Getting your Apps ready for iOS 7

iOS 7 iconIf you have iOS apps in Apple’s App Store you’ll need to consider upcoming changes in iOS 7.

At a bare minimum, apps need icon customization and launch screen changes, and many apps will need further development and design to match iOS 7 design and interaction paradigms.

According to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook on iOS 7, “This is the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of the iPhone.” It is a significant change to the entire operating system. iOS 7 is more than just window dressing – rather, the complete approach to mobile software on Apple devices has shifted. Apple has dedicated a webpage to iOS 7 design philosophy which affects how much design work your app could need.

“The iOS 7 UI has been completely redesigned. Throughout the system, a sharpened focus on functionality and on the user’s content informs every aspect of design. Translucency, refined visual touches—and fluid, realistic motion—impart clarity, depth, and vitality to the user experience. Whether you’re creating a new app or updating an existing one, keep these qualities in mind as you work on the design.” – What’s New in iOS in iOS 7

What other changes with iOS 7 should I pay attention to?

In addition to the complete redesign, iOS 7 introduces other major changes. AirDrop is coming to iOS, allowing easier sharing of documents, photos and more between iOS devices. A brand new framework, Sprite Kit, makes game development easier than ever. Dynamics behaviors are added to UIKit, allowing to attach physics behaviors to views. The complete list of changes (Apple Developer login needed) is available for reference.

Will my app still look good in iOS 7 if I make no changes?

There is no universal and simple answer, each app needs to be individually evaluated.

For apps that use only the default elements of UIKit, the transition should be fairly smooth. But, as Apple recommends in its iOS 7 UI Transition Guide, it’s important to review the visual and user experience designs to see if it still makes sense in the iOS 7 environment.

For apps that use custom visual elements, revisiting the design assumptions is strongly advised. Mixing the look of iOS 6 and iOS 7 will degrade the appearance of the app and look out of date. Just by comparing side by side screenshots of iOS 6 and iOS 7 it becomes apparent how iOS 7 brings a modern look which is already obsoleting the iOS 6 design we’ve been using for the last 5 years.

“An app that mimics standard iOS 6 UI in a completely custom way is likely to require a lot of work because it will simply look out of date.” – iOS 7 UI Transition Guide

“If you use manual or programmatic layout techniques, you’re responsible for ensuring that the layout adjusts appropriately when text size changes.” –  iOS 7 UI Transition Guide

Apple provides a checklist (Apple Developer login needed) of what must and should be done to transition an app to iOS 7. We’re happy to talk with you through the full list, but for now here are the items which Apple mandates must be done:

  • Update the app icon. In iOS 7, app icons are 120 x 120 pixels (high resolution).
  • Update the launch image to include the status bar area if it doesn’t already do so.
  • Support Retina display and iPhone 5 in all your artwork and designs, if you’re not already doing so.

How fast are users going to upgrade to iOS 7?

iOS has the fastest upgrade adoption rate of any widely used operating system. At the time of WWDC 2013, 93% of iOS devices were already running iOS 6. And this trend has occurred for each update of iOS since the introduction of the original iPhone, so you can be sure it will occur with iOS 7.

“Remember that iOS users tend to be very quick to update their devices, and they expect their favorite apps to follow suit.” –  iOS 7 UI Transition Guide

Are there any risks if I don’t test my app?

Yes – avoiding testing is a risky strategy and users of your App may have a poor experience after they upgrade to iOS 7. Apps may not launch correctly, or may look or behave strange and become unstable. Users will likely report their disappointment via poor App Store reviews.

Will any of my app need to be rewritten?

Existing Apps won’t need to be fully rewritten to run on iOS 7 and development frameworks provided by Apple are generally backward compatible. Nevertheless, this does not mean that no change is needed. It is more likely that some work to update the user interface will be required.

As it’s often pragmatic and effective to add several changes at the same time, it’s an opportune time to consider adding new iOS 7 features.

What if my app uses a cross-platform framework like sencha touch?

It is likely that soon after iOS 7 is officially released, cross-platform frameworks will be updated to provide near-equivalents of many iOS 7 controls and elements. However some of the challenging parts of native iOS 7 design and effects may take longer to replicate. No-one can say how long.

This discussion thread on Sencha’s forum talks about the transition to iOS 7 and Sencha staff are already working on this.

Regardless of feature parity between cross-platform frameworks and native apps, if your app uses a cross-platform framework, you should consider re-releasing with iOS 7 for the same reasons given for updating native apps.

Are there any new iOS 7 features which can make my app twice as awesome?

This is a massive iOS update with many new APIs. Here are a few:

  • UIKit Dynamics : Dynamic behaviors offer a way to improve the user experience of your app by incorporating real-world behavior and characteristics, such as gravity, springs and collision detection into your app’s animations.
  • AirDrop: AirDrop lets users share photos, documents, URLs, and other kinds of data with nearby devices.
  • Peer-to-Peer Connectivity: Supports the discovery of nearby devices and the direct communication with those devices without requiring Internet connectivity.
  • Inter-App Audio: Adds support for Inter-App Audio, which enables the ability to send MIDI commands and stream audio between apps on the same device.
  • MapKit: Apple’s answer to Google Maps has had a makeover and supports many new features if your application uses embedded mapping.


What next?

If you’re already considering updating your app, it’s a perfect time to also think beyond iOS 7 and consider public APIs growing in popularity and robustness – such as Dropbox’s recently announced Datastore API.

If you’re local (Wellington or NZ) call or email us about how we can help your app transition smoothly to iOS 7.

Some recent articles about iOS 7:


About Adrian Falvey

Adrian brings years of varied international IT experience to the team and a commitment to delivering quality applications in a timely and cost effective manner. He is our omniscient project manager, and his extensive experience ensures that potential hiccups are anticipated and dissipated before they occur. Budgeting is his lifeblood. He is dedicated to software delivery, and is driven to ensure that products are made on time and within a budget. Adrian’s technical expertise lie in databases and iOS development, which enable him to consider how emerging mobile technologies such as the iPhone and iPad can deliver value to all manner of business situations. He is our premiere Enterprise Developer and Business Analyst, and can help create the best possible business proposition for your product.
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