Blog Post

The biggest hiccups in iOS 7’s new UI

With the release of iOS 7 last Wednesday, Apple (s aapl) entered a new era in its software design philosphy: a style that abandons skeuomorphism, gradients and textures in favor of translucency, depth and motion. However, as with any major shift in software design, there’s going to be hiccups along the way. Below, I’m going to take a look at the most annoying ones in iOS 7.

Disappearing controls

The white payback bars blend into the background
The white part of the sliders disappears against the background of the video.

Many controls in iOS 7 have a flat appearance now, with no gradients and only one background color. The problem with this, as Cabel Sasser pointed out on Twitter, comes when you have a background that matches the color of the control, as the control blends in and disappears. As an example, if you’re running iOS 7 and you play, say, Apple’s iPhone 5s marketing video, you’ll notice that the volume and playback sliders are only partially visible.

New Music app

Which would you rather scroll through?

I have two problems with the new Music app. First, they changed the way that you navigate an artist’s albums. In iOS 6, when you selected an artist, a list of their albums came up and then you could navigate into each album to see its songs. In 7, the albums and songs are combined in one view, and you can’t drill down to a particular album. This design makes it harder to select an album when there’s many, because I have to scroll through the songs for every other album. The only rationale I can think of for the new design is that you don’t have to switch back and forth between album and song views, but I’d much rather do that than scroll through 11 Modest Mouse albums and their songs.


My second problem is the way the Music app looks on the iPad: like a blown-up version of the iPhone app. This has consequences for usability, as in the iOS 6 Music app you can see up to 20 artists at once in portrait mode, compared to 8 for the iOS 7 version. Considering that Apple executives derided Android tablets for their lack of tablet-optimized apps, it’s worrisome that the new Music app isn’t tablet optimized itself. I’m hoping that this was simply due to time constraints and a better version will come along in an update.

Unified status and navigation bars

facebook_statusbarIn iOS 6, the status bar and navigation bars were conceptually separate and the status bar was always black or a gradient that matched the navigation bar. In 7, the two bars are unified and have one, flat color. I actually like the way this looks better than in iOS 6, but this new design also introduces problems. First, developers will have to use the black status bar anyway if they have a sidebar that’s a different color than the status bar. The iOS 7 Facebook app is a good example of this: when you’re on the main news feed, the status bar and nav bar are blue, but when you open the dark-colored chat sidebar, the status bar changes to black so it doesn’t clash.


The second problem comes up when you have an app without a navigation bar: you’re left with an awkward-looking floating status bar that matches the background of the content behind it. The updated Apple Store app and Reeder 2 both have this problem.

New search gesture

In iOS 6, you could access a universal search field by swiping to the left-most home screen, which had a little magnifying glass instead of the usual circle to indicate its purpose. In 7, you swipe down on any home screen to open search. I can understand the rationale behind the change: in an app, you swipe down to get to the search field as well, so why shouldn’t it be the same way on the home screen?

While the new approach is conceptually consistent, it sacrifices discoverability in the process by getting rid of the magnifying glass indicator. Apple tries to solve this problem by showing the user a prompt after they set up their devices that explains this change. If Apple had simply updated the look of the old design, it would have still been discoverable without submitting the user to yet another annoying setup prompt.

Little things

  • The Missed tab in Notification Center almost always has the same notifications in it as the All tab, so what’s the point of it? I think it’s there just so they have three tabs.
  • If you have a notification badge on an icon at the top of a homescreen, you can actually get the badge to go up into the status bar because of the new parallax effect.
  • There’s no Edit button in the new Weather app, so if you want to delete a weather location you have to be aware of the “swipe-to-delete” convention first.
  • As Marc Edwards pointed out on Twitter, the new date picker UI has fewer and smaller drag areas than the old one, making it slightly harder to use.
  • In the iOS 7 camera, you switch between modes like Panorama and Square by swiping left and right. The only problem is that there’s no visual hint that you should swipe, and you can’t simply tap on the label of a mode to switch to it.

Editor’s note: GigaOM will be highlighting the future of UI design at our experience design conference RoadMap in November in San Francisco.

Are there any design issues with iOS 7 that I missed? Tell us in the comments. 

244 Responses to “The biggest hiccups in iOS 7’s new UI”

  1. To me what is most annoying is the button controls for audio playback on a headphone (and the double tap of the button at the bottom) don’t work as well as they did in iOS 6. It used to be that if the last music or podcast played was the last music audio playback action you took (regardless of what other apps you used, phone calls you took, etc.) you could always hit the button on your headphones (or double tap the button from off or the lock screen) and that last audio would resume. Now, at least in my experience, the button does nothing. It will only activate my music if music was the last action I took.
    Not exactly hands-free-friendly.

  2. The awful music app. I had my albums arranged in alphabetical order but when I click an artist it lists the album based on when it was released. The albums are still sorted alphabetically in iTunes but they don’t sync correctly. Also my playlists (most played songs) used to have my highest played songs at the top and now they are at the very bottom of the playlist on my phone but not in iTunes. A mess is what it is.

  3. The kiosk/newsstand is half app and half folder: it looks somewhat like a folder, but you can only get out of it by pressing the home button, but then in the app-switcher it takes the place of the homescreen (leftmost thumb) when switching between apps.

  4. I find the fact that you can access weather and stocks from notification center, but not the calendar app annoying. Also what happened to the tweet and FB post buttons?!?! I actually used those, a lot!

  5. I hate the music view on my ipad….I would much rather be able to view 20 albums instead of the structured list of 8 on the new ios7 version and this update also appears slower to me, I wish I had never updated…very unhappy and the icons on the first screen almost look kid dish or cartoon like to me much rather have adult looking icons (for as much as I paid for this thing)

    Very unhappy

  6. Chris9900

    The control center only comes up for me on about 1/3 if my attempts to conjure it. Also I dislike the keyboard and general departure from legibility. I’m the kind of person who likes night mode screens, so these white screens everywhere are a big bummer.

  7. David Matthew

    And the biggest hiccup of them all is… you can’t play games in landscape mode in Safari with an iPhone because when you try to use the buttons the browser’s bottom bar covers them up.

  8. thomasbbragg

    The music app is absolutely terrible! And the lock screen controls don’t work for me! If I try and skip a song without actually unlocking my phone the little arrow just lights up but it doesn’t change songs. And not having letters on the right side anymore is annoying because I was always using that to quickly tap to where I wanted to go. Why would Apple take that out and put their stupid iTunes picture for the artist there instead?

  9. Alexgsrubio

    My mom has an iPad and, as you might guess, she needs a bigger type. I came home with the “smartypants” attitude: I can solve that! I have read about type controls. She pointed that she needed the text on her address book bigger. After changing the type, even to the max, the address book didn’t change a bit. This is own Apple’s app. I would think this is an app that should work using their own system changes. My two cents.

  10. Alexgsrubio

    My mom has an iPad and, as you might guess, she needs a bigger type. I came home with the “smartypants” attitude: I can solve that! I have read about type controls. She pointed that she needed the text on her address book bigger. After changing the type, even to thra max, the address book didn’t change a bit. This is own Apple’s app. I would think this is an app that should work using their own system changes. My two cents.

  11. Depending on the wallpaper you choose, folders can fade in to the background and it can be hard to see their outline. Speaking of folders, I think it is disappointing that iPad users can only see 9 apps before scrolling to page two. A four by four grid would make more sense, and take up hardly any more space.

    Be nice if Apple updated iWork and iLife apps to iOS 7. Still lots of skeuomorphism and the old iOS 6 keyboard pops up in these and other apps.

  12. Chris Stout

    I think the flat, overly large, somewhat translucent, Dock is ugly and shows little in the way of creativity. It’s like taking a step 10 years back. Love the old Dock and the folders. It makes the background look better without the translucent stuff. We upgraded my wife’s iPad and she wants to go back to iOS 6. If we can, we will stick with iOS 6 for our iPhones and other iPads. The whole look is basic and simplistic, childlike and unbecoming Apple. Might as well have a Windows 8 OS running. Hopefully, Apple or someone will come up with some answers for this ridiculous look

  13. Cobey Myers

    The bug. When I try to re-size a picture to use as a wallpaper in iOS 7, it won’t re-size. I stretch it bigger or make it smaller and it snaps right back. Tried this on several pictures to no avail. Happens on my iPhone5 and iPad4.

    • Happened to me too, and everyone I’ve talked to. Apple really needs to so something about it, since millions can’t afford to upgrade to the iPhone 5 or better right away, and want their backgrounds to be a picture from their library instead of the dynamic ones.

    • Yes this is a BIG problem for me!!!! I hate it. That is one of the things I loved about the iPhone is it would fit any picture perfectly on your lock screen or home screen now you’re forced to cut some of the picture out and it’s blown up. Reminds me of android! Hope they fix it ASAP

    • Yes the functionality of choosing a photo for your wallpaper is very confusing and apparently buggy now. You select an image from a library as before and it fills the screen, near the bottom of the displayed image is white text saying “Move and Scale” but thanks to the new “buttonless” UI design it’s unclear if this is just a hint/instruction or if it’s a button you need to click to make changes to how the image is displayed (tapping it does nothing so presumably it’s the former). Below the image are the old button labels – “Set Lock Screen”, “Set Home Screen”, etc. but they are also just text now.

      If you move and pinch the image displayed it moves and resizes (why it doesn’t simply auto-resize it like it used to is an interesting question; why do you need to manipulate it to begin with?), but snaps back to the original too high zoom setting and position as soon as you let go. Also, response to tap selecting an image from library initially and tapping the set buttons later is very slow on my iPad 3, several seconds before anything happens following these taps with no indication it has “taken”.

    • I believe it has to do with the way parallax works. In order for the phone to make the “magic” of parallax possible, you have to remove a percentage of the edges of the photo so that there’s something to appear as “moving” when you tilt the phone.

      If you go to Settings, Accessibility and turn “Reduce Motion” ON it will disable the parallax effect in your wallpaper, which makes it work like it did in iOS 6 (enables you to zoom out of a photo to set the entire image as the background).

      I like the parallax effect, but I don’t like that I lose part of the wallpaper image to achieve it. It’s not exactly a bug, it’s just a side effect of how it works.

      • Thank you, just saved my life there.

        I figure they’ll have a lot of these bugs solved on iOS 7. 1 once it comes out. Remember everyone that it took ver. 6. 1 6. 2 then finally 6. 3 for iOS 6 to get as reliable as it did. Doubt we’ll get to end of the year before we see 7. 1 out

  14. Charlie Pinker

    Good points. There are so many weird and inconsistent things about iOS 7 that I really hope Apple sort out. I guess this just is part of releasing a major UI overhaul, but it does feel like they haven’t spent the time they should have done going through it in more detail refining it and sorting out the inconsistencies and odd behaviours.

  15. Thank you for pointing out the change in what happens when you select an artist in the Music app. I thought I was the only one who noticed. This was a huge negative change for me and I am very surprised they went that way. Lot’s of bands have lots of albums and it’s pretty hard to get to some of them now.

    • Daniel Berman

      What? The albums appear underneath the artist after searching for an artist. No need to scroll through all the songs. This is a non-issue. I have 135 Grateful Dead albums and they all appear on the left, touch album to drill down. Why are you scrolling through songs? This is a non-issue.

      • It’s a major issue. I don’t search my music I scroll, if I select Bad Religion who I have 16 albums of and over 300 songs. It has just made my attempt to listen to one single album of theirs a chore. The fact it turns their music into one giant playlist is not what I want. I shouldn’t have to search to get to what I want. It was perfect as it was.

  16. Music app is terrible for exactly the reasons mentioned in the article and Greg’s comment. I can’t believe this is what Apple has done to a vital app – the company that always tells us how much they “love music.” It makes me not want to use the Music app at all and instead use an alternative for nearly all of my listening, like my Rdio subscription.

  17. I also have problems with the Music App. I’m not sure if iit’s iOS 7 or the new version of iTunes, but my album artwork doesn’t completely transfer. I also dislike that the album and artist, if it’s longer than the screen view, doesn’t always scroll across the screen. These items are very important to those who have a lot of classical music in itunes. I’ve already filled out Feedback forms but I wonder how long it will take for Apple to put out a bug fix update.

    • You nailed it! I immediately restored my phone to IOS 6.1.3 when I say…or should I say couldn’t see the keyboard. It’s faint and washed out! I didn’t even check out the rest of IOS 7. I knew I could make do on my iPad but there was NO WAY I could live with that keyboard on my iPhone. Apple should offer us the option, as I am willing to bet that at least 75% of my activity on my iPhone is iMessaging and texting!

      • Kathleen Kochany

        Photo problem with ios7. Every time I take a photo with my iphone 5 it goes into my iPad photo TWICE! What is up with that. I had to sit an manually delete all the extras. Anyone else having this problem? And why is it so hard to see that washed out keyboard?

        • Check and see if you have the HDR feature turned on; its at the top of your camera screen and will read in white letters, “HDR Off” or, if on, in yellow letters, “HDR On”. If HDR is enabled it will take two photos, one normal and on HDR quality.

        • Sorry, my response was cut short…

          …You might have the HDR (high dynamic range) feature enabled in which case it will take/produce two photos: one regular and one HDR. Check the top of your camera screen when your camera app is open. It will read in either, white letters “HDR Off” indicating the feature is turned off (which will produce only one photo) or in yellow letters reading “HDR On” (which will produce two photos as stated above). Just tap the title to toggle it on or off :)

          If you don’t know what HDR is, check out this quick little article here:

      • Alivation

        Right on ! My girlfriend is so pissed off with the look and difficulty seeing text and keyboard etc on her iPhone she swears unless they fix it by at least adding customisation she will never buy another iPhone!
        I find the washed out colour scheme on my iPad much harder on the eyes. All the text is narrower making it harder for the visually impaired. I.E. Virtually everyone over 50!
        Plus, the colours are ugly! Lime green ? Yuck.

        • Think the “lime green” texts are bad? Go check out the neon pink Music app controls. It is absolutely awful design to hard-code garish colors like that. .If Apple is going to force everyone in their gigantic user base to use the same color scheme then they need to stick to conservative legible colors. Of course, why they think 50 year old men and teenage girls will be happy with the same colors in the first place is a mystery.

          And I agree 100% that the thin washed out fonts being a problem for nearly everyone over 50.

          • I agree At my age I loved the iPhone because I could read it easy …now i couldn’t even see how to answer my phone today ……can’t see the recents and etc plus other places on my iPhone and iPad !!!! Soooooo disappointed.

        • I agree that neon green has to go. Every time I look at my iPhone it’s like having a flashlight pointed at my face. It is indeed very difficult to read the screen even after I turned on bold type. Apple has reinvented the wheel the only problem is that now it’s square. The Samsung Galaxy never looked better.

      • I hated it too, until I found a setting to make all the fonts nice and bold again! Go to Settings, Accessibility, and turn Bold Text ON (requires reboot of the phone to take effect).

        Funny glitch I noticed…everything is bold except the carrier name text lol :)

        But at least I can see my keyboard and read messages, emails, etc again!