Creeping, Climbing, Crawling Elegance

As someone who has written software, I became aware of the term creeping elegance early on. It is the natural tendency to add features and to keep tweaking at the user interface making the application "just a little bit better".

If you succumb to the siren call, you can end up spending a lot of time creating (and fixing) features that no one really wants, while avoiding spending time innovating. It is my humble opinion that Apple has swerved into the world of creeping elegance with its latest v7.0 and v7.1 releases of its iOS.

Apple released the new v7.0 in September 2013. I resisted upgrading my iPhone and iPad for a while, adhering to the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" maxim, as well as the "don't upgrade until the .1 version is out" theory. When I finally upgraded sometime in November, I was underwhelmed by what I saw.


It appeared to me that Apple changed the user interface (UI) just because it could. After all, how can you be edgy if you have no edges? They changed the fonts, made the screen appear softer, added the swipe up and swipe down options from the lock screen (not a bad idea), changed how you search from the home page (pulling the screen down from the middle, rather than going to home and then back a page), parallax wallpaper and all sorts of goodies.

In 7.1, they decided to change the control surface some, by making the buttons smaller and narrower. They changed the phone dialer and made caller ID pictures look like they are in a porthole instead of full screen.

In the process, some goofy things happen. Now, when you want to hang up after a call where Bluetooth is involved, you have to hide controls before hanging up (sometimes). Hanging up is a little red circle instead of a racetrack-shaped orb. (I know you aren't supposed to be fiddling with your phone in your car, but if you were to hypothetically do so, shouldn't things be easier and quicker, so you don't have to theoretically take your eyes off of the road to hang up the phone?)

I listen to a lot of audio, both books and music. With 6.x, you could plug in your headphones, tap the play button on the cord and it would resume whatever you were playing, right where you left off. Not so with 7.x. Even tapping play on the new lock screen Control Screen doesn't start the audio, even though it tells you what app is active (such as Audible, Rhapsody or iTunes). You have to unlock the phone, open the app and hit play.

Don't get me wrong, there have been a LOT of welcomed new features that are cool, many of which I never knew existed until I read this list, but I think that the iPhone/iPad UI has progressed to the "old shoe" category. It is OK to add features and functions, but after just seven years of iOS, we have all gotten used to where things are and how it operates. It has become as comfortable as an old shoe. I mean, how would Apple CEO Tim Cook react, if he hopped in his BMW roadster one morning and someone had moved the start button, the window controls, rearranged his dashboard, and adjusted his seat and mirrors? Sure, he could get used to it, but why screw around with things that are working just fine?

Because they can?

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