOS until now -- the screen looks naked; all you see are the words "slide to unlock" above an up arrow, which can only cause confusion among newer iOS users.
This is far away from Ive's statement about "bringing order to complexity." This change, while it seems small, will most definitely bring complexity to order. As a former Apple Store employee, I can tell you that this one change alone will prompt a lot questions from iPhone users about how to unlock their screen properly. And that's before they even begin using iOS 7.