Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

A Trip Through iOS 5.1.1

This is a good reminder of how we see the past through rose-tinted glasses. There are people who make a great deal of noise about Apple’s visual design philosophy post-iOS 7. Some of it is valid criticism; some is preferential disagreement.

There is a school, though, of those who believe that Apple once paid vastly more attention to detail than they do today, and these screenshots show that there have always been occasional inconsistencies and — for lack of a better word — sloppiness. The radii of the corners of the Reminders, Contacts, and Notes apps, for example, are all different. The ultra-light weight of Helvetica used for the search box in Reminders is nothing like any other app, and the photograph used for the “Brightness and Wallpaper” icon in Settings is completely out of place. And what’s up with the brown glass iBooks prompt in the App Store, or the Contacts app’s portrait view?

I say this not to stain your impression of how iOS used to be, but to make the case that Apple has never been perfect. They’re just better than their competition at this sort of stuff, most of the time. I wish there were borders around buttons in iOS today, and that the eased animations throughout the UI did not block interaction. But I’d also be interested in seeing how iOS features of today would fare if the material-heavy visual style persisted. I doubt that the OS would feel as lithe if a feature like Control Centre or Peek were drawn in a more visually rich style.