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.

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