The little niceties of Apple's iOS interface

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

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.