THIS WEEK'S SPONSOR:

Kolide

The Fleet Visibility Solution for Mac, Windows, and Linux to Help You Securely Scale Your Business


Apple’s Remote and iOS 7 Design

Remote

Remote

Earlier today, Apple released an update to the official Remote app for iPhone and iPad that brings an iOS 7 redesign and support for the latest version of iTunes. While I wouldn’t consider myself a heavy user of Remote, I like to keep it on my iPhone for those times when I have friends over for dinner and my MacBook is playing music in the background. The new app doesn’t come with groundbreaking new features but it’s got some iOS 7 design decisions worth pointing out.

First, the main Remote screen. Available after an initial setup process that lets you pair an iPhone or iPad with a Mac, this screen lists all available devices and libraries you can connect to. In Remote 4.0, Apple uses the user’s Home screen wallpaper as background, which can lead to interesting color combinations as shown below.

Remote

Remote

The iPhone’s Now Playing screen is interesting as it shows a series of iOS 7-inspired UI choices that make it, in my opinion, superior to the same screen in the Music app. Navigation between remote sections is fairly similar to Music: there are tabs at the bottom for Playlists, Artists, Search, and Albums, and you can tap the More tab to drag & drop other sections. Items are listed vertically with thumbnails, and albums are grouped inside each artist. There’s nothing revolutionary here.

When you tap a song to make it play on a remote library/device, however, you’ll notice that the Now Playing screen eschews the Music.app design and embraces blurred album artworks and transparencies.

Remote

Remote

Artworks are front and center, with a song’s name going up in the title bar (replacing song order) leaving controls below the artwork. Tap it, and the song name fades to show rating controls. At the bottom, there are buttons to access an album’s entire list of songs and Up Next. Every non-button element (song name, volume slider, progress bar) uses transparency to show what’s underneath; the entire background of the Now Playing screen is a (zoomed in) blurred album artwork that, through color, affects what’s above.

Remote

Remote

I’m a fan of the use of color in iOS 7 to provide context to the user, and I think that Remote’s Now Playing screen offers a mix of form and function that is visually intriguing and nice. The more I look at it, though, the more it reminds me of something else.

Remote

Remote

The iPad app is weird. Aside from sloppy bits of UI (try tapping on the More tab and look at the popover on an iPad mini), it awkwardly mixes desktop metaphors with iOS 7 ideas that can’t live together.

Remote

Remote

The app is a mini iTunes for Mac inside an iPad screen, but the Now Playing screen is an enlarged version of the iPhone’s one. The main window is reminiscent of the iTunes window on OS X, but the tabs at the bottom are flat and they open iOS 7 popovers when tapped. The app isn’t bad per se, but it feels unfinished – something that isn’t uncommon on iOS 7 for iPad.

iOS 7 must have been a massive undertaking for Apple designers and developers, and I’m glad that most of the company’s apps have been updated for the new OS.1 While I like that Apple is experimenting with different UIs across their apps, it also feels like teams inside Apple are still finding their voice for iOS 7 design, producing user interfaces that are often enticing, generally rough, and occasionally just downright ugly. The new Remote app is a good example.


  1. Notably, iBooks still isn’t iOS 7-ready. That is strange. ↩︎

Unlock More with Club MacStories

Founded in 2015, Club MacStories has delivered exclusive content every week for over six years.

In that time, members have enjoyed nearly 400 weekly and monthly newsletters packed with more of your favorite MacStories writing as well as Club-only podcasts, eBooks, discounts on apps, icons, and services. Join today, and you’ll get everything new that we publish every week, plus access to our entire archive of back issues and downloadable perks.

The Club expanded in 2021 with Club MacStories+ and Club Premier. Club MacStories+ members enjoy even more exclusive stories, a vibrant Discord community, a rotating roster of app discounts, and more. And, with Club Premier, you get everything we offer at every Club level plus an extended, ad-free version of our podcast AppStories that is delivered early each week in high-bitrate audio.

Choose the Club plan that’s right for you:

  • Club MacStories: Weekly and monthly newsletters via email and the web that are brimming with app collections, tips, automation workflows, longform writing, a Club-only podcast, periodic giveaways, and more;
  • Club MacStories+: Everything that Club MacStories offers, plus exclusive content like Federico’s Automation Academy and John’s Macintosh Desktop Experience, a powerful web app for searching and exploring over 6 years of content and creating custom RSS feeds of Club content, an active Discord community, and a rotating collection of discounts, and more;
  • Club Premier: Everything in from our other plans and AppStories+, an extended version of our flagship podcast that’s delivered early, ad-free, and in high-bitrate audio.