Having recently updated my iPhone to the latest, seventh version of the operating system, I have seen quite a few app updates for many of the apps I have downloaded before. Since June, many app developers have been scrambling to redesign their apps’ look and feel to match the flat design sensibility. Yet the larger question remains unanswered: do consumers truly benefit from the change, or does Apple merely keep developers running on a treadmill of useless activity, continuing to make billions in the process?
Aside from the new design interface, some developers have added features to their apps or redesigned their apps from the ground up, like Facebook. This process has been partly frustrated due to changes in the beta development environment, so what the consumers got were often not fully remade apps, but cosmetic changes. Whether the new design and features truly reshape how consumers experience reality is debatable, but what is becoming clear is that Apple continues operating not as a technological company, but as a luxury fashion business.
I noted that from the marketing standpoint, Apple’s target audience tends to be richer that the average smartphone user. But this topic is about a broader shift in meaning we assign to personal computing. Think about who the latest design trend setters are: they are not Donna Karan or Calvin Klein, but Apple’s Jonathan Ive. As our lives have become more digital and less analog, and so our idols have transformed. As a society, we have swapped obsessing about “in colors” with much more engaging and entertaining mini-computers that happen to also work as phones.
So then, are the latest design changes just part of Apple’s plot to make consumers part with their hard-earned dollars? The answer may be “yes” in the short term, and “no” in the long run. If you’ve used Apple products, just fire up a Blackberry or a Nokia to get a sense of how bad interface design can impact your digital life. What is your take on the benefits of iOS7, Apple’s latest?