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iOS 10 preview: A sad present for a milestone birthday

Galen Gruman | July 20, 2016
A misguided redesign of several screens to accommodate widgets and a small set of enhancements detract from iOS's 10th anniversary

iOS 10 preview: A sad present for a milestone birthday

Apple's iOS is in its tenth iteration and nine years old, believe it or not. In tech years, that's, what, 63 years old? At that age, you're about as mature as you can be, and you really slow down the changes you make to yourself. That's certainly the case with iOS 10, which has to be one of the smallest updates ever to the iPhone's and iPad's operating system -- in the first public beta version, anyhow.

iOS 10's version number seems misplaced given how minor the changes are this time around, and if the intent was to celebrate iOS's double-digit milestone, this version doesn't do that.

Most of iOS 10's "big" changes are cosmetic, centered around its newfound love of clunky, overly bound Android-style widgets in the lock screen, notifications screen, Control Center, and what used to be the (useless) Search screen (swipe all the way to the leftmost screen).


The Control Center screen: iOS 10's two screens are at left and iOS 9's single screen is at right.


The lock screen: iOS 10's two screens are at left and iOS 9's single screen is at right.

The search screen: iOS 10 is at left and iOS 9 at right.

The notifications screen: iOS 10 is at left and iOS 9 at right.

Although the previous versions of these screens could have stood improvements, they at least were clearer and required less scrolling around to get things done than the new versions. The Android-style fixed widget containers overly constrain some features, like the calendar widget, into unusably small spaces.

They also take way too much space for many features, requiring (for example) extra scrolling in the Control Center for exactly the same functionality as before. (Why does the Night Shift mode now get such a big button? It's not something you toggle on and off frequently, after all.)

Some widgets also work in oddly limited ways. For example, the new Mail widget shows you whether you have new emails from people in your VIP list. But if you tap a person with a "new mail" badge, you don't get that person's email. Instead, it opens the Mail app in the VIP folder. It's better to go to the Notifications screen and open the message directly from there.

To me, this ungainly, rigid new design is a mistake that goes against Apple's history of elegant simplicity. I wonder who's minding the user experience shop at Apple these days.

 

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