Apple’s iOS 10 beta hints at a lot of changes – not all of them welcome
Apple is releasing a new version of its mobile operating system this fall, bringing the company to a nice round number: iOS 10.
Prior to launch, Apple allows anyone to test the software and provide feedback. First, I wouldn’t recommend most people download this beta. Bugs are commonplace with all early software and could test the patience of those who aren’t testing imperfect things for fun. Many apps behave strangely with the beta version because it hasn’t gotten its final finish yet.
This is especially true with this system. After a week with the beta, I don’t know where Apple is heading with this update. It is true that this version is, by definition, not ready for prime time and it would be unfair to review it entirely. But it’s still basically the same software that will hit millions of devices in a few months and just isn’t as good as I expected from Apple.
(Also see: How to download and install iOS 10 Beta on iPhone, iPad or iPod touch)
There are many things that I like. Apple has improved health features to track sleep, among other new data. This system also allows you to erase the icons of some of the preinstalled applications (Tips, Watch, etc.) that many relegate anyway to a permanently unused folder on their phone.
Apple has also worked on Messages, which makes it easy to send music, sketches, .gifs, and photos. You can also send very large emoji. It’s a little silly, but definitely fun.
Features are welcome changes. That can’t be said of the other changes to the system as a whole, which seem to stray away from the logical and simple design that makes Apple stand out in the first place.
Many menus and navigation screens have gained additional panels in iOS 10, which has the effect of making each individual pane easier, but complicates navigation as a whole. For example, the control center that appears when you swipe up from the bottom of the screen now has two sections: one with Bluetooth, brightness, and other familiar panel controls, plus a second just for music. and volume.
These controls used to be on one screen, and there was no real reason to add a second one. In fact, it took me a few days to even realize the volume control was there.
These menus look a lot like the bubbly, nearly empty layout you see on Apple Watch notifications. But a sparse design makes sense on this small screen. While it’s understandable – even admirable – that Apple wants to unify the look and feel of its systems across devices, it hasn’t been done in a user-centric way. This is unusual for Apple.
(Also see: iOS 10 Features: 10 Big New Features Revealed at WWDC 2016)
Apple has also changed the lock screen so that richer notifications can be accessed on their own screen with a simple swipe right, in addition to being accessible by swiping down from the top. You can also search for apps from this new section on the lock screen. It’s a win for convenience, but not for privacy. I changed the widgets I put in my notifications screen as they felt more exposed in the new layout.
Others may want to completely disable the ability to get notification center on their lock screen, through the Touch ID and Passcode menu settings.
Many of these complaints may seem like minor cosmetic complaints, and it’s true that some of them are. Others, however, are more serious. And all of them illustrate my genuine bewilderment as to why Apple is changing the feel of a system that helped propel it to such great heights.
There’s still time for the company to squash bugs and refine the software – which it certainly will. But judging by the draft beta, users will have to be prepared for some changes that might confuse them once the drop hits.
© 2016 The Washington Post