Saturday, June 15, 2013, 03:56 pm PT (06:56 pm ET)
Inside iOS 7: Animations work with flat graphics to create sense of space
After years of pleas, Apple has finally added another "active" icon to its first-party app lineup in Clock. With iOS 7, the Clock app's icon now reflects the correct time and even includes a moving second hand. Also changed is the font and style of the Calendar icon, though transitions between dates remains the same.
As for Apple's in-app animations, Weather is perhaps the most well conceived and uses rich effects to reflect changing weather patterns for user selected cities.
Minor tweaks have been made to Message, like an animated ellipsis to denote a friend is typing. Also new is an action when sending a message, which "throws" the text into the conversation above it. Speech bubbles now appear to float when scrolling through the conversation, seemingly bumping into one another. This carries a liveliness and dimensionality to the app as seen in other places of the OS, like the home screen.
From Left: Animated incoming message bubble, sent message from text box, scrolling messages.
For the most part, the beta feels snappier than iOS 6, with in-app pages and menus sliding quickly and with purpose. In some cases, no animation is applied to pop-up contextual menus, though this might change before public release.
One thing worth mentioning is the way apps in iOS 7 handle asset deletion. For example, in the Photos app, deleting a photo slides those following one space to the left, while trashing multiple photos at random renders a delet-and-fill type animation.
Another take on thumbnail rearrangement can also be found in the Music app, where moving in and out of the revamped landscape view uses fade-outs to keep album covers in order. Going from 8 full on-screen thumbnails, to 15, then 28, the Music app retains an alphabetized order. But instead of simply zooming in and out of a predefined map-like snapshot of the largest 28-album screen, the covers are rejiggered dynamically.
Work in Progress
Apple is obviously continuing work on iOS 7, and at least some of the animations mentioned above will change before the OS sees public release this fall.
Overall, though, the additions and tweaks create a sense of space, a design language one would expect to speak directly against the "flat" iconography found throughout the beta. In some respects, that notion holds true, especially in the case of pop-up menus which look out of place. However, for the most part, the flat design lends itself quite nicely to the multi-axis world that is iOS 7.
If the icons and typefaces were themselves attempting to mimic depth, the UI would likely become cluttered and unappealing. The animations don't dominate the user experience, but seamlessly manipulate graphics already bold in their simplicity. That is what makes the system so transparent, and therefore effective.
Those wanting to see iOS 7's effects in action can view a sampling on Apple's website.
For more on Apple's latest mobile operating system, see AppleInsider's ongoing Inside iOS 7 series:
Apple's new App Store simplifies app updating & discovery
Siri gets smarter with new system controls
Apple puts Pandora on notice with iTunes Radio
Apple automates picture organization in new Photos app
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