Apple's official line regarding skeumorphism in iOS

I was going through the official docs for iOS design and development, and came across Apple's stance on skeumorphism in apps. A section of it is particularly telling:

For example, imagine an app that enables phone calls. Now imagine that instead of a keypad, the app displays a beautiful, realistic rotary dial. The dial is meticulously rendered, so users both appreciate its quality and instantly know how to use it. The dial behaves realistically, so users delight in making the dialing gesture and hearing the distinctive sounds. But for users who often need to call numbers that are not in Contacts, initial appreciation of the experience soon gives way to frustration, because using a rotary dial is much less efficient than using a keypad. In an app that is designed to help people make phone calls, this beautiful custom UI is a hindrance.
On the other hand, consider the BubbleLevel sample app, which displays a realistic rendition of a carpenter’s level. People know how to use the physical tool so they instantly know how to use the app. The app could have displayed its information without the rendition of the bubble vial, but this would have made the app less intuitive and harder to use. In this case, the custom UI not only shows people how to use the app, it also makes the task easier to accomplish.

I personally think Apple's stance makes sense. But they don't actually implement their own advice all the time.

Skeumorphism is not Find My Friends.

It's Game Center.

It's the sound the camera makes when you take a picture.

It's the compass app, the voice recorder app, notes, reminders, newsstand, and even calculator.

What do you all think?

You can read the whole thing here. The relevant content is pasted below:

Tailor Customization to the Task

The best iOS apps balance UI customization with clarity of purpose and ease of use. To achieve this balance in your app, be sure to consider customization early in the design process. Because concerns about branding, originality, and marketability often influence customization decisions, it can be challenging to stay focused on how customization impacts the user experience.

Using the iOS SDK, you can customize the UI of your app as much or as little as you choose. Because there are no practical limits to the amount of customization that you can do, you need to determine how customization might affect the task your app enables. As you consider the tasks in your app, think about how often users perform them and under what circumstances.

For example, imagine an app that enables phone calls. Now imagine that instead of a keypad, the app displays a beautiful, realistic rotary dial. The dial is meticulously rendered, so users both appreciate its quality and instantly know how to use it. The dial behaves realistically, so users delight in making the dialing gesture and hearing the distinctive sounds. But for users who often need to call numbers that are not in Contacts, initial appreciation of the experience soon gives way to frustration, because using a rotary dial is much less efficient than using a keypad. In an app that is designed to help people make phone calls, this beautiful custom UI is a hindrance.

image: ../Art/rotary_dial.jpg

On the other hand, consider the BubbleLevel sample app, which displays a realistic rendition of a carpenter’s level. People know how to use the physical tool so they instantly know how to use the app. The app could have displayed its information without the rendition of the bubble vial, but this would have made the app less intuitive and harder to use. In this case, the custom UI not only shows people how to use the app, it also makes the task easier to accomplish.

image: ../Art/bubble_level.jpg

As you consider how customization might enhance or detract from the task your app enables, keep these guidelines in mind.

Always have a reason for customization. Ideally, UI customization facilitates the task people want to perform and enhances their experience. As much as possible, you need to let your app’s task drive your customization decisions. For example:

  • If your app enables a productive task that involves the manipulation of a lot of detailed data, people are likely to appreciate an understated, mostly standard UI and streamlined navigation.

  • If your app helps people view content, they generally don’t appreciate a UI that competes with it.

  • If your app is a game or provides an immersive, story-driven experience, people expect to enter a unique world filled with rich, beautiful graphics and innovative interactions.