Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference was yesterday, and I wanted to write down my opinions on what was announced and released.
As much as I dislike the homescreen icons (and I really dislike them), the rest of the OS has some very interesting design choices in it. The lockscreen is very pretty, the translucent UI components are great, and I quite like the typograhy as well. At first I didn’t think it looked particularly great, but with a bit of use it has grown on me, and I think it will mature into a set of solid UI design patterns.
At the moment, some of the apps seem a little out of place, with little consistency between them, but I think the Music app is the best example of what the new style should look like, and over the coming year I suspect we will see Apple’s own apps, and 3rd party apps begin to look more and more like it.
One really good thing about the new OS style is the amount of animation there is. In the messages app for example, rather than the list of messages scrolling statically, each message bubble moves as if by itself giving the list a much more fluid feeling.
Unfortunately iOS 7 has not fully addressed the two most crucial missing features for me, inter-app communication and lack of information in Springboard. I believe there have been improvements made to the sharing system, but that’s not really inter-app communication in the way that it is possible on Android, and I think this is still an area where Apple are stifling innovation. Also, while Springboard looks totally different, the features are actually very similar and there is still no useful information on the homescreen, and very little information on the lockscreen.
I’m looking forward to what 3rd party developers do with the new UI guidelines. Twitterrific and the Google apps are already on their way to it and look fantastic. I’m also looking forward to iOS 8 (yes I know that’s a bit early) when hopefully Apple will smooth out some of the rough edges and build on a year of feedback. I think it will only be after another major version and a year of app releases that we will truly see how good the new UI can be. As for the icons, I really hope Apple’s designers all sit down together and work out a unified direction before iOS 7 launches.
OS X 10.9 Mavericks
I really like Apple’s new commitment to yearly OS X releases. Each one is a minor improvement, but a good one nonetheless, and quicker access to new features is great.
The new multi-monitor support for spaces, the menubar, and mission control is brilliant and although there are a few bugs (to be expected in an early release like this) I can see it becoming a core part of how I use a Mac.
iBooks and Maps also came to OS X in this release, which I find rather strange. I can see the case for managing notes on textbooks, but apart from that I have no wish at all to read books on my computer, but maybe that’s just me. As for Maps, it’s nice to have a desktop client for them, especially one that syncs journeys and routes to the mobile app, but I still can’t trust the data, and with the new Google Maps on the web I can’t see myself using it much. However, the ability for developers to use MapKit on OS X is great, and I will probably use it in the future.
The most interesting thing announced for me was the Timer Coalescing. This the process of coalescing CPU interrupts into batches so that the CPU comes out of it’s sleep state less often. I liked this for two reasons: obviously it will aid battery life and power consumption, but also it shows that Apple still has some really great engineering talent in their kernel team.
The new MacBook Air has changed very little. Most of the hardware specs are similar, with one major exception: battery life. I’m very excited about this, it’s finally a laptop that should last a full day. It’s a little disappointing that there was no retina screen, but I realise that they are still an expensive technology, and perhaps with the focus on battery life, would not be appropriate for the Airs.
As for the Mac Pro, I’m skeptical in several respects. Firstly, it looks like a bin.
Although, a friend of mine pointed out that on it’s side it would look like a jet engine, which is much more awesome, so I forsee ‘Mac Pro stands’ being sold which stop it rolling around while showing off it’s better visual connotations.
In terms of the specification, it’s a very high-spec machine, and Apple are clearly going for the pro-video community with support for 4K monitors. I’m not sure if it’s really targeted at developers, but I’m sure many will buy it anyway.
I like the new form-factor’s size, even if it’s look is controversial. But I have a few questions in regard to it.
Firstly, there are only 4 RAM slots. Clearly this is because of a lack of room, but it will force users to use very expensive and high-density memory modules which few manufacturers make. I’m not sure if that was the best decision.
Also, expansion through Thunderbolt would be fine if there were more Thunderbolt devices, but there is a severe lacking of them. Hopefully this announcement will spur on development of more devices. I would have preferred to see some internal SATA bays for traditional hard drive storage expansion.
Lastly, the ‘unified thermal core’ is a daring idea. If it works, it could lead to a new range of significantly smaller desktops taking off, but with only one fan cooling 12 Xeon cores and 2 high speed graphics cards, I worry that this could be a machine that has no end of heat problems.
The announcements at WWDC were good, and Apple has clearly managed to do a lot in their recent silence. I’m very impressed by the hardware, and OS X is great, but iOS 7 has polarised the development and design community. I’m sure that the issues will be resolved and in general I think it’s a great update to the mobile operating system, but it has done very little to ease my previous concerns about it.
As a Mac user and developer, the keynote left me astounded at some of the great things that are happening on OS X. As an iPhone user and developer, I think it is going to take a while for the nw UI to mature, but I look forward to when it does.