Subtle Changes

In last week’s episode of The Talk Show, Erica Ogg and John Gruber talk about the simplicity of the iOS home screen, and how Apple could apply a Podcasts-inspired visual update to iOS that would woo critics that complain about the lack of skin-deep changes.

I don’t believe that freshening up of the UI of iOS, by itself, is enough to convince anyone that “Apple is no longer doomed” and no longer “forced to follow as Android leads”. If anything, I believe skin-deep updates alone may only further that line of thinking.

I think strongly that a subtle make-over of the UI should go hand in hand with a bigger update, like inter-app cooperation, default applications, home screen widgets, etc. to really impact the perceived —if not real— lack of progress in iOS in some of these matters.

Talking about the home screen, one thing Apple could do to update this iconic part of iOS, besides something as horrible and alien as widgets, is fixing the static nature of its icons —also known as the “always a pleasant 73 degrees and sunny in Cupertino” issue. Currently, iOS has one built-in app that can change its home screen icon to show the latest information and that’s the Calendar app. But what if Apple were to open this up to third party developers? Yes, I’m aware developers can already badge their apps with a number, but while being very visible, they are also very intrusive and limited in what they can express. Badges are really only meant to notify the user of incoming messages or unseen items. It feels wrong to use it to indicate, for instance, the current temperature.

Instead, I’m suggesting something a lot more subtle and perhaps much more versatile. Although my imagination falls short in coming up with interesting applications other than weather and calendar apps and a more beautiful way to indicate badges, I’m sure developers will come up with something to surprise and amaze us.

Then again, the simplicity of the home screen is probably the number one reason that Apple is very hesitant to change something that might harm it.

I’ve Started To Worry

I am truly surprised there isn’t more analysis happening on the rather remarkable interview that Phil Schiller allowed by the WSJ (Weak Shit, Journal).

Apple has sneered at or made fun of the competition before, most often during keynotes and the famous Mac vs. PC ad campaign. The most recent occasions I can remember are Siri making fun of Android during an intro of the WWDC 2012 keynote, and Schiller comparing the iPhone 5 and the iPad mini to Android in terms of screen real estate.

But this was different. This time Schiller apparently felt it was necessary to downplay Android and Samsung, although without mentioning the latter by name, on the eve of the release of the Samsung Galaxy S iv.

If I worked for Samsung or Google, this interview would put a smile on my face. It feels like Apple is truly, almost desperately, worried about this release. Why else grant an interview at this time, about this subject. Sometimes, it seems Apple is talking more about Android than Samsung is.

Times like these, I would welcome the Jobsian silence treatment. I’d almost feel this would warrant an “this wouldn’t have happened under Jobs” article.

I’ve started to worry about what Apple has up their sleeve for iOS and the iPhone this year.