iOS7’s status bar doesn’t make sense

Boy, they weren’t kidding when they said that iOS7’s new design was polarising. People have taken issue with things like the font legibility, the amount of bright white space, and so on. The thing is – those are questions of visual design (what it looks like), whereas the gripes I have with iOS7 are more to do with the meaning the new design conveys. There are things I see which just plain don’t make sense to me.

Visually, I quite like the new design direction. Using thinner fonts and designing with more empty space makes the screen feel less crammed (which I value on an iPhone-sized screen). The principles that Apple is following are solid, but they could be more sensible where and how they apply them.

The curious case of the disappearing status bar


This gripe goes back to iOS6, when it seems Apple first decided that the phone’s status bar should blend in with the App you were running. The change wasn’t brilliantly received, which you can tell from the number of mainstream iOS apps that ignore it in favour of a plain black bar (Facebook, Twitter, Path, Vine, Instagram, Instapaper, etc). This status bar blending is on by default; which means that all of those designers made a conscious decision to turn it off.


You almost never encounter coloured status bars on iOS6

Apple really do seem intent on making that bar part of the App though, because in iOS7 they’ve taken it further. Now it doesn’t just take colours from the App – it really is part of the App. There is no line between the App and the status bar any more; they’ve been merged in to one:

iOS7 statusbar

And this is where I have to disagree with Apple: the status bar is not part of the App. It shouldn’t be part of the App, and it shouldn’t even look like part of the App.

The status bar will only ever contain:

  • Your network status
  • The time
  • Your battery status
  • If you have an alarm set
  • If do-not-disturb mode is on

That’s it. None of that information is specific to the App you’re running; it’s device status that doesn’t change whether I’m in Facebook or in Maps. Why must that bar be part of the App when it only tells me about the device?

Second (and most importantly), there are no actionable controls on that bar. Tapping inside of it will do nothing. It is literally just a bar with icons. Even Notification Centre isn’t conceptually part of the status bar (you can bring it down even in games which hide the bar). So what’s it doing there trying to butt-in to the App? It should get out of the way of the interactive stuff (like the toolbar), and blend in to the device for when you want to glance at it.

The status bar is part of the frame, not part of the picture. All of those Apps I mentioned (Facebook, etc) use a plain black status bar; I’d make it like that permanently in iOS7. As on the Palm Pre, it should be part of the device, not the App content.

In fact, I’d take it further. Going with Apple’s tight integration of software and hardware, I’d physically separate the status bar by putting it in its own display; maybe an OLED with deep black levels that really let it blend in to the device, or an e-ink screen that allows it to stay on even while the rest of the display is locked (you wouldn’t need to wake the screen to check the time, saving battery life). That would be progress that made sense; what we have in iOS7 is a bit of a mess.

This is all public information. I have issues with the way some of the new iOS7 design is implemented, but since that’s under NDA it’ll have to wait for now.

2 thoughts on “iOS7’s status bar doesn’t make sense

  1. Chris

    You lost me when you claimed that the status bar has no actionable controls. Touching the status bar in most apps has always scrolled to the top.

    1. springsup Post author

      That’s a good point, but I still don’t think it makes sense to merge it with the toolbar/navigation bar.

      If anything, merging them makes it even less obvious that it’s a separate tappable area.


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