Essays on Technology and Culture

Rolling With Reduced Motion on iOS 7

A week ago, I turned the “Reduce Motion” setting on my iPhone and iPad, both running iOS 7.

I don’t get motion sickness. It just doesn’t happen. I’m the sort of person who, as a kid, could eat a giant corn dog and take on the nastiest wooden roller coaster at Cedar Point, and want to get right back in line. So I could stare down an icon as it zooms in at 20 miles per hour with no ill effects. Also, I think the parallax effect on the home screen is pretty neat. I even set my wallpaper to something with depth to emphasize the effect.

While I do miss the parallax effect a bit, I do find the gentle crossfade a much more aesthetically pleasing transition into an app than the zoom. On the iPad in particular, the zoom animation seems excessive for launching apps. I tend to close apps on my iPad with the five-finger pinch, which shrinks the display down into the center of the home screen, before it disappears entirely. This doesn’t go away with “Reduce Motion” turned on, and I’m glad. It’s much more visceral and responsive than the zoom out when you hit the home button.

The crossfade also feels faster when launching apps, though from some extremely cursory testing, it looks like both the crossfade and the zoom take the same amount of time. This corroborates with what I’ve heard elsewhere. Therefore, whatever makes me feel like my iPhone and iPad are launching apps faster is purely, 100% psychological. Fine with me.

Now that the furor over the icons has died down, the biggest pet peeve people have about iOS 7 are the new animations and transitions. It’s not surprising then, that just over a month after the initial release, Apple’s shipped an option that turns most of them off. Still, any software developer worth their salt will roll back a neat feature, or at least offer a way to disable it, if they find it’s actively harming some users. I’m sure Apple also has a way to see how many people are flipping the “Reduce Motion” switch, and will decide from that how to address the animations in a later release.

In the meantime, I think I’ll keep “Reduce Motion” on, and switch my iPhone wallpaper to something a little flatter. I just like it better that way.