The iPhone was first released back in 2007, and the iOS operating system -- which was called "iPhone OS" back then -- hasn't changed much during that time.
By that, I don't mean that things haven't changed significantly under the hood -- they have -- but, visually iOS 6 looks and feels much like the operating system that shipped with that first iPhone more than five years ago, back when the iPhone had a total of seven apps on a single home screen.
Is it time for Apple to revamp of its mobile platform? There's a good case both for and against a revamp, along with an equally compelling case that it doesn't matter either way.
Yes, it does
A lot has happened since the iPhone first hit the scene. In that time not only has the iPhone itself changed significantly -- especially with respect to screen size, screen resolution, and the addition of the App Store -- but new mobile platforms such as Android and Windows Phone have burst onto the market. These operating systems have brought with them different paradigms and different -- and possibly better -- ways of working on smaller screens.
Apple should be taking notes.
Another thing that has changed since the iPhone was released is that the processing power contained within the device has increased enormously. This gives Apple the ability to do things with iOS that wouldn't have been possible back in 2007. Active tiles, animated backgrounds, and true multitasking are just three possibilities plucked out of a sea of possible improvements.
Another factor putting pressure on iOS is the fact that Apple has now take a user interface first designed with a smartphone in mind and retrofitted it for use on the iPad and iPad mini. Is an operating system that was designed to be driven by a finger and thumb the ideak solution to a tablet environment? Perhaps not. Again, Apple should be innovating, not staying still with respect to design.
Five-and-a-half years is an eternity in the tech world, and it's time for Apple to realize that its operating system no longer cuts it.
No, it doesn't
Sales of iPhones and iPads totalling many millions every quarter suggests that consumers are more than happy with iOS devices as they are, and that the platform offers them exactly what they want in terms of usability and functionality. While iOS might not be as flashy and glitzy as Android or Windows Phone, iOS is every bit as usable -- and perhaps more so because of its restrained design.
Less is sometimes more.
While there's no doubt that Android and Windows Phone look more stylistic and modern thanks to features such as live wallpapers and live tiles, it's unclear as to whether these features actually make the operating system any more usable, or whether they are little more than distracting eye candy.
See also: Why Apple doesn't need a cheaper iPhone
For example, do tiles that constantly change -- such as those present in Windows Phone -- make the operating system easier or harder to use?
According to usability experts at Nielsen, by choosing to go with "Live" tiles in Windows 8 Microsoft has made the Start screen "into an incessantly blinking, unruly environment that feels like dozens of carnival barkers yelling at you simultaneously." Maybe Apple is right to keep things simple.
Another question worth pondering is whether iOS users actually want a different user interface. After all, surely if users wanted an operating system that looked and felt more like Android, they would choose Android devices instead? Both seem to have a healthy market.
Choice is a good thing, and having different operating systems offers just that.
Does it really matter?
Do users really care about the minutia of their mobile operating systems? While it is interesting to debate the merits of the different platforms, it feels to me like talking fodder for geeks and pundits. As long as Apple is happy with iOS device sales -- which, in turn, means that users are happy with what the products offer -- then there's probably little reason to fiddle unnecessarily with the platform.
Innovative change is one thing, but change for the sake of change rarely makes users happy.
Image credit: CNET.