Thursday, March 28, 2013

Does the new iOS Podcast App Foretell the Design Changes Coming to iOS



A few days ago, Apple released an updated version of their Podcasts app for iOS.  That app not only got me listening to podcasts again, but may foretell of the coming changes to iOS 7 and beyond.

If you will recall, back in October of 2012, iOS chief Scott Forstall was pushed out of Apple's inner circle, and the company.  You get to pick the reason; whether it was his personality, his management style, his vision for iOS, or his refusal to publicly apologize for the problems with Apple's Maps app - a disliked replacement for Google Maps.  Whatever the reason, CEO Tim Cook ejected Forstall and put long time Apple hardware designer Jonathan Ive in charge of both hardware and software designs.  Known for his sleek and simple designs, we where left wondering how that might impact iOS.

With the new Podcasts app, I think we've gotten our answer.  The new Podcasts app is still familiar, but looks much better.  Gone are the design elements mean to mimic real life items.  So the goofy reel-to-reel screen, that I kinda liked, are gone.  The new interface is flat, clean, and colorful, but not in the big splash of color kind of way that Microsoft has taken up with Windows 8 and Windows 8 Phone Metro look and feel.  I like the new feel.

So what does this mean for iOS and future versions of Mac OS X?  I think we're going to see a lot of small changes to Apple's user interface, or UI, design language.  The tan leather and stitching we see in the Calendar app probably won't be there much longer.  The charcoal grey linen backdrop that appears in the iOS Notification Center and the Mac OS X login screen may or may not go away too.  And personally, I hope the annoying Music/iPod app interface on the iPad goes away too. I really find that wood trim effect so annoying that I very rarely ever use the Music app on my iPad.

What I don't expect to happen is a complete redesign of iOS and Mac OS X this year.  This will be an iterative change spanning over many months.  I feel that while UI changes are important to keep the look and feel of iOS and Mac OS X on par, I think it is more important for Apple to be looking at ways to add new features that users will find helpful and a delight to use, and to continue the hard work of further integrating iOS, Mac OS X, and iCloud.  (Making iCloud easier for application developers to work with is also high on my list, but probably won't be addressed this year.)
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