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VidBITS: Opinions on iOS 7

The TidBITS crew has been using iOS 7 full time for a week or so, so we convened a special staff roundtable to discuss our impressions of Apple’s newest, flattest operating system, with Adam Engst, Tonya Engst, Jeff Carlson, Michael Cohen, Rich Mogull, and yours truly, Josh Centers.

Needless to say, our reactions were mixed:

  • “It’s definitely different,” said Jeff Carlson. I noted that most regular users I know seem to hate it after the first week, and Tonya said that she was seeing mostly negative comments among her Facebook friends. Michael Cohen’s mother was confused by it until he explained how she could use a feature she considered essentially (which, oddly, is force-quitting apps). Jeff added, “Like a lot of things, it’s different. Shut up and give it two weeks.”

  • Adam brought up the fact that Apple is preventing dissatisfied users from downgrading to iOS 6. “It’s unconscionable,” he said. But, as Tonya pointed out, “You can’t just sit there with old stuff. Sooner or later it’s going to bite you.” But I ask if unhappy iPhone users will stick around or start taking a serious look at Android?

  • Rich is thrilled with responsiveness of the Touch ID fingerprint scanner in the iPhone 5s (for more general details about the technology, see his “Q&A about Fingerprint Scanning,” 10 September 2013). But, he said that he would turn it off at hacker conferences and when travelling internationally for safety. Jeff wants Touch ID on his iPad.

  • Rich also gave a big thumbs-up to the new slow motion video feature in the iPhone 5s. “If you have kids, you want slow-mo,” he said. It’s apparently more useful than we first thought (for our early iPhone 5s impressions, check out “The MacJury’s Verdict on the New iPhones,” 13 September 2013).

  • Tonya, along with most of the staff, is unimpressed with the use of layers in the iOS 7 interface. “It felt like someone threw some darts,” she said. However, as I mentioned, Apple at least fixed the inconsistent use of the linen layer in iOS 6, which was presented both below the interface in the multitasking bar and above the interface in Notification Center. Adam admitted to not having noticed the linen inconsistency… or caring now that he does know.

  • Michael and I butted heads on the Notes app. Michael loves the paper texture, but I hate it for its uncharacteristic skeuomorphism and use of yellow text on a white background. I shamefully admitted that I liked the stitched leather in iOS 6, but it now looks out of place in iOS 7 in the Find My Friends app.

While we couldn’t seem to agree on much, the one common thread is that iOS 7 lacks much of Apple’s traditional polish, and it still has a long way to go until the kinks are worked out. It’ll also take some adaptation by users, because iOS 7 breaks the muscle memories developed around previous version of iOS.

(Remember, you don’t have to watch the video; you can click the Listen link at the top of the article’s Web page to listen to the audio, or subscribe to the TidBITS podcast to have it downloaded to iTunes or your favorite podcast app automatically.)


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Comments about VidBITS: Opinions on iOS 7
(Comments are closed.)

Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-04 18:04
My mother didn't so much hate it as completely panicked because she didn't know how to shut down an app using the new multi-tasking display. Her first question was "How do I go back to iOS 6?" simply because of that one thing.

But, once I explained to her how you just flick the app's page up in the new multi-tasking display, she was much happier with iOS 7.

Moral: it only takes one stumbling block to turn someone completely off to an iOS update—and it often takes only one simple solution to a problem to make that person happy again.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-05 08:25
And what's especially weird about that is that force-quitting apps is something you should - in theory - never need to do. It's incredibly far from core functionality.
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-05 09:06
I know. But someone (not me) had told her that she needed to force-quit background apps from time to time. At least she didn't believe the bogus reports that iOS 7 made your device waterproof!
david cuddy  2013-10-04 19:41
Adam said: "It’s unconscionable,” that you can't return to iOS6. Tonya retorted "you can't just sit there with old stuff".

I disagree 100% with Tonya. One certainly can continue to use 'old stuff'. My son continues to use my old iPhone 3G. It doesn't have all the latest bells and whistles, but it works just fine. But it didn't when I upgraded it to iOS4 (which turned it into a useless slug). Had to jailbreak it to get it back to iOS3 which restored its usefullness. I'm typing this on my 1st-gen iPad. Works fine for what I use it for. I stopped updating it ages ago, lest the upgrade impair its utility. Alas, I cant afford to buy a shiny new gimcrack from Apple every year.

Older stuff doesn't have to "bite you" if you use it appropriately. Indeed, old stuff tends to become more toothless with time.

I'm with Adam on this one. Unconscionable. Disappointing. Anti-customer. And a sad reflection on our throw-away society.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-05 08:29
What Tonya meant was that you will have to upgrade at some point - it's not optional. Your son's iPhone 3G is one slippery finger drop away from being "upgraded" to a newer iPhone that will come with iOS 7. Or perhaps you'll be using iOS 7 because of a necessary new iPhone purchase and then you'll want iMessage and FaceTime Audio compatibility for communicating with him, so upgrading will become highly desirable then. Like needing a backup, upgrading is a matter of when, not if, since these devices have finite physical and functional lifetimes.

All that said, Apple preventing downgrades to iOS 6 for those who don't like iOS 7 or can't see the interface is actively hostile to customers. It's not unreasonable to require new software on new hardware, but locking out downgrades on old hardware is wrong.
Tonya Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-10-05 10:26
Adam said it well. But, you make an excellent point about older devices and I am in 100% agreement with you about the problem with sustainability and not throwing things away after only a few years of use. What I think I meant was that you'll likely have to "upgrade" your brain in the sense of learning iOS 7 sooner or later, and probably sooner.
Mike McDonnell  2013-10-05 05:55
Love the new iOS 7! Seems fresh and clean to me. I have no problems and really like exploring the new interface. A little wonky at times on my 4s, but I wouldn't go back.
Edward Wood  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2013-10-07 18:19
preventing users from downgrading is more of father knows best and that attitude is exactly why I don;t own an iPhone and do own a kindle fire
Bill Raymond  2013-10-08 06:41
iOS 7 fixes what wasn't broke. The new "look" is hardly an improvement and I agree that it lacks the "polish" we are used to with Apple products. I am especially unhappy with the iTunes changes. Suddenly there are all these clouds with down arrows. What are they and what are you supposed to do with them? And we haven't even touched on the problem of connecting with certain wireless routers. If you go to the Apple Support conversation, there is a lot of talk about this and how to fix it. I thought that was why we all went to Apple...because we didn't want to constantly have to "fix it". I want iOS 6 back.
JohnB (SciFiOne)   2013-10-08 08:24
"You can’t just sit there with old stuff. Sooner or later it’s going to bite you.” But I ask if unhappy iPhone users will stick around or start taking a serious look at Android?"

Tonya's right as is Adam's reply to an earler comment. As for Android, I've tried it several times in search of a smartphone with an inexpensive service plan. It never worked as well.

BTW, I gave up and bought an $8/month dumb phone (which is off most of the time) and an iPod Touch (which is on all the time).