Thoughts for iOS 12 and Mojave.
Last week, Apple announced a bunch of new iPhones. The new features on iOS 12 and macOS Mojave were introduced to the public earlier in WWDC 2018. On mobile, iOS 12 utilized hardware upgrades like A12 chip, dual-camera, and dual-SIM capabilities to support social features like Animoji and productivity features like Siri Shortcuts. On the desktop, Mojave added dark mode, dynamic desktop, and stacks to make it fun to work on a Mac.
It might sound oversimplified, but the new OS features were driven by two concepts, social and productivity. It shifted my understanding of OS operating systems after using a MacBook, an iPhone, and an iPad for years. OS is no longer a platform that hosts third-party apps, it becomes the apps.
Previously, downloading apps is a critical part of customization when we get new Apple devices. A new “i” device does not feel it belongs to “me” until it is equipped with the apps we use. Will this still be true in the future, when we can get around with our life with only OS apps?
From downloading to leveraging native apps
Memoji, Animoji, and Snapchat-like camera effects are more than gimmicks. Today, it sounds silly to pay a thousand dollars for a new iPhone to access software features when we have options to get alternative apps for free.
Yet, isn’t it tempting if we could ditch search, download, and logins? Isn’t it more authentically social if we could reconnect with our phone contacts, comparing to our social media accounts? Instead of hassling around with app preferences to turn off annoying push notifications, isn’t it more efficient to authorize our operating system to do so?
It is more than a battle between native apps and third-party apps. It is about gathering the pieces of our life together. The time we spent on browsing pretty images in apps, the moments we want to capture, and the traces of our life adventures will be collected and sourced in one place. An operating system can assist you in everything and give you guidance on mastering your work and life.
I am not flinging words in the air and questioning the influences of the third-party apps we have created — there are more than 2 million apps in App Store this year for us to discover. This number embodies countless business and design solutions we practiced to make life better. Yet, how would you make an app stand out when native apps are pre-installed and can serve you in the same way?
Coherency overrides consistency
A third-party app looks similar across platforms. The iOS support on Mojave allows developers to port their iOS apps to macOS. This means it would be easier to drop-ship an iOS app first and then adapt it to tablet and desktop.
Meanwhile, native MacOS apps like News, Stocks and App Store will be coated with a similar look like their iOS versions. Comparing to an iOS app, a native macOS app will hold more content to display and enable richer screen interactions like hovering to view a quick breakdown of information. It also allows a macOS user to quickly scan and search through a side navigation bar, or peripheralize their app experience when using other apps.
The native app experience on MacOS not only blends with the experience on iOS but also extends to incorporate more uses cases. Users may forget the existence of an app but will remember to return to the app when they need to, regardless of which system they are using. Merged design attempts lead to a coherent user experience that overrides consistency when necessary.
It would be challenging to adjust third-party apps to the dark mode on Mojave, given the complexity of the unique experience that each app has. It may not only raise subjects like aligning UI elements to make things look good in the dark mode, but also cultivate an understanding of user behaviors around dark UIs.
In sum, it might be too subjective to claim that operating systems will replace all the apps we use today — the market penetration through apps is still enormous. However, with the growing force of AI and machine learning, task-based apps will face this fact sooner or later. If it is easier to get help from an operating system, what is the incentive to shop for other apps?