The little niceties of Apple's iOS interface

The little niceties of Apple's iOS interface

Summary: Badges and icons will take on a whole new, dynamic level in iOS 7, according to developers.

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TOPICS: iOS, Apple, iPhone, iPad
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Out of last week's Worldwide Developer's Conference in San Francisco comes word of a new, clever, and perhaps useful feature in iOS 7: dynamic icons.

At The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW), Steven Sande writes that developers have noted that the forthcoming icon for the Clock app will have a moving second hand and show the correct time down to the second. The current, static icon shows the time as 10:15 exactly. There's a screen shot of the new iOS 7 app, check it out.

Sande suggests that this API will be available to all developers and there's the notion that icons could become dynamic. This little touch is fantastic and I can see all kinds of uses for it, such as showing changes in content or news or weather. This could be used for many things beyond the longstanding badge concept for notification. So, for example, a time-delayed, multiplayer game could show whether you're winning or losing. This doesn't obviate the usefulness of badges, rather it could be complementary to them, depending on how the animation is accomplished.

There was a wider discussion on iOS 7 icons at several sites this past week, observing that some of the icon images on Apple's site differ from the ones in the beta version released to developers at WWDC last week. So, that could be another example of this dynamic quality, or just ordinary design differences.

Some call this "eye candy," as they have called the Mac or iOS interface. This has been the label hung on Apple products for decades, first by PC users about the Mac interface and now by other mobile device vendors about iOS. Somehow, there's the lingering feeling that something fun can't be really powerful or truly useful.

Instead, Apple has long known that these small niceties around details in the interface can have a strong impact on the user, creating a sense of fun and enjoyment. And loyalty.

Topics: iOS, Apple, iPhone, iPad

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19 comments
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  • aka wp8 live tiles

    aka wp8 live tiles
    ArpitmTweets
    • Re: aka wp8 live tiles

      And no doubt it will be just as popular.
      ldo17
  • So now Apple is copying

    MS live tiles and Androids widgets.
    chapo-90066
    • chapo-90066

      Mac OS X has widgets (same premise as Android). So you cannot copy something you came up with on one of your other Operating Systems years before Android shipped with them.
      TimeForAChangeToBetter
  • Windows Phone clone

    The so-called dynamic icons in iOS 7 are a blatant imitation of the Active Tiles in Windows Phone. It's astonishing that somebody could write a raving review praising dynamic icons without acknowledging this key fact. But this author is infamous for overlooking facts too inconvenient for Apple's corporate propaganda model.

    As widely reported elsewhere, iOS 7 copies heavily from WP8 and also Android. The side-by side comparisons are striking and undeniable. Credit where it's due! iOS 7 also has other new features, which are generally rip offs from apps submitted to Apple in good faith by developers.

    For so long, iOS has looked dated and stagnant, with its static icons and realistic textures resembling websites from the 1990s and Windows 3.1 icons. At last, iOS is catching up. A static icon is waste of screen real estate. Microsoft led the way with Active Tiles. As this design feature becomes the norm, let's not pretend we don't remember where we saw it first.
    Tim Acheson
    • Presumably They Won't Jump Around When They've Got Nothing To Show

      Apple will get at least that part right.
      ldo17
      • Tell me more about this "jumping around"...

        Looking at my WP8, I see...
        -26 static tiles (static either because they weren't designed to be Live or, and this is important, I CHOSE not to make them Live.)
        - A phone tile that only changes to update the # of missed calls (no "jumping")
        - A calendar tile that only changes to show current day/date and upcoming appts (no "jumping")
        - A time & weather tile that displays (surprise) current time & weather (hmm..still no jumping)
        - Oh wait...here's a Music & Videos tile with a bit of superfluous animation - not quite "jumping" so much as sliding between a pair of headphones and the Xbox logo. Nothing terribly distracting, and I could always just set the tile to a static version. But even in this state, the icon statically displays a "Music + Videos" label in the corner - no confusion there.
        - Here's another...the Photos tile. I CHOSE to have certain pictures rotate through the tile display because I like the images. Not too different from having framed pictures on the (physical) desktop. Nice to have the choice... And still no "jumping".

        So what gives? Am I getting ripped off? Only 2 of the 30 tiles on my phone have any sort of significant animation, but no jumping. Where's my "jumping", dammit?

        Oh - you were just spouting some hyperbole and FUD and there really is no "jumping"? Got it. Thanks for being clear on that.
        Nierteroth9
        • Re: Tell me more about this "jumping around"...

          Look at Nokia's own promo video for one of its new models, included in an item here on ZDNet a few weeks ago: you can plainly see empty tiles flipping on its screen.
          ldo17
    • Yeah, as if calling them 'Dynamic Icons' makes them different

      I thought that was rather funny for he author to jump through such hoops in order to hide the completely obvious.
      Emacho
    • Re: Windows Phone clone

      Wow. Drama!
      And huge helpings of hypocrisy.
      Where do you think Windows came from - a copy of MacOS.
      And Android would not even exist if Apple did not make the so-called "smartphone" a wide-spread phenomena. Obviously that is also true of Windows Phone (yes, I'm well aware of Palm and Windows Phone 6 - I owned both. But those were not nearly as popular as Apple).
      Please let's not kid ourselves that all these companies are not constantly taking the best ideas from the others. This is a good thing for consumers.

      But please oh please don't try to say that Microsoft and/or Android is so above and beyond anything Apple is doing. It's so much bull.
      rossdav
      • "Where do you think Windows came from - a copy of MacOS"

        I don't think people remember that any more. (Well, maybe just you and me.) Just as they don't remember the debacle of Word 6, which for me still remains the single worst piece of software ever to be dumped on an undeserving and unsuspecting public.
        Laraine Anne Barker
      • Actually

        it isn't. I've used both Mac and Windows since 1985; they don't look, nor have they ever, looked alike.
        roteague
  • Live Tiles

    By Active Tiles I really mean Live Tiles as found in Windows Phone OS since launch as well as the Xbox 360 UI and Windows 8.k
    Tim Acheson
  • If true, would be a great thing.

    "Sande suggests that this API will be available to all developers and there's the notion that icons could become dynamic."

    If true, this would be a great thing. To be honest, they really need to open up a lot or internal APIs to the developers, especially when it comes to integration. I'd love to use another app as the default camera, for example.
    CobraA1
  • But battery life?

    And cognitive overload? And always having to run the full app anyway? And icons that don't look the same from moment to moment making it difficult to find them?

    Suddenly we find out that all of these were lies from the apple community.

    apple photocopiers really are working overtime. Careful they don't overheat like macbooks always do.
    toddbottom3
    • toddbottom3

      Once again you have no clue what you are spewing out of your devil mouth.
      TimeForAChangeToBetter
    • The fact you can't tell the difference between

      The concept of a clock icon that tells the time, and a tile whose entire content is constantly changing explains many things.
      baggins_z
      • Nope...

        "a tile whose ENTIRE content is constantly changing"

        Don't have that either on my WP8. More FUD and hyperbole? Yes - I thought so.
        Nierteroth9
  • Cópia barata do Windows Phone 8

    Probably the next news will be:
    Iphone 6 with Windows Phone X. ...
    After all Apple is copying so much Windows Phone that if things continues like this, users will not notice the difference ...
    Eder Cardoso