This fall, iPhone users will get the biggest iOS update to their phones since the original iPhone was released, and it is awesome. The next version of Apple’s iOS will refresh the entire iPhone experience with advanced animations, a flat UI with new fonts and colors, and powerful new features such as true multitasking and a new control center.
This is all wonderful and great, but what does it mean for mobile app designers and developers? We’re used to supporting multiple versions of iOS, but this time it’s different. iOS 7 introduces a new set of design guidelines and new developer APIs that are not backwards compatible. In this post, I will outline a few key points that really demonstrate the importance of adopting iOS 7 (and only iOS 7) as soon as possible.
Perhaps the most important reason to support iOS 7 exclusively is the opportunity to push the latest and greatest apps into the app store as soon as iOS 7 is released. Upon release, the race to adopt Apple’s new style will begin. That is, unless you’ve already reached the finish line and have a shiny new app ready to go. Every app has the dream of being featured by Apple. If your app is not up to date with the latest design guidelines and doesn’t use the latest iOS 7 technologies, you cannot expect Apple to feature your app in the app store.
Apple tells us time and again that all apps should focus on utilizing all of their latest technologies and design guidelines. This is a unique opportunity to separate yourself from your competition in a very decisive way.
If you try to support iOS 6 and iOS 7 simultaneously, you’re going to have a bad time.
Although much of the developer documentation for iOS 7 is still under non-disclosure agreement, I have conferred with our developers here at Two Toasters and the verdict is in on maintaining support for iOS 6 after iOS 7 launches: don’t do it.
With the additions of true multitasking, updates to the camera, AirDrop and Siri’s capabilities, and many more – new opportunities in app functionality arise that will be difficult to replicate on older versions of iOS. More than likely, Apple has also provided developers with some new tools to help create apps with the new iOS 7 design guidelines which will also be difficult to support on older versions of iOS.
A major consideration to be taken into account when evaluating the costs and benefits of supporting iOS 7 exclusively is time. Given that iOS 7 will be released this fall, the feasibility of apps supporting it will vary and generally fall into three categories:
- Apps that are set to launch on or just after the iOS 7 release are in a unique position to be the first of their kind to make the jump to iOS 7, but realistically these apps are already midway through the design and development process, so careful consideration should be given to how much of iOS 7 can be incorporated into these apps. A good, low-cost place to start might be to update button and navigation bar styles.
- Apps that are currently in the quality assurance and testing phases are hard pressed to adopt iOS 7 by this fall. A good strategy here might be to immediately identify which parts of the app will need to be updated first and make plans to roll out an app store update accordingly. Again, updating simple interface elements is the cheapest place to start.
- Apps that are just beginning or are in the early stages of design have the most freedom to explore iOS 7. While the opportunity to break into the new iOS 7 space as soon as possible is limited, the opportunity to create a more robust and refined iOS 7 app is present and should be pursued relentlessly.
Apple is making a concerted effort to shift the world’s mindset about product design. Their new Designed By Apple campaign is built on the fundamental principle that our apps and devices are part of a larger experience: everyday life. Our mobile devices are a subset of our life experience and our apps are a subset of our mobile device experience.
Apps have a responsibility to be aware of the bigger picture and really think about how they fit into a person’s life experience. Apps should be concerned with not only whether they’re solving a problem, but whether they’re enriching someone’s life while solving that problem.