As most know, two days ago Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced a significant design revision to its mobile operating system, iOS, going from iOS 6 to iOS 7. This design revision, led by Jony Ive, took things in the direction of a much flatter design, versus the more 3D, skeuomorphic, design that's been with the iPhone and iPad since inception. That's all well-known.
Apart from the changes being mostly cosmetic, however, I believe that Apple might have shot itself in the foot once again. Let me explain why.
It's also well-known that Android OEMs have been taking their phones and displays up the size scale, with 4.5-5 inch models sporting 1080p now being commonplace in the higher-end devices. Apple did not yet follow this trend, though it did increase the display on the iPhone 5 from 3.5 inches to 4 inches.
While it's hard to peg if this differentiating factor is having a lot of impact, there is considerable speculation in that direction. And indeed, with Samsung's (OTC:SSNLF) Galaxy S4 selling well in spite of being priced at the same level as the iPhone, something about it must be catching the market's fancy.
The likeliest reasons for the large screens to be so popular are two-fold:
First, with mobile web browsing being very popular, bigger screens are easier to use;
And second, with most of the developed world population on an aging trajectory, it's likely that the average eyesight is probably getting worse. And worse eyesight marries well with larger screens.
That's where iOS 7 seems to blunder
It's this second reason that leads me to say that Apple's new iOS 7 might have a problem. A problem I have once seen in Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 7, actually - but which seems to be surfacing in iOS 7 as well. Let me borrow a few example screens from Apple's website (Source: Apple):
What do you see in these examples? I'll tell it right out: they're much harder to read than in the original iOS! The repeated use of light colors (namely white) in flat, light-colored backgrounds makes the screen hard to read. That is, not only is Apple fielding devices with smaller screens, which was probably already having impact on its relative market share, but the iOS user interface redesign seems to make things even worse for the aging cohort.
In short, while a refresh can always help sales, it seems that the refresh Apple has decided to make probably took things the wrong way.
It might be possible for Apple to redress this problem by a slight changing of default parameters - I do hope that things are not like with Microsoft Windows 7 where seemingly no amount of fiddling could make the coloring on the Internet Explorer tabs be decent at the same time as the coloring in the Start menu tabs. But still, at this point the interface redesign, which was mostly cosmetic, seems problematic.
Apple launched an entire cosmetic redesign of the iOS 7 interface, led by Jony Ive. This redesign took things in a flatter and simpler direction. However, in doing so Apple seems to have exacerbated a disadvantage it already had versus its Android competition. Apple did not follow the larger display trend, and larger displays might be favored by an aging public. Now Apple's redesign also made things harder to read. This might well numb the revenue effect that a refresh could otherwise produce.