Does iOS look outdated? Reasons for and against

Does iOS look outdated? Reasons for and against

Summary: Is it time for Apple to learn from the likes of Android and Windows Phone and bring its mobile platform up to date, or is iOS fine the way it is?

SHARE:
TOPICS: iOS, Android, Apple, Apps
63
Screen Shot 2013-01-16 at 08.31.09

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.

Read this

iPhone and innovation: Is hardware the only place Apple can go to keep up the buzz?

iPhone and innovation: Is hardware the only place Apple can go to keep up the buzz?

Speculation about the next iteration of the iPhone has already begun - but how many times can Apple reinvent its classic handset?

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 alsoWhy 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.

Topics: iOS, Android, Apple, Apps

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

63 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Dated

    So it's dated but people like it anyway. Why change?

    Sounds a lot like ZDNet, a bit dated on the content...
    gfox1984
    • That did make me chuckle..

      Seriously though it's a valid point... Just Look at iTunes; that looked basically the same for a decade, people often commented on it looking out dated, then complained when they changed it...or remember office 2007? There's a difference between looking new and familiarity. When modernisation is done right, you don't even notice it happening, one day you'd pick up an old iPhone or whatever and say to yourself, oh did it used to lookalike that?!

      Users don't like massive leaps in basic things such as menus and interfaces as it forces them to re-learn tasks they don't much care about anyway.
      MarknWill
      • Totally Right

        MarknWill is totally right!

        MarknWill say : "When modernization is done right, you don't even notice it happening"

        This is exactly the case! When they change the interface, if people complain, it is because to fail... Good modernization of the UI OS is a success when people don't even notice changes.

        Take Windows Phone as 7.5 and 8 an example, nobody complain about the new UI compared to the Windows Mobile 6 or 7! Because the new modernization is a success...

        Apple never modernize their interface since 2002 guys... May be they fear to fail lol...
        EricDeBerg
    • Change for the sake of change

      is usually a pretty stupid idea.
      baggins_z
      • Yea and no.

        Change for the sake of change is bad, as evidenced by Windows 8. On the other hand, change for the advancement of the system is not bad, as evidenced by Android.

        When I switched from my iPhone 3G to an Android phone running Android 2.1, it too some major getting used to. Android was decidedly crude and more primitive in comparison. But just a few short years later, and it's now iOS that looks simplistic and primitive. Every time I've played with friend's iPhones - 4, 4S and now 5, I'm shocked by how little iOS has advanced.

        I would say Apple most definitely needs to update iOS, and not just with a new skin, but real substantive changes to push the envelope, as iOS initially did itself in 2007. Apple makes great hardware, but they've most definitely been resting on their software laurels as of late.
        PC987
        • Change for the advancement of a system

          is, by definition, not change for the sake of change.
          baggins_z
        • iOS dated?

          Are we not mistaking user interface for the operating sys? It will be uncharitable to say that iOS is dated, but you can say the UI is dated pending on your taste!
          From start Apple has taken a UI/Usage pradigm that ran contrary to what the techies would consider to be the preferred norm. Sales figures has often proved this position wrong. And up till now, the deludge of contenders notwithstanding, Apple products have stood their ground commendably.
          What Apple needs to do in order to hold out better against the likes of Samsung is to expand their global reach - including other US carriers for instance has certainly paid off!
          ckharry
          • "hold out" - I don't want no stinking holdout

            Microsoft never made file selection easier with a larger and smart window.
            Apple not making things easier when half a billion of us are already enjoying easier on our Android phones is recalcitrant, stubborn, arrogant, defensive, rent extracting and not customer friendly behavior. Ballistic rockets go into free flight as the reach their apogee. Companies with a profit motive should do the same. Give up the power of profit once its done its good and before it turns into the monster it almost always becomes. Apple has definitely reached its apogee. Time to think of the customers.
            john.medcalf
        • What???

          PC987 say "Change for the sake of change is bad, as evidenced by Windows 8. On the other hand, change for the advancement of the system is not bad, as evidenced by Android."

          What??? Are you kidding??? Android is the most wrong UI on the market... don't talk about advancement in the case of Android. Android have the wrong paradigm from the start ... Android have the most crappy and UI on the market... AN I don't talk about the lagging of the UI.... Please don't compare iOS, Windows Phone 8 or Windows 8 and RT with Android... Android is far back from all these OS....

          Windows 8 changes are for advancement of the system!!
          EricDeBerg
          • You've got to be joking.

            I really hope you're trolling about Win 8 being advancement for the system. It's advancement for the eye, it's pleasing to look at but it's also a chore to use. Sometimes you want to open up the computer folder or your documents folder without having to open up other things on the desktop, but you can't. You can't do thing you can do on the desktop on the start menu and vice versa, it's really counter-intuitive. Android 4.2 is one of the best OS's with one of the best UI's currently out there, IOS anything looks outdated. I hate seeing every app and folder on the screen, it's displeasing to my eye, I know it's different for everyone but it's a big gripe for me.
            Nick Her
      • That is a great point, but...

        iOS is rather stagnant and other phones are stealing the thunder of what made the iphone so desirable in the first place.

        That is the reality of the case. Sure people still like iphones and it does have some strong points, but the tables are being reversed and it shows. iDevice users are now looking at other phones/tablets with envy of certain features. That is a dangerous place to be for a company.
        Emacho
        • Not really. The iPhone still massively outsells

          any other individual handset in the market. Unless you are one of these fools who thinks Android is a hardware product.
          baggins_z
          • Who said iphones don't sell well?

            How is iPhones marketshare doing by comparison? Tablet or Phone?

            The point that seems to go over your head is that iDevices used to be undisputed kings in their fields. Now look at the competition. There are plenty of better devices with lists of features that are missing in the iphone.

            There is a reason why Android devices are selling so well. Like it or not.
            Emacho
          • How many?

            Features list has never defined success - in a sense it is symptomatic of desperation! User experience/Usability is what matters and unfortunately user experience/usability are not the same as features set.
            Some of these devises are just too complicated and confusing to the average folk - the days when users had to go for training to use a device are long gone.
            ckharry
          • Rocket Science

            The technically incompetent make it hard on themselves. It took my 4 year old cousin to learn to use Android 4.2 in a couple of days, sure IOS was easier for him to use but it doesn't take a genius to figure out Android.
            Nick Her
          • The iPhone still massively outsells

            Wrong-

            Samsung sold more phones...
            mack.
          • Just to make a point

            Samsung sold more "Feature phones" than Android phones. Nokia sold more Feature phones in 6 months, than they sold WP7/8 phones in almost 3 years.
            Troll Hunter J
      • here is my problem

        change can be good or it can be bad. we have seen examples both ways. however, and this is the big however, will my battery last. android has these nice active stuff and such, but battery life sucks. I have both android and iOS and iOS wins hands down on the battery life. this active stuff that makes my device sexy also kills my battery life. and frankly I want battery life not dancing "dukes". if you don't understand this reference google it. it says everything. is iOS a bit outdated? about as outdated as windows 7, but hey at least I can get work done and not play pin the tail on the icon to figure out what does something and what does not.
        serpentmage
        • Only old Android phone have bad batteries

          You must not have a newer Android phone. The Galaxy Note II gives you two days of battery life and that's with running widgets which do offer more info then having to open a app. ios isn't going to change because Apple know's that most people are afraid of change. Things change every day and live goes on. But here's the problem, most people want to go back only if it's yesterday. A clock only goes back by one hr every year, yet it's a new year and the time has changed.
          Samuel Rodrigues
  • No, no, no

    I think we've seen enough change for change's sake in the interface. IOS is carefully derivative of the OS X interface, with a dock for the most important functions, and the launcher paralleling the OS X app folder. It simply added what was needed for touch based input. That's given users the most important usability trait of all - familiarity. You didn't have to learn from scratch how to use an iOS device - familiarity with the desktop metaphor combined with natural gestures was all you needed.

    Compared to "Charms bars" and "start tiles" and all of that, which throws a lot of strains on a Windows' users muscle memory and years of experience, iOS is just familiar and comfortable. Aside from the obvious "It has hundreds of thousands of apps", people buy the iPad in part because they aren't nervous that they won't be able to figure it out - after all, its just a bigger version of that iPhone 3G they once had!
    Mac_PC_FenceSitter