It’s time for iOS to Make Unqualified Sense

The goal of iOS has always been to make sense to its market. In the beginning, this was done by skeuomorphism: Calendar looked like a desk calendar, Notes looked like a notepad, Contacts looked like an address book, the camera had a shutter animation. People had used a desk calendar, notepad, address book, and camera, so Apple designed those apps to look and act like their physical equivalent to get people accustomed to their digital equivalent. While this design made very little sense digitally, it made perfect sense to anyone who had used one of the physical equivalents. It was comforting. It was intuitive.

But now we’re in 2013 and the market has finally reached a point to where the training wheels can come off. People can now intuitively use a digital app even if it doesn’t look like its physical counterpart; it’s taken six years, but hand someone an iOS 7 lockscreen and they’ll know how to slide to unlock the phone without an arrow telling them how to do it.

People will say that Android, Windows Phone and WebOS have been designed like iOS 7 for years. That’s true. But Apple’s goal has never been to be first to market with anything. It’s goal has been to come to market at the time the consumer was ready for the product. With the iPhone, it meant years and years of bad skeuomorphism to prepare people for good digital design. Apple can now move away from making physical sense and towards making digital sense. Not because it previously didn’t know how and not because the tech community wasn’t ready, but because the market wasn’t ready. Thomas Edison wouldn’t have released a light bulb before we knew how to harness electricity. Apple wasn’t going to release a digitally true iOS until the infrastructure (people’s understanding of digital manipulation) was ready.

I’ve used the iOS 7 beta for a day now. It’s rough. There are things that don’t make sense. But the blueprint is there. It’s time for iOS to move away from making sense to the market and towards just making sense.