IOS 7 Looks Good but Harder to Use

The iPad and the Surface RT are both good tablets.  Neither will run the main desktop OS apps from their supplying companies (OSX from Apple or full Windows from Microsoft).  Both are full touch environments, and one of the knocks on the Surface RT (other than it doesn’t run full windows) is some of the settings are not yet optimized for touch.  The control panel options in particular are still made for a mouse click interface.

I just upgraded my iPad to IOS 7. I haven’t looked in depth at the under the hood improvements, but the new appearance is fresh and clean.  The updated icons look good, and the typography is interesting.

However, the touch interface has been compromised to some extent and the OS is not as easy to use as before.  Buttons are smaller, more settings are hidden, and some functionality has been removed.  Aesthetics seem to be valued over function.

  • In the Safari browser
    • The forward and back arrow buttons are smaller and harder to touch
    • The new tab actions were a little confusing to both my wife and me the first time
    • The web address box is too simplified – this is bad from a security point of view since it is harder to figure out the actual address of the site you are visiting  (EDIT 9/26/13 – I was WRONG here.  This feature actually makes it more secure by stripping off excess stuff in links and only showing the root information of the site you are visiting).
    • Bookmarks on the bookmark bar jumbled on the upgrade and don’t truncate (e.g. if website name is 50 characters they all show up in the bookmarks bar rather than automatically shortening like before)
  • In mail
    • Can’t figure out how to delete a message without opening it – previously you could swipe/delete – now it looks like you can only use the trash/archive delete option
    • The icons for flag, folder, delete, reply, and compose are now just outlines and are so stylized the function is obscured – e.g. you have to look twice to figure out which is which
    • Mail search is faster, but sometimes the results are scrambled or mail crashes on search
  • General
    • Fonts are narrower – most notably for me is the super thin font for the time display on the lock screen that makes the time hard to read against my picture background
    • App name fonts are also smaller/thinner and tougher to read – maybe this only matters to those of us over 40?
    • A few broken apps – maybe not Apple’s problem – e.g. WikiInvest app screen is horizontal on startup, but the data is rotated 90 degrees left and truncated

We’ll see the under the hood improvements in IOS 7 over time, and the things above that are true bugs will get fixed. However, the places where “the aesthetic” was chosen over ease of use are not likely to change.  A minor pet peeve of mine with IOS from the beginning is app settings being buried with general settings rather than integrated where they are used. This is not new, but one of the places where Windows RT has a clear ease of use advantage for me.

The killer app for me on the iPad has been email. Mundane compared to everything an iPad can do, but for multiple years, nothing has been easier to keep track of my 9 email accounts than an iPad.  With Windows 8.1 RT (8.1 preview) and the Surface RT, and the little annoyances in IOS 7, to me it is now a toss up for best tablet email. RT has it’s flaws also, but IOS 7 is not so revolutionary that it runs away from the competition.  I’ll continue to use both, but may not always grab my iPad first.