When Apple announced iOS 7, it revealed an operating system with a much different look than the mobile OS we’re used to. According to Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper and iOS developer, this was an intelligent, strategic and aggressive move on Apple’s part. In a recent article, he describes iOS7 as a defense against copycats. Since this platform was released in 2007, iOS has seen countless imitations of its structure and appearance, especially by Android and Samsung. The iOS "theme" quickly became the "go-to" look for smartphones. Now, six years later, Apple is stepping out once again to set a new trend.
iOS7 is going to display radical changes from the "norm" that we are used to. But, when this platform's popularity skyrockets, the old "norm" will fade into history. This is, naturally, what Apple hopes for. They've taken steps to assure that their new product retains its originality and uniqueness. Marco mentions in his article that Apple has introduced new patents and features in their product that will make copying their UI more and more difficult. iOS 7’s appearance and dynamics require a powerful GPU and advanced, finely tuned, fully hardware-accelerated graphics and animation APIs. This will hurt web imitators most, but it’s also going to be problematic for Android: while high-end Android phones have mostly caught up in GPU performance, and recent Android versions have improved UI acceleration, most Android devices sold are neither high-end nor up-to-date. The gap is much wider in tablets, and even “high-end” tablets usually have insufficient GPU power to drive their high-DPI screens.
Apple’s even attacking Android’s screen technologies by making heavy use of 1-pixel-wide lines on Retina screens. Most Android phones have high-DPI screens, too, but their feature-checklist battles have actually driven many of them to have too-dense resolutions for 1-pixel lines to be useful. And many Android phones, notably including almost all Samsung Galaxy models, cheat on resolution by using PenTile screens, which poorly render text and thin lines.
Apple is looking to put itself back on top as the king of innovation – the UI of mobile UIs. And they might succeed for a while. The drastic changes will be harder to imitate and create new challenges for cross platform frameworks. Making apps look good on both Android and iOS is going to be a lot harder, potentially making it more difficult to choose tools like Phonegap and Appcelerator. Since developers aren’t likely to abandon iOS app development all together, they’re likely going to spend much of their immediate time updating apps for iOS 7 – meaning Android and other platforms will be neglected for awhile. As Marco said: "Whatever app developers were planning to do this fall is probably on hold now, because everyone’s going to be extremely busy updating and redesigning their apps for iOS 7. Anyone thinking about expanding into another platform now has a more pressing need to maintain marketshare on iOS."
As testers, we need to prepare for iOS 7 and the new and revolutionary changes it will bring to the table.