Apple’s much-debated mobile operating system refresh has been in our hands for a few days. While there has been a lot of commentary about the new interface, it’s come mostly from hardcore early adopter-types. I’ve been curious about how more casual users would take to the new changes, so I did a quick poll of iOS users around the office to get their thoughts and first impressions. Here’s what I heard:
- The new flat design engendered a lot of comments from the group. People seem to love it or hate it, but most seem able to live with it and the new style seems to grow on users after a short time.
- Performance is an issue. I find my iPad 2 stutters in mid-animation quite regularly and app launching is notably slower than it had been previously. One iPhone 4 user (the oldest supported platform for the update) noted that the new update was, “Slow. Apps crash to desktop.” He’s already ordered a new phone to deal with the problem. Well played, Apple.
- Some long-time users seemed frustrated with changes to standard gestures and a lack of automatic tutorials to show how to perform those functions in the new system. For example, in email, a left-to-right swipe would delete an email. Now, that gesture is reserved for moving up a level in the email tree while the delete requires a right-to-left swipe.
- Gestures seem inconsistent, doing different things in different apps, exacerbating the new learning curve. This may be more of a problem with apps not updating to the new UI standards, but users found it frustrating nonetheless.
- One coworker gave up his jailbroken iPhone OS going to iOS 7 and was still struggling with the lack of control and customization available. He indicated that some of his favorite hacks like the slide up control center and spotlight searching were incorporated in the new OS. I can’t help but wonder if the new protections against jailbreaking will prevent that type of experimentation and ultimately harm the ability of the OS to evolve?
- Many of my coworkers could live without the animations of apps flying in and out. I wonder if they contribute to the performance issues that I’m seeing while another user indicated that they made him dizzy.
- Some cases make top and bottom swipe actions a little difficult.
Some of the new features are interesting, but aren’t quite there just yet:
- Siri continues to be interesting but is still more a novelty than a reliable tool. One coworker complained, “I just don’t get it. I see where they’re headed with it, but it’s unclear to me how you’re supposed to know what Siri can and can’t do (and when) or what to do to help Siri work better.”
- There appears to be some rewiring of messaging to improve the experience for users with multiple iOS devices. One coworker uses the same underlying Apple account for both her iPhone and her daughter’s, “we’re now both getting one another’s text messages.”
The feedback was far from all bad, however:
- The new home page showing the notification center is a big hit.
- The Control Center (found by swiping up from the bottom) and spotlight search (swipe down from the top) are both received positively and put more controls at hand quickly.
- The new App switcher (double click the home button) shows the app and not just its icon.
- There are some new tools for sharing with people near you (just like that Samsung commercial) and for finding apps based on a place (for example if you’re at a museum that has its own app).
- New hardware options have led several folks at the office to get an upgrade. Fingerprint recognition/authentication opens some great opportunities to enable more secure interactions.
- New devices apparently come with the iWorks suite (Apples answer to MS Office) for free.
Bottom line – there’s a lot to like here but it comes with a new learning curve, even if you were a power user before. More importantly, it doesn’t seem to resemble the seamlessly smooth experience that Apple’s been known for, although a patch will probably get it fairly clean. I don’t know that there’s enough here that’s revolutionary enough to entice Android users to make the move, but it will keep most Apple users upgrading to another iOS device.