Flat Apps for iOS 7
By now you’ve probably heard that Apple announced a couple new iPhones. Perhaps you’re forlorn because you just bought a phone without first taking to the blogosphere to check on the latest Apple rumors. Not cool.
Fear not, the iPhone 5s, has only minor changes. A fingerprint sensor called Touch ID, motion tracking, dual-LED flash and some buffed out internals which are hardly revolutionary. No, the most amazing new feature coming to Apple’s iPhone platform is iOS 7, the next-generation operating system that will be both panned and lauded by the tech community for its vast departure from iOS 6.
I’ve already noted some bullet points in a previous entry, which is available for perusal here, but iOS 7 is a totally new direction for Apple. Flat design, a skew toward iconic graphical assets rather than miniaturized representations of real life objects, lots of pastels and gradients because why not, etc.
The swap-out of old graphics has created a rift with tech pundits as to what is considered “good design.” Changing the face of the game is quite the gamble when a large chunk of one’s profits are generated by devices running this questionably designed OS, the reviews of which are up to the whims of these paper luminaries.
In any case, when iOS 7 finally launches, you’ll want some slick new apps to match that sexy/dowdy interface. Or perhaps you want a first-hand look at what this new fangled/silly design feels like.
Staying with the “flat” iOS theme — one that is nearly devoid of drop shadows and other such tom foolery — I’ve selected a few apps that will be right at home on Apple’s gorgeous/hideous new interface. Indeed, these apps nearly feel like iOS 7.
So starts the introduction to LIMBO, a platformer that totally nails lighting and sound design to create one of the moodiest games on iOS. It’s like grumpy cat stepped on a needle full of bear tranquilizers, then fell into a pit filled with molten LSD. All the mood.
The entire game is painted in a subdued black, with the main character and nearly all interactive objects drawn in shadow. Backgrounds are artfully designed in various shades of gray, but it’s the ingenious use of negative space that makes LIMBO so unique.
Along with the visuals is a great physics engine that, unlike other titles, is actually an integral part of game play. Swinging on chains, jumping and sliding all have the right amount of “weight.”
As with many games of the same ilk, players need to move past a series of obstacles, in this case giant spiders, buzz saws and other baddies, without the use of weapons. Controls are necessarily tight, though screens on legacy devices like the iPhone 4 and 4S may be a little cramped for some maneuvers. Luckily developer Playdead allows users to touch, slide and tap anywhere on the screen, not just a predefined control area.
Overall, LIMBO is probably one of the best games on iOS right now.
Cost: $4.99 – available here
The essence of flatness, Morning uses nothing but color to demarcate borders, text and icons, with no shadows or shiny buttons to be found. A quick-look dashboard app, Morning brings users up to speed with the day’s goings on at a glance.
A total of eight customizable panels are available, from a simple clock to weather and a decent news aggregator. The app has hooks into iOS assets like Reminders and Calendar, so there’s no need to open individual apps.
Morning can even check traffic conditions for estimated travel times to work. The same functionality is coming with iOS 7, but the feature is buried in Notification Center. In fact, you can think of Morning as a pared down version of NC, but with a full screen layout and pretty colors.
Two downsides to Morning: it’s only available for the iPad and it lacks an alarm. I can see the iPad limitation; no one wants to squint at a smartphone screen when they wake up. An alarm, however, should be a given, especially for an app touting its get-ready-for-the-day capabilities. It’s named Morning. Come on.
Cost: $2.99 – available here
Find My iPhone
This should be the first app every iPhone and iPad owner downloads and installs. If you didn’t, erase everything and do it over.
Apple has made it easy to not only find a lost device, but remotely secure it in the rare case that it gets stolen. By the way, iPhone thefts: not so rare.
The latest version, complete with flat design icon and translucent overlays, brings the same functionality as previous builds, but eschews the horrid leather stitching that made me feel like I was on a dude ranch whenever I opened it. Instead, a slightly less horrific woodgrain wraps around the interactive map.
If you happen to lose your iPhone (it was probably just stolen), Find My Phone can enter “Lost Mode” to track where it’s been. Location data will be sent back to iCloud every so often so you can watch the would-be thief’s pathetic attempts to elude your omnipotent gaze.
For fun, you can taunt them with custom messages and if you’re feeling particularly zesty, play a sound. Sadly, maniacal laughter is not an option. When things get hairy, the app can remotely lock or even wipe your device clean. No one needs to see all those “cat pics” (not really cat pics).
Cost: Free – available here
The glitz and glamour of fingerprint sensors, faster processors, more memory and camera enhancements definitely took the spotlight at Apple’s announcement, but it wasn’t really about new hardware at all.
No, iOS 7 was the real star of the show. And when we look back, possibly with the iPhone 21S that will no doubt be embedded in our cerebral cortex, September will be remembered as a turning point for iOS. For better or worse.