With the release of the new iPhone and the corresponding update in its mobile operating system, for the last few weeks we’ve been up to our necks in Apple news. Now that the dust is beginning to settle, however, it’s a good time to take a step back and consider the implications these new releases will have on the mobile ecosystem.
By now most of us are acclimated to the significant visual alterations in iOS 7, and many see these changes as merely cosmetic. However, in a fascinating post over at Wired, Kevin Manhemert argues that iOS 7 will have a revolutionary effect on mobile app development for the iPhone.
First, Manhemert contends the visual changes aren’t gratuitous. Rather, he considers the history of the iPhone, tracing it all the way back to 2007 when the Blackberry ruled the roost. To compete with a device that had 30 to 40 physical buttons on it, Apple had to populate its screens with icons that looked like actual buttons, thus favoring the “skeuomorphism” we’ve seen in Apple’s hardware up ‘til now.
Now that mobile app developers no longer have to fret about “having to bounce fake light off a lickable button,” Manhemert argues, it will prove significantly easier for a good idea to become a mobile app without having to go through the process of mastering some of the more “esoteric” features of Photoshop. In other words, developers can focus on producing quality apps without having to dedicate time, resources, and training on making it flashy for flashy’s sake.
The Wired piece takes as an example Apple’s native spirit level app. (If you haven’t found it yet, it’s on page two (swipe to the left) of your compass app.) Prior to the iOS 7 release, that app would have had to graphically generate an actual bubble to resemble a physical spirit level, whereas now it concentrates on its function as a spirit level without losing any of its visual appeal. For that matter, the compass itself has undergone a similar change: we require a compass to point north, nothing more, but what we don’t need is for that compass to come with fake wood grain as though it belonged on the bridge of some Victorian-era sloop.
In other words, the visual simplicity and elegance of iOS 7 allows developers to concentrate on function rather than on skeuomorphic aesthetics. It will be interesting to see how this will affect the industry over the next few years.