Troy Scott on Apple’s incremental changes to iOS:
Apple is having a similar problem with iOS. Many tech pundits, and even the pot calling the kettle black CEO of BlackBerry, believe iOS is in need of a refresh. After nearly six years, the basic look and feel of iOS has barely changed. Given the iPhone’s market share, however, Apple risks alienating more casual users with any substantive changes made to the OS. As a result, Apple has been very conservative with its updates to iOS, preferring small incremental changes.
Apple doesn’t do new user interface (UI) for newness sake. They purposefully are conservative about changing their design language for user interfaces. They tend to introduce small changes over time in effort to help people adopt solutions to solve complex problems. If anything would alienate the casual consumer, it’s a radical new user interface.
There is some belief that Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Human Interface Chief, would end Apple’s more cheesy interfaces, e.g. Podcast.app, and enforce a flatter design. Some would even go so far to think that the next iteration of iOS will be a overhaul design. I couldn’t disagree more.
A reason why Apple is conservative in radically changing or overhauling their user interface is that it means educating significant amount of people to the new UI. Apple understands technology is meant to get out of the way of people’s life. By introducing new user interfaces, it means demanding attention and time way from consumer’s immediate experience. Confusion, anger, or defeat may happened for every new thing introduce. Thereby, iterating over existing contexts in UI is far more useful to the consumer than to introduce a radical new UI.
This is not to say that Apple should not build new user interfaces. Nay. It means that their focus is on solving complex problems. New UI is to fixing problems. It is solving for vague abstract workflows. It is to service to the user, not the designer.
Separately, Android has far more the market share than Apple. Whereas Apple has the roughly 75% of the profits and only 22%-25% of the market share, Android has 75% of the market share and Samsung has 25% of the profits. With so many choices for Android devices, the device makers’ skins on top of Android stock UI, alienates the user. So much that, the Verge did a whole post on how to get your new HTC One device to look like stock Android UI without rooting it.
I will concede one point. Google’s Android is getting better at design faster than Apple getting better at web services. If any risk in alienating Apple’s consumers, it’s in services. Guy English and John Gruber expand on Gruber’s 10 from 2010 WWDC talk. Give it a whirl. There are significant challenges Apple faces, but not a conservative UI.