Apple’s iOS7 – A Brave New World for Apps

Apple’s iOS7 arrives on general release on September 18.  Since its announcement at WWDC in June, the new operating system has been available to registered Apple developers in Beta for testing and inspiration.

I’ve had it installed on my phone since July and love it.  Whilst jarring initially, there is no doubt that the move away from skeuomorphic design to this modern, colourful, fresh look is a success.  With iOS7, Jonny Ive has, in an impressively short period of time, updated the operating system so it now looks and feels more in keeping with his already beautiful hardware.  The original operating system’s graphical design had received no significant update since the iPhone’s launch in 2007 – it was looking dated when compared to Android, and indeed, the impact of Microsoft’s Windows Phone release last year. 

With this release, we firmly believe that Apple reclaims its design ascendency over the competition.

The opportunities iOS7 presents:

1 – User interface – At face value

Developers that already have their apps in the App Store, should’ve been working hard for the past few months to update these apps for iOS7.   Whilst they’ll have been accustomed to updating to ensure that the app doesn’t break and become buggy with each previous iOS release, the difference this time is that the changes in many cases will need to have been far deeper.

The new colour scheme of iOS7, means many existing apps icons and graphic design now looks hugely dated by comparison.  Owners of these apps that don’t move quickly, are going to leave themselves open to being disrupted by new apps, launched on the back of iOS7.  A new user looking for apps, is more likely to be drawn to the icon, look and feel of an app that’s in keeping with iOS7, than 1 that’s skeuomorphic in its design.

2 – User experience – iBeacons – notifications

The improvements in iOS7 extend much deeper than the look of the new operating system.  There are a range of improvements in the functional capabilities of the operating system, that present exciting opportunities for developers to improve their app users’ experiences.

Central to these is iBeacons, which utilizes Bluetooth LTE to provide a method for developers to communicate with their users, even whilst the user isn’t within the actual app.  It’s certain that Apple will be careful in reviewing apps that look to incorporate this functionality, to ensure that it’s not used in a manner that’s spammie – but where you create an app, that uses the notifications to inform users of matters they care about, at a time they’ll wish to hear from you (utilizing the granular in app settings to adjust timing for time zones), then you have the opportunity to offer something existing apps within a category won’t.

3 – User experience – regional monitoring

A further potential use of iBeacons, is regional monitoring.  This offers a whole range of possible use case for existing bricks and mortar businesses to connect with their customers through their devices.  What’s really exciting, is that regional zones can be set up with an immediate range of just 10cms, and intermediate range of 5-10 metres.

For example, a restaurant that’s customers have downloaded their app, will be able to communicate with those customers through their phone.  With a region set up around the restaurant, the patron could be welcomed as soon as they cross the threshold with a message such as:

Good evening Bob, your table will be available shortly, if you and your party would like to proceed for a drink at the bar, we’ll collect in a few minutes

Retailers have the opportunity to do something similar, utilizing it for product and pricing offers.  A customer who has downloaded their app, might be contacted when walking past the store front, to offer them 10% off for 24 hours.

Micro payment apps will no doubt utilize it, so that customers orders might be processed when they come within 200 metres of their regular morning coffee shop at their normal time, to place the order for their coffee so that’s it’s waiting for them when they arrive.

That’s something we’d definitely love to see, given the long queues for the best coffee every morning!

In using these features, developers will need to ensure they write good, clean code, so as to minimize the power demands and battery drains of their users’ devices.  Those that don’t, are likely to see poor engagement and ultimate deletion.

Developers should also consider creating a distinctive user interface design for when a user is within a region – so that’s easy for the user to identify this – that’s also easy for a user to dismiss and revert to the regular app experience.

Iain Dowling wrote on

Iain's a co-founder of AppInstruct. An experienced interaction designer, having worked on many startups his notable achievements include making the world's first real-time multiplayer game for mobile, Goal!, and beating Google to market with a mobile mapping product, Maps2Mobiles. Iain worked with Vijay on the Lasoo and Optus Recharge Now apps.