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Do The Latest iOS Changes Ruin Safari?

30 Jul 2021 Developer News
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Nothing stays the same for long when we’re talking about technology. Each new version of the iPhone only stays shiny and new for about six months. When that honeymoon period is over, attention turns to the next version of the hardware. The same is true of the software that runs on that iPhone, and also on your iPad and any other Apple hardware you might have. The latest version of iOS is no different.

If you’ve read anything in the news recently about the latest version of the operating system, which is currently in beta testing ahead of a planned release in either September or October, it might be to do with emojis. It probably says a lot about the state of the world that people are getting more upset about supposedly controversial emojis than they are about the technical changes brought about by the new software, but that’s not the focus of our website or our article. Instead, we want to talk about a change that might affect the way you browse the internet on your iPhone or iPad.

Reviews are already in from some developers and users who have been fortunate enough to take part in beta testing for Apple. They've spoken in favour of new features like "focus tools" for study and reading and new content-sharing capabilities within FaceTime. However, they're far less enamoured with the latest version of Safari. The long-serving browser has been substantially altered in both iOS 15 and the latest version of macOS, and the changes haven’t gone down well. In fact, we’ve seen a few users say that the browser has been totally ruined. So many changes have been made - many of which appear to lack a clear purpose - that it no longer feels the same as the browser we’ve been using for the past fifteen years or more.

The first thing you're likely to notice about the latest version of Safari (when you eventually get your hands on it) is that all the menu options that used to be at the top of the screen are now at the bottom. Years of going to the top of the screen to find the options have hardwired us to expect to find them there, so that's going to be a difficult habit to unlearn. To make matters worse, the change is only surface deep for some functions. As an example, pressing the web address bar at the bottom of the screen will re-open it at the top before you can type anything into it. That's both confusing and untidy. Apple says that the change will make the interface faster to use because customers no longer have to trail their fingers to the top of their screens to find options, but we're talking about a saving of microseconds. Any such time saving will surely be outweighed by the time it takes to adapt to the change.

There’s a feeling among reviewers that the Safari app has been redesigned with minimalism in mind. Minimalism has been a growing trend online for several years, but it works for some websites and apps better than others. Online slots apps and websites do well with minimalism because a minimalistic design allows customers to focus on the range of online slots they offer without any distractions. A well-designed Online Slots IE site will hide any non-gaming content in the side or top menus to accommodate as much gaming space as possible. That's a fine approach when you have something to sell, but Safari doesn't. A web browser is not an online slots website. Hiding most of the menu options doesn't achieve anything other than frustrating users. One of the most common complaints we've seen from beta testers is that Safari doesn't have any new features - the changes have simply made the features it already had more difficult to find and interact with. That can't have been the objective of Apple's designers.

In recent days there have been signs that Apple has heard the complaints and is working to address them. The most recent beta version (beta 3) keeps the web address bar directly above the keyboard rather than relocating it to the top of the screen. That's a mild improvement but doesn't address the concerns of those who would rather it had never been moved from the top of the screen at all. Betas 1 and 2 combined the URL and tab bars into one, but beta 3 separates them again. In doing so, though, it's made the tabs far bigger than they used to be, thus taking up a significant amount of screen space. It feels almost as if Apple intended this to be a major change for Safari, but they're cutting back one change at a time in response to feedback. There are still three months to go before iOS 15 and the new version of Safari are released to the general public, but for now, there's a concern that what we might end up with is a botched version of the app full of half-abandoned changes and useful features hidden away in places that aren't user-friendly.

This isn't the only curious app change we've seen in recent days. The new version of Apple's Weather App comes with an interesting quirk, too. If the temperature reaches sixty-nine degrees, the app will skip past the number and move straight to seventy. This is apparently because the number sixty-nine has "rude connotations," and Apple would rather avoid people taking screenshots of the rude number than give customers the correct temperature. This seems both prudish and unnecessary and makes us wonder what our phones will tell us if we ever have sixty-nine unread messages or emails. Apple is yet to respond to requests for comment on this matter, so it might be something else that gets undone before the final version of the app comes out.

We should give Apple some leeway here. The whole point of betas is to test new ideas and then either keep them or do away with them, depending on audience feedback. Bad ideas are inevitable as part of that process, and Apple is allowed to have bad ideas so long as they don't push them on their entire customer base. It's to be hoped that when iOS 15 goes live, it will come without the need for us to learn how to use the internet again.

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