How developers are dealing with the changes Apple wrought in iOS 7

How developers are dealing with the changes Apple wrought in iOS 7

Summary: This fall's arrival of iOS 7 brought many changes and complaints for both users and developers. A TidBITS post details how these changes may affect how developers decide how apps will look and operate under the new Apple mobile OS, and how previous versions will be supported.


Apple's new interface changes in iOS 7 have roiled some iPhone and iPad customers. But developers have more than enough troubles of their own integrating the major system update. The update is bringing some tough choices to developers, according to developer and author Matt Neuburg, in a fascinating post at TidBITS.

In How iOS 7 Will Affect Developers — and You, Neuburg details developer and user interface issues with the primary interface changes, such as buttons; new UIKit Dynamics animations and blurred transitions; background downloading; text changes; and bugs.

How developers are dealing with the changes Apple wrought in iOS 7


Neuburg shows screenshots of his app Zotz! before and after iOS 7, and discussed the implications for its usability. Unfortunately, the changes necessary to update the code may make it a pain to maintain older code.

Trying to untangle the resulting interface mess is so troublesome that many developers will probably find it not worth their time and effort to maintain compatibility with iOS 6 and before. It’s far simpler to drop iOS 6 support, or to publish two different apps (one for iOS 7 and one for pre–iOS 7), than to rejigger one app to look right on multiple systems. It took me several days to fix the way Zotz looked; by the time I was done, I had a decent iOS 7 interface, but there was no going back.

The settings screen of my Zotz app shows some of the adjustments I had to make in order to deal with changes in how widgets draw themselves. The problem with buttons was particularly acute; the system was no longer showing users that these were buttons — they looked like mere text. To clarify the interface, I ended up drawing my own rather unsatisfactory custom button-like borders. On the left, how it looked in iOS 6; on the right, how I managed to get it to look, eventually, in iOS 7.

The sluggish way that iOS 7 is working on some older hardware will keep many users on the older iOS 6 and even older versions. But as Neuburg suggests, developers may be focused more on dealing with iOS 7 issues, rather than updating for older versions. This could lead to a quick, mass orphaning of these older apps.

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Neuburg discussed a number of typographical features in Dynamic Text, about which I posted in the summer. He also talks about the bringing of the Mac's OS X text layout engine to iOS.

How developers will use this new-found power is anybody’s guess, but drawing styled text in sophisticated ways will be vastly easier. Expect to see inline images, tab stops, text “decorations” of various sorts (such as special colored underlines or word backgrounds), and text arranged in interesting shapes. For example, I’m not sure whether or how I could have laid out an illustrated price list in columns in previous versions of iOS, but in iOS 7 it’s easy. (The missing “0” isn’t a mistake; it’s to prove that my tab stop aligns the prices on the decimal point.)

According to Neuburg, iOS 7 is the "buggiest major iOS system release ever." Many apps must include workarounds, he says, and some developers are holding off on upgrades since "fundamental functionality no longer operates correctly." He said there's an interface element that works under iOS 6 and iOS 7.0.3, but breaks under the latest Version 7.1.

Or widgets that worked from iOS 4 through iOS 6 but was broken in iOS 7.

Neuburg's post makes interesting reading. We can hope that the fixes for iOS 7 will keep coming during the holidays and in the new year.

Topics: iOS, Apple, iPhone, iPad, Software Development

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  • It Is Seriously Schizophrenic

    iOS7 is a love, hate, "what the hell?!?" update.
    At the time, I can't call it an upgrade.
    Schizophrenic is a much better descriptor.
  • That is the Apple way

    They have always had a "don't look back" way of programming. Apple doesn't have any issues with expecting people to upgrade to be part of their ecosystem. The latest iPad Air doesn't work well with most cases and docking devices for the iPad 4 or earlier. Even their still for sale iPad 2 is very different.

    I think their OS should be careful. Historically they've enjoyed being the "easy" dev environment compared to Android. But as most Android devs focus on 4.0+, Android isn't the fragmented system it once was. And if Windows Phone ever catches on they could be in serious trouble. WP8 dev is very easy if you are already a .Net or MVC dev. No one devs for OSX anymore unless your a gaming company.

    Apple should do what they have done in he past and make their iOS easy to dev for and maintain to maintain their monopoly as the go-to device.
    A Gray
    • Nice one trying to blame Apple's attitude to programming

      Clearly you have never heard of Windows 8 or the Office ribbon, both of which are re soundly hated by most users despite MS trying to pretend that they listen to their users.
      • Ribbon vs Windows 8

        The ribbon works fine; the only reason anybody hated it was "I hate change, period."

        Windows 8 had some serious flaws, like turning everything into mystery meat navigation and getting rid of an important UI element for the desktop, leaving it a horrible OS for mouse & keyboard use.
        • No. There were other reasons to hate it

          I'm fairly adept with the ribbon now, but it was two years full of "where the hell do I find the pivot chart" wizard, and having to constantly Google that crap. I had been using Excel since the Mac on the 80s, and Word since winword 1.0 came out on Windows 286. I was turned into a total noob with one twenty minute install.
      • Apple vs anyone else, NA

        Comments directed toward one object are not verified or negated by what another object does. Whatever MS does has no bearing on Apple. What is being used is the criteria.

        Apparently it's true . the "new" academics omit linear thinking.
      • Nice try at the spin, Two left feet

        but this isn't about Microsoft.

        Are you THAT worried about Apple's image that you can't let someone post a less then stellar comment regarding them?

        But then again, iOS 7 is soundly hated by most users despite Apple trying to pretend that they listen to their users, since I've heard little "good" about it on these boards.
        • If you had actually bothered to read the original comment by A Gray,

          which you clearly have not done, then you would have understood that he was stating/implying that the problem resides solely with Apple. That is untrue and, hence, my response. I actually made no comment, whatsoever, about the article!

          Next time, instead of just being an brainless MS fanboi, why not to read the entirety of the posting to fully understand the context.

          Unfortunately, you and other MS fanbois like LC and Owl"net, are far to fast in opening your MS-loving mouths without properly reading and understanding comments.
        • Most Hate iOS 7?

          I take issue with the idea that most users hate iOS 7. A survey on MacSurfer (IIRC) just before release showed most people were looking forward to it. I find it an improvement overall, though I look forward to UI speed optimizations. I wouldn't want to live without the Control Panel or the new multitasking "screen".
          Doug Bott
    • "Very easy" is perhaps an overly exuberant way to characterize WP8

      Microsoft changes their dev platforms like socks. Windows Phone 8 is totally incompatible with the Windows RT lineage, alleged to be the future pathway of Phone, which in turn is totally incompatible with Windows Mobile before it. Microsoft makes great development tools, but you have to be prepared to have the rug pulled out from under you.

      iOS and Android have permitted you to run a continuous code base that, while tweaking may sometimes be needed, a total rewrite never is.

        They share the same code = can run the same apps
        They share the same kernel = similar experinces
        They share 90% of the framework of winruntime
        they are not perfect but the tools are seamless unlike others.
        future updates they blend together and work more closely together, via syncing apps to one each other, without tweaking, but fit for different experinces unlike what Android and iOS is doing is gathering all apps, this includes phone apps to run on tablets, unnecessary, that leaves with bad ugly ports, poor coded for tablets, crashes and bugs and unstableness. So shut up
  • Need More Changes

    In Apple There are many changes are done .But If You Change Only This Feature .Its Not Enough People Need More Changes In It .

    Radnor Sansoni
  • No rollback option to iOS6....

    One thing Apple did get wrong is the inability for the consumer who does not take to iOS7 to roll back to iOS6.
    • Not a mistake

      This was certainly not a mistake. Including a rollback feature would simply contribute to fragmentation on the platform. We don't want iOS to turn into an Android mess.
      • iOS7 and iOS6 could coexist....

        I believe there would be no fragmentation of the iOS system if the two coexisted. Afterall the iOS release approach is entirely different to that of Android.

        iOS7 and iOS6 are significantly different to one another and whilst I personally have no issue with iOS7 there are many that do.
  • just set the compiler target and you done

    No problem... That's what the fanbois have been telling everyone. It just works. If you like your plan you can keep your plan. Lies, lies, and more lies.
  • What? I thought Apple was perfect

    I do not believe there is anything negatibe about the changes. Apple is perfect. All is good.

    Declaration of interest: I am an Apple-free zone. Don't even have Quicktime anymore...
    • Hmm . . .

      Apple must be good if you think they're perfect and you don't even use Apple products!! Wow!
      Doug Bott
  • iOS 7

    Jony Ive is an industrial design engineer, and one of the best, but software, I don't think so.
    • hmm, maybe they should try an interior decorator next time round, eh.