Clint on Mobile

Apple iOS 7 – Brought to you by a Lunatic with an Axe

Is Apple iOS 7 the worst design to ever come out of tech? “It appears to have been designed by a lunatic, and then hit with an axe.”

Clinton Stark
09.19.2013 | View Comments
iOS 7. What. On. Earth?

Crying optional: iOS 7. What. On. Earth?

“It appears to have been designed by a lunatic, and then hit with an axe.”

Forget The Verge, forget CNET and forget Gizmodo.

When it comes to iOS 7 that quote, by none other than Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson, just about says all you need to know about Apple’s brand-spanking new, “modern” operating system that powers iPads and iPhones.

I saved that quote, which was made in reference to the TVR Sagaris, months ago–on a Post-it note. I wasn’t sure why. But it made me laugh every time I saw it. For best effect you have it deliver it in your mind with Clarkson’s affectionate, sarcastic British accent and style: lunatic! an axe!

There’s other, equally, and decidedly more American ways, to describe iOS 7:

Bloody mess.

Dog’s breakfast.

An affront to designers everywhere.

Helvetica? Hello?

Hey Stark who moved my cheese? Jony Ive that’s who. Just remember that.

Take your pick. This has got to be one of the most disturbing design mash-ups to ever make it to a shipping product–one that received a stamp of approval from Jony Ive, a design legend.

I don’t recall ever seeing such a completely whacked out, kindergarten-inspired jambalaya.  It’s as if iOS 7 had the hands of a hundred designers at its throat, evidently all working in opposite directions. Inconsistencies reign supreme. The Game Center icon is abstract. But the Camera icon is painstakingly literal. Check out the new passcode screen and, trust me, you’ll shake your head in disbelief. Oh, and sometimes the virtual keyboard has a white background (most of the time), and occasionally (and apparently randomly) it’s black. Crying, optional.

Before you jump all over me, remember this: the iPad Mini is my favorite tablet of all time. I’ve come to really appreciate–at times adore even–the Surface Pro, but it’s simply too clunky (and battery life is a show stopper). Android tablets are quite respectable (Nexus 7), and amazing bargains. But the Mini gets it right — it’s the right size, the right battery life, the right apps. Timeout! This is the folder backdrop on iOS7, featuring a solid defective looking gray:

Apple iOS 7 on iPad Mini - Ugly Folders

Vomit bag optional; though I appreciate the whimsical nod to the Netscape browser of 1994. Predictably, The Verge gave iOS 7 8 out of 10. Predictably, CNET gave it 4 out of 5. Yet they treated the issue of its hideous design with kid’s gloves saying respectively “Design is disjointed and confusing in places” and “iOS 7′s new design makes it a compelling upgrade.” Perhaps their lightweight critique is appropriate given the grade school vibe of iOS 7. Surely there’s innovation under the cover. But what an ugly cover.

Android still reigns supreme when it comes to notifications. Apple can’t seem to figure that one out. Bokeh is nice when you pull down the notifications menu, but the execution misses the point: we want quick summaries of what’s happening, not an entirely separate user interface. Total miss.

Timeout!

This is the Safari icon:

Apple iOS 7 on iPad Mini - Safari Icon

Yep, the early previews turned out not to be a joke. Apple followed through with what might be the most hideous icon ever made.

Multitasking in iOS 7, okay, let’s be fair: it’s pretty sweet. Four fingers up, and wham, just like Android, you’ve got a card-based metaphor. Fingerprint unlock. Very handy. I like that too. Though that nifty feature only works on the new iPhone 5S (gold?!). Also have you noticed the elegant way wallpaper subtly moves depending on the angle you’re holding the iPad, or iPhone?

Timeout!

This is iOS 7:

Apple iOS 7 on iPad Mini

Above all, Apple is known for: design. Related to that is aesthetics. They go hand in hand. Someone once told me that aesthetics is a form of innovation. That some of nature’s most marvelous innovations are related to accentuating beauty. As I wrote last week, however, innovation and Apple are no longer synonymous. iOS 7 is its crowning achievement — too many voices. Steve Jobs was a dictator. And, as we’re now learning, it served Apple well.

Perhaps I’m being too kind.

Design-wise iOS 7 lacks direction. It’s deeply flawed. Above all, it’s unfinished.

ALSO SEE: Apple, my friends, is dead

Side by side the old iOS, though dated, at least had a cohesive look. Going flat and doing away with skeuomorphic elements is all good. We really don’t need felt and wood in digital user interfaces. This, however, is Apple. A beacon for design. With the master craftsman and iPhone wizard Jony Ive at the helm, and surrounded by a deep, deep pool of talented people – this is supposed to be the 1988 San Francisco 49ers, not the 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers.

I can only guess that this rather unfortunate misstep is the result of group-think. Apple culture is apparently now more of a democracy than a dictatorship.

I truly hope Google, with its impending KitKat Android update, draws zero inspiration from iOS 7. True, Android has always been Pears 101 to Apple’s Dance at Le moulin de la Galette. Recently though, with some gorgeous updates to Google Play, using Android no longer feels like walking through a bad neighborhood. In fact, Android design in many ways surpasses that of Apple. In an ideal world I’d take Apple hardware with Google software.

As much as I love the iPad Mini, which is the best tablet ever made–lack of Retina display notwithstanding–iOS 7 should sadly go down in history as one of the tech world’s most egregious designs, joining Microsoft Bob, the Pontiac Aztec, and the Apple III.

Cover Story on latest issue of Businessweek: Apple CEO Tim Cook and lieutenants "have never been more certain they're right.

Cover story on latest issue of Businessweek: Apple CEO Tim Cook and lieutenants “have never been more certain they’re right.”

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Clinton Stark
Clint writes about Silicon Valley (Churchill Club Academy member), film, California wine, theater (ATCA member) and tech including his trusty Canon EOS 70D and, much to his wife's chagrin, his new Pebble smartwatch. A would-be NHLer if it weren't for the clarinet, he tries in vain to direct Loni on Stark Insider TV. He's held executive marketing roles at Cisco, EMC and Salesforce.com, and is active with start-ups across the valley. Clint's story...
  • Andrew Neuman

    Couldn’t agree more with everyone said in this article!

  • Mike Phillips

    I guess you are just an Apple hater – Please

    Go back to your Blackberry Phone or whatever you own.

    • http://www.starkinsider.com Clinton Stark

      You mean my iPad Mini.

    • mf2112

      I guess you are just an ignorant Apple ball licker who can’t read.

  • A.O. Onibs

    Totally agree. The new inner workings are great, but the outer interface sucks.

  • Jivester

    I like the thin flat look…but the colors!

  • http://thestoppedclock.blogspot.com/ Aaron

    If I understand correctly, you don’t like the manner in which the folders pick up the color of the background, and thus fade into the background. No argument there. I think Apple should add some additional features to allow the user to tweak folder color and/or contrast.

    You really don’t like the Safari icon? I’m not going to argue that it’s attractive, but to me it’s no big deal. The passcode screen seems odd? No argument again, no big deal. The keyboard color changes and that seems odd? Yeah, same again.

    I’m not sure what “we” want in notifications, unless that’s the “royal we”. I don’t use that feature much, so I’ll defer to your assessment and comparison.

    Your commentary mostly seems to boil down to taste preferences and trivialities, so is this post and headline really about more than click-generation?

    • Ryan Allen

      You can increase the contrast… it’s in settings. Completley gets rid of transparency.

  • Rave Marques

    Another piece of shit who is probably trying to short aapl and make money by misguiding people. This is the best mobile OS i have seen ever.

    Pathetic and kiddish article….

  • Nick Lemke

    100% agree. I’d prefer my phone to look and act professional, not childish. This update might steer me away from the new iPhone unless there is anyway I can buy a 5s and downgrade it to iOS6. And just to mention, I’ve been a pro-iPhone guy since day one

  • bobotheclown

    Its more than just ugly. It is the final realization that Steve Jobs is dead and so is his company. This is the end of beauty and elegance in design. It is the end of hope for technology to be the servant of man instead of users being the slave of lowest denominator technology. The people behind this were obviously not graphic designers, or artists. They obviously had no power or access to the decision makers at Apple. This is the kind of thing that must have looked bad from the first day it was roughed out at Apple but everyone was afraid to say anything for fear of losing their jobs. It is a quintessentially American error. A top down design based on fear by a now quite demoralized workforce. It looks more like a business presentation whipped up in an afternoon on a PowerPoint. Eventually the component parts will be made to work together and after a few years it may even make sense as a whole system. But the magic is gone. Dead and buried with the man who would only accept the insanely great. Apple is now entering is joke company phase. Its the first step on the downhill path.

  • Ilya Arbit

    Clinton – i believe this is the quote from Jeremy Clarkson you were looking for:

    http://youtu.be/jbO_CaGJXZ4?t=43s

    I completely agree, It definitely gets the point across in his accent

    • http://www.starkinsider.com Clinton Stark

      That’s the one. Excellent.

  • Scott

    Worst, biased article from a probable closet Android fanboy. I am sorry Jony didnt consult you for your personal color preferences before release. Yout opinions are obviously better than ours so you are saying, the way you push your personal tastes. You understand that there is adaptive color right? Has this design stymied iphone/ipad functionality? Did the disliked safari icon stop it from working? Or any it’s new features? You think waiting a week to see if any of it grows on you is appropriate or is knee jerk journalism the order of the day? Did you throw out the iPad mini? Did you roll it back to IOS 6 because of this? It is unuable now? Did the lunatic with an axe not provide any new functionality to offset the design you have a problem, with? Enough to warrant its use. Because you only touch on vague IOS 7 functionality, while decrying it altogether. And you know the fingerprint scanner is hardware right? Not just something (like Siri) that is software, and hardware dependent, as your vague 5s reference might imply. BTW Can you find some more ramdon self serving tweets from nobodys to support your case? TIMEOUT!! This article is a Total Miss! Worst tech design since…well, since according to you, IOS 7!

  • Robert Flubacher

    iOS7 obviously has it’s flaws and I agree that looks unfinished. Especially in other language versions (e.g. German) it’s kinda scary. Many words are too long for the UI. Obviously the guys responsible for translation didn’t give a rats ass about that. But I really like where they are going with the new layout!

    About the author of this article: this is nothingbut click-fishing. It is obviously working. But I think you have no clue what you are talking about, sir!

  • mattack1

    “Dog’s breakfast” is American? I only ever hear Gordon Ramsay say it.

    • http://www.starkinsider.com Clinton Stark

      Finally. An intelligent comment.

  • Carl Orthlieb

    At the risk of proving the theorem that everyone believes they are a great UI designer:

    Color scheme feels like kindergarten with a box of crayons. The colors leap out at you and the UI becomes a jumble as a result. Icons I particular loathe: Photos (how is a color wheel a photo?), Newstand (jumbly), Gamecenter (bubbles?!), and Passbook (three-layer jello salad). Icons that got missed: Find Friends (still skeuomorphic), Remote (same old).

    Hard to tell what is and isn’t a button. You see the icons on the bottom of the Safari window?! Took me a while to realize that you could actually click on them. The design is so abstract that I dare you to tell me what they do without clicking on them. Flat is one thing… this is too flat for my aesthetic.

    On the plus side, notification center is much better and the control panel is very convenient. The level (inside the compass app)) is a nice addition, although I doubt my phone case is true enough to truly make it useful.

    I suspect the real value of iOS 7 will not be felt until developers starting taking advantage of the new feature sets offered.

    • Frank Fenn

      Great article! My first impression seeing iOS 7 on my retina iPad was: WTF! So I downgraded to 6.1.3 and live with that until the new Nexus 10 comes out, nuff said!