Interaction and interfaces part 1: Apple

 

 

 

ios-7

The launch of redesigned interfaces always generate a lot of discussions, especially in fast paced social media channels. For the past week the iOS7 interface (designed by Jonathan Ive) has caused quite a stir. The choice to move away from skeuomorphism towards a flatter, simpler and more modern looking design has been looked upon as both controversial and thoughtless. Harsh accusation to be based mostly on HD screenshots and a short introductory film. CoDesign’s John Pavulus excellent article and Cliff Kuang’s comment in Wired and developers direct access to the iOS7 has and will further provide some more nuance and insight into the process behind Apples choices. Apple is brave to dare to start moving towards new unproven interface grounds both I believe they could have been even braver. Why? Because besides the 200 new features iOS7 contains it’s mostly just a change of design. Most of the familiar styles of interaction will remain – as they have proven to be extremely successful – unchanged.
 

 

”I believe I can see the future
Because I repeat the same routine”

– Nine Inch Nails, Every day is exactly the same

 

When Apple launched the iPhone it was the first step on a beautiful new journey for all mobile customers. It has changed how and why we think about and use mobile phone. It was genuinely groundbreaking, as it managed to overcome the final problems and finally brought our phones over the smartness barrier. Most types of services that Apple offered wasn’t unique but they offered them in a pristine shining environment that although it was new and maybe even frightening immediately felt like home. Steve Job’s thoughts on skeuomorphism might not have been in line with a minimalist designer’s wet dream but it gave the iPhone its human aura and feel. But the real underlaying reason it became successful was because the iPhone managed to introduce a different way to interact with our phones. We came closer to them and closer to the information we now easily could consume and distribute faster and more efficiently than ever. A closeness which translated into an even larger touch based product – the iPad. Tablets might pretty soon overtake the sales of laptops and one can see in research report after research report how Apple has thoroughly changed the way we consume media, communicate with each other and interact with technology. So if they have our consumer loyalty, product worship and user experience in a firm grip why won´t they dare to take an even greater risk when changing the iOS interface?

First of all the landscape where Apples products exists has changed dramatically since 2007. There is a lot more serious competition within the digital ecosystem of mobile devices. Android has taken significant market shares, but previous huge players like Microsoft should not be underestimated. But the competition is not only coming from within the mobility sphere. Next-generation game consoles, Smart TVs and an increasing array of Internet of Things is affecting the way and position of the iPhone and iPad as they introduce both other screens of consumption but also new possible ways of interaction. At the digital game conference E3 smart phones and tablets have been  frequently used as supplements to consoles and computer games which has widen their ecosystem and range significantly (Read this for more info). Apple has a given within this ecosystem but they must think more about the interaction environment within the ecosystem and less about the interaction between themselves. The optimal – for all producing companies – would of course be that the complete ecosystem only contained products from one company. Service and app developer think and work  this way: the service should be recognizable and used in the same way independent of platform. A total Apple dominated product environment is an utopian dream which is both wonderful and troublesome at the same time and as competing players are growing their market shares Apple should focus on making a few friends and try living in fruitful symbiosis as a humble leader instead of an all-knowing pundit. For example they could be better at meeting the demands and wishes of cross platform apps and services – for example the new and improved Facebook Home – at least halfway.