Focused on apps, Apple's iOS 7 provides a sneak peak at new sharing icons

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
Apple's upcoming iOS 7 introduces a bright, clean new visual appearance that strips away much of the shadowing and gloss that Apple introduced into the computing mainstream with iPhone six years ago, particularly evident in its new social sharing app icons.



Apple's design overhaul of iOS, orchestrated by its famed lead hardware designer Jonathan Ive, focuses on functional design expressed with the same clarity and precision that's been a driving force in developing the company's hardware.

It's an obvious departure from from the richly ornamented original appearance of the 2007 iPhone, which flaunted its industry leading support for sophisticated, hardware accelerated 2D graphics composition with layers of gloss above design element and layers of shadow below them.

The iPhone's appearance was derived from earlier work on OS X, which debuted in 2001 with similarly inspired layers in its translucent Aqua interface. The Mac's richly detailed icons grew increasingly nuanced to the point where the utilitarian System Preferences icon was represented by machined aluminum gears housed in a nonsensical contraption behind glass.

OS X icons large


The icon for TextEdit.app actually portrays a studio-lit mechanical pencil casting a drop shadow on a written note that includes the text of Apple's "here's to the crazy ones" manifesto featured in its 1997 Think Different campaign.

After a decade of fully exploiting iconic decadence to the point of exhausting it of its novelty, Apple is now pursuing a new direction where app icons return to being the expertly distilled, abstract representations of functionality they originated as on the first Macintosh, the designers of whom which coined the term "icon" as an allusion to representational images used in religious veneration.

"A better, more delightful experience overall"

Many elements of Apple's iOS 7 design deconstruction have generated controversy, with several critics expressing particular disapproval with the company's new first party app icons and even the concept of Ive's underlying grid system (below) and a "precise color palette."




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At the same time, several industry observers, including Instapaper developer Marco Arment, have also noted that iOS 7 will provide third party developers with a rare opportunity to stand out from the App Store crowd by adopting the refreshed design cues Apple employs.

It appears that designers from top social sharing networks are already onboard to move away from the glossy detail apparent in iOS 6 and embrace the refined new appearance of iOS 7.

iOS 7 sharing app icons


iOS 7's support for social sharing expands beyond Twitter and Facebook to add support for Vimeo video uploads and Flickr photos. Each service is now being represented by new, gloss-free icons within Setting's sharing configuration pages, even though the services haven't updated the appearance of their existing app icons yet (before and after, above).

A platform for developers vs Windows Everywhere

While often compared to the "flat" appearance of Microsoft's Windows Phone, iOS 7's isn't aiming at being flat.

Its new sharing interface, for example (below), is unique in that it contrasts color differentiated, branded web service icons, including the company's own iCloud, with utilitarian system tasks such as copying, printing, AirPlay or assigning a contact photo. The latter are assigned a monochromatic, generically abstract outline. The former are brands.

sharing


On Windows Phone, everything is apparently designed to look like an integrated part of the operating system, almost working more like component services rather than apps. Apple once tried selling developers on the idea of components with OpenDoc, an initiative that failed miserably in the mid 90s.

The Windows Phone versions of Facebook and Twitter apps, for example, look like strict implementations of Microsoft's Metro appearance, not like products independently designed by Facebook and Twitter with a focus on functionality.

WP sharing apps
Source: Windows Phone Super Fanboy


Additionally, Microsoft portrays its Windows Phones as having an interface dominated by a a single overall color and presenting most third party apps (even its own Internet Explorer, Xbox and Outlook brands) as simple white icons, focusing attention on the OS as a product rather than apps.

Windows Phone

Discount hardware not popular without support for apps

Similarly, Google's Android 3.0 Honeycomb attempted to rein in its open source platform under a strict, cohesively uniform Holo UI implemented as an appearance skin, but both third party software and (particularly) hardware developers have resisted efforts to conform with undifferentiated support for "pure" Android as defined by Google.

Like Microsoft, Google has focused on Android's operating system, highlighting its Holo 3D shadow effects and gadgets that direct users to the company's own YouTube, Gmail, Picassa and Google Web Search services (below).

Android 3.0 Honeycomb more like Tablet PC than iPad


Apple's iOS has always focused attention on third party apps, encouraging developers to create rich and novel experiences with distinctive, professionally designed visuals and icons in order to stand out as individual accomplishments users want to buy.

The core value of apps was particularly highlighted at the release of iPad, which serves largely as a canvas for third party apps. Critics initially dismissed the new tablet as "just a big iPod touch," apparently unaware of the fact that the iPod touch was itself incredibly successful in expanding Apple's iOS app platform, particularly in the field of video games.

Google's own efforts to deploy iPad-like tablets using Android, first with 2011's Honeycomb, then with 2012's Nexus 7 reboot plagued with hardware and software issues and most recently with a refreshed version finally equipped with functional solid state storage management technology, have focused on PC-style specifications and, more recently, low prices.

However, asTime observed last week, "Compared to iPad, Tablet Apps Are Still Android?s Weak Point."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 49
    macapfelmacapfel Posts: 453member
    A bit short for a feature – and somehow there isn't much on 'sharing buttons' as promised in the header.
    And when you remember Steve Jobs quote 'We made the buttons so nice, you want to lick them.' I can see why people find the new UI controversial. I'm not sure whether people feel compelled to lick the buttons in the new UI.
  • Reply 2 of 49
    irelandireland Posts: 16,899member
    Another big article to justify ugly home screen icons.
  • Reply 3 of 49
    mir808mir808 Posts: 12member
    New UI isn't really that beautiful like old UI but it is still million times better than Android and WP UI.
  • Reply 4 of 49
    danielswdanielsw Posts: 904member


    Much of today's world is focused on appearances with little or no regard for "what's inside." What's inside is either severely hidden and withdrawn, or even non-existent. Such is the plight of myriad companies attempting to copy-cat themselves to success, riding on the coat tails of the "original".


     


    Though Apple has admittedly spent a lot of time and effort on its own appearances over the years, at the same time and more importantly, it's spent much more time on design in its truest sense: form, function, and purpose.


     


    Steve Jobs said way back at the outset of OS X that Apple was betting its future on it. I think they've held true to that commitment, even to and through iOS.


     


    I remember watching Steve sit down in a comfortable chair on stage to demonstrate the new iPad. I believe he said something like, "It BECOMES the app!", referring to its relative simplicity.


     


    I've been using iOS 7 on my phone and iPad for a while now, and though I happen to like its simpler appearance, what I'm really impressed with is how it WORKS. Its simpler appearance really does get out of the way of the apps. And the Apple apps themselves even get out of the way of their CONTENT.


     


    We have yet to see what more will develop and appear in this beta phase, but I'm very optimistic that Apple will achieve its goal of a much improved and more compelling, useful, and enjoyable mobile system.


     


    I'm also looking forward to Mavericks with similar optimism!

  • Reply 5 of 49
    connieconnie Posts: 101member


    iOS 7 is going to be so awesome. A true minimalist design philosophy will take some time to get used to by some (a lot of people do not like change), but in the end this is the way forward for Apple, and people will begin to love it sooner rather than later.

  • Reply 6 of 49
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    Yea for removing the gloss. I hate that glossy look. I can't wait for Apple TV to be rid of it.
  • Reply 7 of 49
    blackbookblackbook Posts: 1,361member
    ireland wrote: »
    Another big article to justify ugly home screen icons.

    Part of the problem I keep seeing with iOS 7's home screen is all the icons are bigger than their iOS 6 counterparts.

    To me that seems counterintuitive with their goal of highlighting a users background no matter how much parallax is going on.

    If the icons were the same size as iOS 6's they would look less ugly and garish.
  • Reply 8 of 49
    jasonxjasonx Posts: 17member


    I haven't been following this very closely, but it looks fine to me from the video.  Can someone please explain what was controversial about the new icons and the grid system?

  • Reply 9 of 49
    blackbookblackbook Posts: 1,361member
    macapfel wrote: »
    A bit short for a feature – and somehow there isn't much on 'sharing buttons' as promised in the header.

    Agreed.

    Is more like a concise icons manifesto or something
  • Reply 10 of 49
    matrix07matrix07 Posts: 1,993member


    Anyone who use iOS 7: after a few weeks, are you annoyed by the candy-color?

  • Reply 11 of 49
    blackbookblackbook Posts: 1,361member
    connie wrote: »
    iOS 7 is going to be so awesome. A true minimalist design philosophy will take some time to get used to by some (a lot of people do not like change), but in the end this is the way forward for Apple, and people will begin to love it sooner rather than later.

    I agree a lot of people are going to love iOS 7.

    I love the new features and the overall look has been getting better with each beta. By the time the GM is released we're going to have a fresh new OS that truly is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.

    jasonx wrote: »
    I haven't been following this very closely, but it looks fine to me from the video.  Can someone please explain what was controversial about the new icons and the grid system?

    Icon-gate was the initial reaction from some in the tech and design communities after Apple unveiled the new 1st party icons.

    Some of the drama has since subsided but reactions were all over the map when iOS 7 was first unveiled.

    Some people prefer the detailed icons from iOS 6, some people didnt like the colors, some people didnt think iOS 7's icons were minimalist enough!

    More proof they can't make everyone happy. When they're accused of a stale OS they change it an people complain they don't like it. It's like they can't win.
  • Reply 12 of 49


    Bit short for a feature and virtually every bit of the comparison with windows phone is wrong. The author clearly hasn't read and of Microsoft's design guidelines for apps. At no point does it say "flat", or that apps must looks like the os or have plane tiles.

  • Reply 13 of 49
    danielswdanielsw Posts: 904member
    Quit quibbling. This is an Apple site. I personally could not care less what MS does or doesn't do with their crappy products.
  • Reply 14 of 49


    Those screenshots of Twitter and Facebook aren't the latest versions. The current versions look nothing like either of those screenshots.

  • Reply 15 of 49
    brutus009brutus009 Posts: 356member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by blackbook View Post





    Part of the problem I keep seeing with iOS 7's home screen is all the icons are bigger than their iOS 6 counterparts.



    To me that seems counterintuitive with their goal of highlighting a users background no matter how much parallax is going on.



    If the icons were the same size as iOS 6's they would look less ugly and garish.


     


    I disagree.  I always thought that many icons have WAY too much border for their own good.  


     


    Take, for example, the Mailbox app icon:


    http://webdesignandsuch.com/wp-content/uploads/01-app.jpg


     


    Why give such weight to a design element that is only meant to differentiate background content from foreground content?  I understand that "white space" can do wonders for content comprehension, but this almost feels like the designer is trying to say that the border is more than a standard element of design, and actually a primary design feature meant to stand on equal footing with the icon's central image.

  • Reply 16 of 49
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    danielsw wrote: »
    "It BECOMES the app!"


    Which is why I have a laugh when an Android fanatic suggests that iOS is simply an app launcher. All computing devices are app or application launchers.
  • Reply 17 of 49
    don108don108 Posts: 79member
    "On Windows Phone, everything is apparently designed to look like an integrated part of the operating system, almost working more like component services rather than apps. Apple once tried selling developers on the idea of components with OpenDoc, an initiative that failed miserably in the mid 90s."

    Daniel, you know that OpenDoc was far different than trying to integrate apps into the OS. It was a brilliant (IMO) idea that didn't take into account the greed of major developers. The idea was basically that all apps were sets of components and anyone could add a component to any app. Thus, a word processor would be composed of many components, and anyone could design a component that would interlock and work with the main part: a dictionary for example. This would mean that rather than monolithic, bloated apps (you listening MS?), you could get just want you want and Joe's Software could compete with an Adobe in creating just a dictionary to work in a word processor. Naturally, the big software makers didn't want this and wouldn't go along. It would have turned computing from a developer-focused experience into a consumer oriented experience. The developers didn't want to lose control. Apple's mistake was not realizing this, not coming up with a way around this problem, and dumping large amounts of money into designing a way to help the users rather than the developers.
  • Reply 18 of 49
    echosonicechosonic Posts: 445member
    I really am surprised that in cases like vimeo and several others the corporate color schemes are being modified by apple to fit their color palette instead of the color palette chosen by the company for their product.

    Facebook was pretty close to begin with but vimeo went from very dark to very light and that seems unusual to me. Des it mean theyre trying to look confrming, or that they were forced, or could they retain their original color if they just simplified the icon a little?
  • Reply 19 of 49
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    jasonx wrote: »
    I haven't been following this very closely, but it looks fine to me from the video.  Can someone please explain what was controversial about the new icons and the grid system?

    matrix07 wrote: »
    Anyone who use iOS 7: after a few weeks, are you annoyed by the candy-color?

    blackbook wrote: »
    I agree a lot of people are going to love iOS 7.

    I love the new features and the overall look has been getting better with each beta. By the time the GM is released we're going to have a fresh new OS that truly is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.
    Icon-gate was the initial reaction from some in the tech and design communities after Apple unveiled the new 1st party icons.

    Some of the drama has since subsided but reactions were all over the map when iOS 7 was first unveiled.

    Some people prefer the detailed icons from iOS 6, some people didnt like the colors, some people didnt think iOS 7's icons were minimalist enough!

    More proof they can't make everyone happy. When they're accused of a stale OS they change it an people complain they don't like it. It's like they can't win.

    Many people such as myself do not appreciate the design of iOS 7.

    The design of iOS 7 appears to be motivated by two factors; change for the sake of change and the creation of a user interface which is challenging for competitors to copy.

    I refer to the iOS 7 user interface as the "bubblegum" UI because the bubblegum UI appears mass produced in an assembly-line process and contrived to appeal to pre-teens and teenagers.
  • Reply 20 of 49
    It's interesting to see how Microsoft wants apps like Twitter and Facebook to conform strictly to the Metro UI at the expense of individuality and control. Apple curates, but MS goes overboard.
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