The iOS 18 Customization Controversy Isn’t Just About Aesthetics. It’s a Battle Between Purists and Nonconformists, and There's a Clear Winner

  • The Apple with a market value of $3 trillion isn't same the homogeneous company it was at the turn of the century.

  • Its customer base is much broader and more heterogeneous, and the company owes them.

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The announcement of iOS 18 and its new features, which allow for more customization such as adjusting the color, size, and arrangement of icons on your phone screen, has triggered a new online debate. Some Apple users are excited about the new aesthetic possibilities for the iPhone, while others are unhappy with the move, and see it as a break from Apple’s visual identity.

Why this matters. While it might sound like a trivial debate, and it very well could be, the controversy goes beyond a simple aesthetic issue. It exposes the underlying tension between two conflicting visions of what Apple represents.

  • On one hand, there’s the vision of Apple as a cult brand with a minimalist, refined, coherent, and recognizable aesthetic.
  • On the other, there’s the vision of Apple as a massive global company aiming to cater to the desires of an increasingly broad and diverse audience.

The key points of contention. Since its inception, the iOS interface has been known for its consistent appearance and iconic design, which has remained largely unchanged over the years.

This has fostered a strong sense of brand loyalty among purists who see Apple’s design as a distinct feature compared to the diverse aesthetics of Android.

  • However, in the past decade, there’s been a growing demand for more customization options from Apple.
  • Several iOS updates have introduced innovations in this direction, including shortcuts for changing app icons, widgets, and the lock screen.
  • With iOS 18, there’s a significant advancement in this direction, with extensive changes to the colors and size of system icons.

Conflicting opinions. Some purists believe that customization goes against Apple’s principles of control and overall user experience. They fear the growing over-customizable interfaces may disrupt the visual identity and harmony of iOS. which they see as a cultural distinction.

On the other hand, some people, who I’ll call “nonconformists,” are happy to be able to customize their iPhones as they please with fewer restrictions from Apple. It’s not about trusting that users will maintain good design. Rather, they believe that having a unique and personalized look for their iPhones isn’t a problem at all.

Final thoughts. Apple’s move towards customization appears to be a one-way journey, despite potentially upsetting its loyal followers. The fundamental reason behind this shift is the company’s need to sustain continuous growth.

Fifteen or twenty years ago, Apple was a much more uniform company, along with a customer base that could easily recognize a shared culture among themselves.

With a market value of $3 trillion, Apple has achieved significant success by appealing to a broad audience and will undoubtedly continue to make strategic decisions in order to sustain its growth, especially as a publicly traded company with increasing demands from investors.

Image | Xataka using Mockuuups Studio

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