October 16, 2013

FORBATH: To Upgrade or not to Upgrade?

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I’ll be the first to admit that I have an aversion to the smallest of changes. Over fall break, I freaked out when I discovered my favorite coffee shop had moved locations — within the same mall. I got upset when I learned that my parents had switched from cable to digital TV while I was away, and that the stations with which I grew up with could now only be viewed through different channel numbers. Just imagine my reaction when I bitterly turned to channel 52 (instead of the usual channel 23) and noticed my local news station changed its font and graphics style.

It should come as no surprise that I refrained from upgrading my iPhone — the device that has become a veritable appendage over the past two years — from iOS 6 to iOS 7 when the new operating system was released last month. Initially, I told myself I’d wait to upgrade once the inevitable kinks and bugs would be resolved.

But to tell you the truth, I think my resistance to iOS 7 goes much deeper. It is through my iPhone that, since sophomore year, I’ve read heart-breaking emails, hilarious text messages and everything in between.

I’ve come to realize that my memory of monumental moments over the past two years more strongly evokes glossy blue and white speech bubbles than the actual people involved. Sometimes, when I’m bored, I’ll read an old iMessage conversation — my own digital archive — and I am brought back to the time and place surrounding the central interaction that occurred between my phone and me.

To gauge my externalized rationale, over the past few weeks I’ve asked my friends who have taken the plunge what they thought of the overhaul. Their reactions have varied from “I don’t really care, it just looks different” to “I love it, it’s so modern.” No one told me that they regretted their decision.

I realized that in a couple of short weeks, iOS 7 has gone from being mocked on tech blogs for its poorly-conceived colorful design to becoming the norm amongst my college-aged peers. In the words of The Black Eyed Peas, I felt as though I was “so two thousand and late” while everyone donning iOS 7 was “so three thousand and eight.”

I finally gave in yesterday when my good friend from home took one look at my phone and said, “Susie, you know I don’t really get your major, but don’t you want to do stuff like design the next iPhone? Why haven’t you upgraded?”

She was right – I realized it was pretty silly to be an aspiring user experience designer without giving myself the chance to become immersed in the new interface.

So I took the brave plunge into iOS 7-dom and at first had major FOMO: Fear of Missing Old (Interface). I soon learned that I couldn’t unlock my phone with the one-thumb motion I had committed to muscle memory because the number keys are arranged slightly differently.

Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with the same emotions that I felt with the slightly displaced coffee shop and changed TV channels. “I shouldn’t have done it,” I thought to myself. “Or I should have at least taken screenshots of what that interface looked like so I could try to remember how I felt when I first read that text message/email.”

When I tried to press and drag my thumb down on the home screen to access iOS 7’s Spotlight search functionality, I ended up seeing the updated Notifications Center, which is supposed to be toggled by dragging one’s thumb down from the top of the home screen. I typed slowly on the keypad comprised of light Helvetica Neue characters, feeling as though I would break each letter if I pressed too roughly. I thought I found the solution when I discovered a “bold text” option in the phone’s settings, but this made every font in the system heavier — except for the keyboard text.

Despite my complaints, there are some definite pluses to iOS 7 (hello, Control Center), and over the past 24 hours, my thumb has already become more accustomed to the new unlock screen. I tried rereading some old emails and text messages conversations sans-gloss, and although the content was identical, I was not brought back to the same time and place in the same way as when I revisited conversations in iOS 6.

Still, I don’t regret not having taken screenshots. Maybe in this era of digital permanency, it is healthy to have a little more distance and learn how to access memories beyond an interface’s look and feel. With iOS 7’s new aesthetic, I have the chance to start a new chapter in my digital life. I just hope I won’t be tricked into thinking a friend is typing an iMessage (when in reality, he or she has sent me an animated GIF mimicking the text-in-progress icon) too often!