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iOS 7 is Apple’s most polarizing update yet

In the weeks leading up to WWDC 2013, rumours and reports suggested that iOS 7 would see a dramatic user interface overhaul. Apple would scrap the controversial skeuomorphic elements from the UI, instead replacing them with “black, white, and flat” elements. While those rumours proved to be true when Apple showed off the new version of iOS last night, there was another prediction that was also bang on the money.

“The one thing I keep hearing over and over again from friends who would know is some of the stuff they’re going to show is ‘polarizing’”, said Daring Fireball’s John Gruber just a few short days ago. And how right that turned out to be. You need only look at Twitter during and after the announcement to see the difference in opinions.

Naturally, there are people that love the changes:

Then there are those somewhat on the fence:

And then there’s everyone else:

So why exactly is iOS 7 causing such a difference in opinion? Joshua Topolsky of The Verge honed in on the main reason late last night:

“But with the icons, there’s an enormous feeling that Apple’s designers couldn’t decide on a direction. And for all the jokes about skeuomorphism, I would have preferred something nearer to the company’s previous efforts than the new set, which seem closer to bathroom signage than even Windows Phone in their plainness.”

That also seems to be the general sentiment among those who were closely watching WWDC. The overall changes to iOS 7 – the cleaner fonts, the removal of textures such as green felt and stitched leather – have been embraced with open arms. It’s the app icons that seem to have ruffled feathers the world over, and it’s not hard to see why. Some icons simply don’t make any sense – look at Game Centre, for instance, or even Newsstand. Other icons, like Settings, are somewhat confusing, while iTunes and the App Store aren’t bad so much as they’re different.

There’s also the question of what app developers are going to do once iOS 7 rolls out on a wider basis. Will they keep their old app icons, or modify them to fall in line with Apple’s new design guidelines? As it stands right now, the two visual styles seem to clash when mixed together.

At the end of the day, it’s hard not to feel sympathetic for Apple. The company was placed in an impossible situation when faced with the current designs of Android and Windows Phone. If Apple carried over the familiar user interface to iOS 7, the criticism would have been deafening. Any direction that the company took with a visual refresh would have been met with similar chagrin.

That doesn’t mean Apple gets a free pass. The icons as they are now are problematic, and we’ll have to see how the general public responds once word of the changes begins to spread. Apple may even make some tweaks between now and release – iOS 7 is still in beta, after all. 

Still, at least we can all take comfort in the fact that no one was disappointed.

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