Safari in iOS 7. (Image: Apple)
I always consider any major redesign of iOS to be a dangerous undertaking, given how popular and straight-forward it usually is already. Change for change sake is generally a no-no to people comfortable with how things already work, and change in the wrong hands can do more harm than good. When I heard that Ive was taking over for Scott Forestall as lead software designer, I saw it as his Kobiyashi Maru test: a no-win scenario. Too much change — especially in workflow and usability — and Apple gets dinged for jumping the design shark; too little change, and Apple gets hit for being timid and unable to keep up with its rivals. (Cue the Tim Cook isn't Steve Jobs debate.)
Making changes, even minor changes, is almost always divisive and polarizing. There are always going to be critics. But what I see in iOS 7 is the public reveal of the culmination of months of hard work by the Apple design teams. In other words, this interface didn't just happen; Ive didn't sketch this on a napkin days before WWDC. I don't buy the talk that iOS 7 is a declaration of war, or that Apple's "cool factor" is back or anything overly dramatic like that; this isn't about being cool. The only thing iOS 7 does is finally show the cards Apple execs have kept secret during a long period of radio silence.
This is just what the teams at Apple do, and have been doing since the return of Jobs in the late 1990s. Sure, iOS feels different than previous iterations, but functionally, it does the same things. From what I've experienced, Apple engineers knew when to say no; lines were drawn where they needed to be, and the new features — in concert with that restraint— will be appreciated by users once start working with iOS 7 themselves.
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