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iOS7– What Does It Mean for Your Branded Apps?

iOS 7 , Jun. 26, 2013

The highly anticipated iOS7 was finally revealed at Apple’s WWDC earlier this month. The latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system is the most significant update since the original iPhone. From the features available in the beta version, iOS7 appears to be a healthy step forward and a rather small leap into the future. We took a look at what’s new in the latest update and what might impact branded apps.

The most noticeable change of iOS7 is obviously the UI overhaul from Apple’s Jony Ive, who now oversees the design of both hardware and software. Apple finally moved on from a UI that has been around for the last 10 years. The new and trendy flat design further emphasizes Apple’s minimalistic aesthetics. Gradient and drop shadows are greatly reduced and contained. The change may impact current branded apps’ look and feel, as they may appear dated.

Overall, the application functionality that was introduced in iOS7 is par for the course with Apple. They leverage what others are already doing and just do it a touch better by making it more intuitive. Control Center, Camera Filters, iTunes Radio, iOS in the Car—all of these features have been available in various ways in the market, but now Apple adds their own spin on them. Apple has also added behind-the-scenes functionality for developers to engage with users in several new ways that brands can leverage.

What you should be taking advantage of?

Brands can now take advantage of some great features such as being able to add a URL to a user’s Safari Reading List, Peer-to-Peer Connectivity (without Internet required) for seamless data exchange between devices, Passbook improvements such as embedded data, built-in code scanner, and expiration dates. Each of these new features opens doors for brands to engage with their customers and provides brands with tools to increase communication channels. For instance, if users are reading your blog roll using Safari Reading List, you could allow them to add in their own Reading List so they can continue to read through the posts when they return to their home computer or tablet. Other interesting new features including Popular Near Me in the App Store may give national brands regional insights.

What do I need to do to make my app ready for iOS7?

The most important thing is to get your app ready for the UI. This can be extra challenging depending on a few variables:

1.    Do you need to support iOS6 and iOS7?

Due to the difference in design aesthetics between iOS6 and iOS7, supporting both versions will require extra effort. It will depend on your knowledge of your app’s core users and your resources to determine if you should support both versions for your branded app.

2.    Is your development team already using “Auto Layout”?

If you believe that you need to support both iOS6 and iOS7, first make sure you identify why and establish a roadmap for when you will drop iOS6 support. This helps you validate the effort necessary to support both, as it is going to dramatically increase the effort moving forward. For some, it is absolutely necessary and for others it is more of a nice-to-have. It is important to know that iOS users traditionally update quickly, the adoption rate for iOS6 after one month was 60%, and we expect to see this number increase for iOS7. A good indication is that the developers crashed the iOS7 beta download server in the first hour of release. With the release of iOS7, the OS fragmentation is expected to be mild, making long-term support for both iOS6 and iOS7 less critical.

If your application already uses Auto Layout, the development tool that automatically adjusts the layout to user’s viewing device resolution and orientation, your transition to the iOS7 will be fairly straightforward. If not, we recommend you evaluate whether you should start. The biggest reason why you should start is that now with iOS7 the user has the ability to change their text sizing, and your application in turn will be expected to respect this by updating the layout to support the desired text size. If you are using “Springs and Struts” or programmatic layout, then you will need to spend considerable time manipulating the views in order to get your layouts right. This can of course also affect the decision you make to support iOS6.

Our recommendation

Since it is inevitable that your apps need to support iOS7 at some point, we recommend that you prepare for the switch early. Switch your application development over to Auto Layout if not already using it and get ready for the new UI. This is going to be the happy path for all things iOS moving forward. Making the effort now is going to prove itself beneficial both to your users and to your budget long-term. The added benefit with being cutting edge is that you get the new features exposed to your users and in turn keep the brand relevant. It is also important to note that the official iOS7 release will be sometime this fall, which is not so far before the holiday season. Having an updated app design with new features and properly displayed content will greatly please your users and have a positive impact on your business.

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