There’s been so many iPhone OS 3.0 feature roundups that I’m not even going to bother doing a roundup of UI changes, as most users are quite familiar with this newest version of the iPhone firmware already.
This is a post about the details, but there’s a few things I won’t go into. For instance, please don’t get me started on those pinstripe icons. Seeing them on a huge banner at WWDC was painful enough, and then having to recreate the same stripes for this blog post’s graphic was the proverbial needle under my fingernail.
However, it’s worth a blog post to look at those nice little touches that have been added to the already impressively well-designed iPhone UI.
Let’s begin with some of the new additions to the iPhone. Take the Voice Memos application, for instance. Apart from its icon and general UI, which I kind of dislike (there’s quite a, hum, elaborate story behind the design, supposedly, but I’m not sure if I can share that here), it has some of those small details that make you smile.
For instance, try holding the iPhone upside down (microphone side up) while the app is open. The UI rotates to let you point the microphone in your iPhone to any desired direction. A very small detail, but quite a nice one, just like the subtle texture on the bottom bar: very reminiscent of actual audio equipment.
And yes, just like a regular ‘Sinatra’ microphone, slightly tapping the microphone chrome will make the decibel gauge jump.
Spotlight and the regular home screen with icons feel very integrated with each other, but as to maintain a logical separation, the icons will fade out to black as you move towards the Spotlight screen. Conversely, if you move from the Spotlight view to the first page of icons, the Spotlight view fades out in the same way. With normal usage, it’s practically unnoticeable, but if you leisurely slide around, it’s nice to see.
However, there’s an annoying detail: the icons on the home screen don’t just fade out, but actually become transparent. I have no quarrel with that, apart from badges on icons and the day of the month on the Calendar icon becoming translucent. Probably not noticeable for most people, fortunately.
Whereas the home screen got pushed down a bit only by the green ‘Call Active’ top bar in previous releases of iPhone OS, in the new OS it can also be displayed with a different color to indicate an audio recording in progress, or whenever tethering is active. I love the glowing colors of the tethering bar, although it’s been ‘toned down’ since its first incarnation, where it glowed towards a Mediterranean green-blue-ish hue to turquoise. In the final release, it simply fades from turquoise to bright turquoise.
One of those applications a lot of people move off their home screen, Stocks, gets even more almost undiscoverable features, like a landscape mode and news items. Very nice and equally undiscoverable is its new graphing delta feature, which uses multi-touch input to let you figure out how much value has been gained or lost over time:
Also search-related: the search widgets in particular applications do get a ‘native’ treatment, like the Notes search bar:
The App Store itself actually got a few nice additions, like a Safari tab overview-like scrolling view of application screenshots. It’s sort of unsuited for landscape-oriented screenshots, but I found it quite nice to use regardless. You can also log into a different account or sign up for a new account from it (and the iTunes application) directly. The App Store and Youtube get a very pretty new comment/review area, as well.
I love the top rating area. Very subtle and in line with the convention that was set in the iPod application. I still can’t figure out why it uses a black, semi-opaque keyboard background in the App Store, though.
Touted as a bigger feature in most roundups: the scrubber bar on audio and video now lets you drag up and down (vertically, that is) to change the speed of the scrubbing. It radiates a nice white circular glow as you scrub it to give it a better ‘feeling’ (it felt a bit like you were playing psychic if you moved the metal ‘knob’ while not even touching it in the previous point update).
Safari for iPhone gained a lot of features, one of which is EV (Extended Verification) certificate handling. As required by Paypal, EV certificates (supposedly) allow an even greater degree of secure communications. When a website is confirmed to be ‘genuine’, the title bar text of Safari turns a dark shade of green:
I find it very unpleasing, aesthetically, and suggested some other options to some of Apple’s iPhone team when I met up with them at WWDC, but they did make the valid argument that if a website is verified to be genuine, it’s not as important to expose it to the user. In fact, the green text is easily overlooked. I haven’t been able to test a situation in which the EV certificate is found to be invalid, so if you have a website to test that on, do pass it on in the comments section.
Speaking of Safari, the team at Apple is clearly interested in reducing visual footprint. During the developer betas of 3.0, the bottom bar was semi-opaque for a few builds:
I’m glad this was removed, though, as it served very little purpose.
Of course, there’s also the usual imperfections. Tip of the hat to Neven Mrgan for this ‘gem’: the screen-filling action sheet in the Photos application turns into a rather… bold alternate design when in landscape mode. It feels like this particular area of the application has been overlooked, just like the (new 3GS) Compass application’s settings backside. The stark contrast and lack of visual polish is just very unlike Apple.
However, this does little to detract from these great little details (and there’s probably a lot that I haven’t even covered) that Apple rolled into this release like they usually do. Sometimes, I’m considering if other companies in the cellphone / personal media player market have caught up to Apple’s care to details and design sensibilities, but then things like these make the reality very obvious to me:
Apple’s still the leader of the pack by several tail lengths.