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In a move that is sure to bring a puzzled grin and a shake of the head from Android and Windows Phone users, Apple made what some are calling “the most significant change” to iOS 7 in the third beta, released last night in response to pressure from designers and bloggers.

It changed a font.

Previously, Apple had been using Helvetica Neue light, but as of last night, iOS 7 is using Helvetica Neue. Designers and bloggers had been calling for the change since Apple originally released iOS 7 in June. One went so far as to call the original font choice “art school masturbation,” while Instapaper’s Marco Arment said it was “one of Apple’s biggest recurring flaws: letting cool come before functional.”

It’s so thin and barely readable, it looks like a scratch in the glass. This is not progress. This is art school masturbation.

That was not precisely what I meant when I said iOS 7 is the essence of less.

Here’s a side-by-side example, in the iOS 7 calendar app. The original iOS 7 beta version is on top; the new-as-of-last-night iOS 7 beta 3 version is on the bottom:

iOS 7 beta 2 versus iOS 7 beta 3 fonts

Above: iOS 7 beta 2 versus iOS 7 beta 3 fonts

Image Credit: John Koetsier

In a word, Sir Jony Ive has, apparently, relented.

The entire debate may seem like an art school tempest in a teapot, but the results are clear. On my iPhone, text is clearer, more readable, more obvious. As such, it’s a good change. One of Apple’s key design goals for iOS 7 has been deference: letting data take the front seat, not interface. In other words, design for the sake of communication, not design for the sake of design.

This change, I think, is in line with that original goal.

The funny thing for Apple outsiders, however, is probably what it took for Apple to get there.


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