The Hills Are Greener: By Design

The Hills Are Greener: By Design

Sep 24, 2012

iOS 6 is propagating on to iOS users’ devices now, along with coming pre-installed on the new iPhone 5. But there’s an interesting discussion trend coming up in all the discussion about it. Not just the Google Maps fiasco, but something visible yet invisible to many users: the design elements.

There seem to be complaints about the color of the status bar. It changes with some apps, usually to a blue hue. Safari is colored blue on the iPhone, but on the iPad, it’s still gray. The clock icon on the iPhone is not the same as the iPad clock icon, which is a new addition and possibly stolen. The phone keypad has changed. In general, with apps that use skeumorphism (elements that imitate reality) mixed in with apps that don’t, it’s what TheNextWeb describes as a “design diaspora.”

It’s curious, because design is Apple’s thing. It’s where their software and hardware are supposed to have an advantage, and it seems like at least from a critical perspective, it’s starting to shift away from Apple. That’s not to say that it’s shifting in favor of Android, especially with all the butchering that happens with TouchWiz, Sense, MotoBlur, et al. In fact, Android Police basically nails a list of grievances upon stock Android’s door in this article. Seriously, the back button thing annoys me too. But as mentioned in the article, there’s Mattias Duarte, snappy dresser and Senior Director of Android User Experience at Google, thinks Android’s UX is about 1/3 of where he wants it to be. Considering the major improvements made in Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean, this is a positive sign.

Apple may still be in flux with Steve Jobs gone, and maybe they still have some work to figure out what they need to do. There’s a chance iOS 7 could be a major overhaul and every criticism made now will wash away, and Android will look stodgy and clunky by comparison. Granted, Android’s always been an operating system where a little bit of neatness has been traded for the flexibility the OS offers. That gap feels like it’s closing, and Apple has a lot to do to keep it wide. Perhaps it’s in them, but what if it isn’t? Apple has been on top for a while, and no one in technology stays on top forever. IBM, Microsoft…who’s to say Apple isn’t next? If their standards start slipping, maybe their reign as top dog will.

Of course, it’s silly to imply this because the iPhone 5 is going to still sell like gangbusters, and preorders have been crazy. But something feels different. Even the iPhone 4S wasn’t all that different and reaction still seemed mostly positive. The reaction really might not be seen until a year or two from now, when people coming off of their contracts will start to maybe question whether they really want to keep with the iPhone, if the trends being perceived actually exist. And it all starts by design.