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Cold, dead hands of Steve Jobs slip from iPhones: The Cult of Ive is upon us

Billionaire biz baron's death clears way for uber-shiny iOS 7

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Opinion Despite including the biggest changes to an Apple line since the iPhone launch, the fruity giant's iOS 7 is basically a series of odds-and-ends first seen on competitors' devices - and glossed with some Cupertino sparkle to make it shine.

It's easy to poke fun at Apple when its designers refer to "a whole new experience of depth" and harmonious colour palettes, but the iPhone was starting to show its age.

By repainting the exterior and adding some new features, Apple has taken the wind from its rivals and made the iPhone desirable again, or at least that's the hope.

Skumorphism, the technique of making things look like their real-world equivalents with leather textures and so forth, had to go as far as icons were concerned. Not because of some new design ethic masterminded by Jony Ive, Apple's senior veep for design, but because users no longer need to be eased into the new technology. Everyone knows what ebooks, calendars and MP3s are, so shelves and records aren't appropriate iconography any more.

Video-on-demand services still refer to material as "like a DVD box-set", the most familiar paradigm, but such things pass once users get comfortable with new ideas, So Apple – which introduced smartphones to so many people – can happily discard the crutch of familiarity.

Not that it's being explained that way; instead, it's being branded "The Rise of The Ive", to use one analyst's words. Apple is a cult of celebrity, and could have faltered at the death of its charismatic leader and company co-founder Steve Jobs if it hadn't had another one waiting in the wings.

We're constantly being told that the new user interface reflects Ive's personality and can be attributed to his drive and vision, as though the rest of Apple just sits around playing noughts and crosses all day.

But Cupertino's engineers have been busy too, putting in a settings screen that scrolls up, and a notification panel that scrolls down – in a fashion intriguingly similar to Android. Multitasking comes to iOS7 too, looking very much like Palm OS with cards sliding across the screen and being flicked upwards when no longer needed. but (patent issues aside) that's a really intuitive way of interacting with tasks.

It's also what Apple does best: taking existing technologies and techniques and wrapping them in a beautiful interface. Even the parallax view – fluff that shuffles the wallpaper as the phone tilts – is vitally important as it marks the iPhone out from the crowd. It’s the feature that will be shown off in the pub to prove the owner's superiority.

Put an iPhone beside a Windows Phone 8, or something running BlackBerry OS 10, and it looks old. Specifications aside, the interface hasn't aged well. iOS 7 is making it shiny again, and to the iPhone owner there's nothing more important than being shiny. ®

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