With the launch of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, we saw the release of the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system in iOS 7. Many have heralded it as the biggest change in iOS yet, bringing a more modern look along with added functionality. Others, however, have called the change in appearance “cartoonish” or “garish”, and say that the changes in functionality are largely ripped off from Android and other sources. To call the update polarizing would be an understatement, but it seems like every decision that Apple makes has that effect on consumers.
I haven’t really decided what my overall thoughts are when it comes to iOS 7 as of yet. I hated the skeumorphic approach of previous versions, so any change away from that is a good thing in my eyes, but I also find the new icon set to be particularly… bright. I tend to be less judgemental when it comes to “borrowing” ideas from other mobile operating systems, as I feel that we’ve seen enough of it over the past few years that there are no truly innocent parties anymore, and to be blunt, a good idea is a good idea.
My point here today is a pretty simple one. In iOS 7, Apple has introduced a feature known as Control Center. Essentially, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to get a series of quick settings and toggles for a slew of frequently used items. You can turn on/off things like wifi and bluetooth, put your phone into airplane mode, or even quickly use the phone’s camera flash as a flashlight. All in all, a useful addition, especially considering how intensive and expansive the settings are in iOS.
So what is the piece I find baffling? On this menu that you just brought up, the one that contains a small number of quick settings, there is no way to enter the actual main settings menu of the device. To get to the actual settings menu, you still need to find the icon on your home screen, and enter it there. This is in a somewhat stark contrast to Android, that includes a link to its Settings via the notifications pulldown. The ability to quickly get into your Settings and make deeper than skin level changes to your device is a definite time saver. Apple had the opportunity here to add a very basic feature, but didn’t.
I tend to think of myself as being platform agnostic. I don’t really have a favourite, I tend to use whatever best suits my needs at any given time (right now my primary device is a Nexus 4, not because it is the best, but because it has the best cost to value ratio, in my opinion). So I am not anti-iOS, nor am I pro-Android. That being said, something simple like adding a menu option to get to your Settings from the Control Center strikes me as a no brainer. Unfortunately, this seems to be an example of design over functionality, which does sound like a very Apple like decision. The approach to iOS tends to be simple: What iOS does, it does very well. What iOS doesn’t do well tends to be things it just plain doesn’t do at all. Which is a shame.
Is this a massive issue? No, not really. What it is though, is a missed opportunity. An opportunity to include a very basic quality of life change to a mobile OS that has been fighting a perception of being somewhat stagnant. It’s a small item that could have been a good time saver for iOS users, but didn’t make an appearance. Being able to access your Settings from within an app, instead of having to go back to your home screen and locating the icon, would have been a great option. Some might say a pretty basic option. And that’s what strikes me the most about not including it. It’s not all that long ago that Android was the one that was thought of as something of an ugly mess, a mish mash of features that didn’t tie in or work the way you would have thought. Look at it now though. Still flawed in many ways, but the core Android experience (without custom manufacturer skins) tends to be simple, and offer the user a quick path to being productive. iOS needs some more of that in its offering. Being pretty isn’t enough anymore, and having misses like this in terms of basic functionality is indicative of a larger issue. One that I hope they take seriously.