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3 small UI tweaks Apple should steal from Google and Facebook for iOS 7

There's a lot of excitement surrounding the next release of iOS. Many people expect it to be a major revamp since Jony Ive has taken over software design at Apple. Some (like me) don't expect to see a major redesign in the next release, but incremental improvements -- like the removal of skeuomorphism from some apps. Whatever the case, I hope Apple will consider stealing borrowing these three smal UI tweaks from Facebook and Google iOS apps to make iOS even simpler to use:

3 things Apple should steal from Google and Facebook for iOS 7What: Drag photos (or other elements) down to close them.

As found in: Facebook for iOS.

How it works: In Facebook for iOS, a user can close a photo by swiping it down. They're then returned to the album view and/or the Newsfeed.

Why: Tapping a "Done" button is so 2007. By now, most of the iPhone-using masses are intimately familiar with gestures. They're as natural to us as our own body movements. Any time you can have a simple gesture replace button taps, you should. There are two reasons for this: first, gestures eliminate the need to display buttons on the screen and second, they are generally more intuitive to implement than stretching our thumb to tap a Done button.

How it would benefit iOS: Imagine this in the Photos app alone. It would make navigating photo albums much faster. And this wouldn't need to be limited to photos. Any kind of attachment you can tap in Mail or any other app could quickly be brought to to fullscreen and a simple swipe down would return you to the original location of the photo. As screens get bigger (if iPhone's move into the 4-plus-inch category), any gesture that stops you from having to stretch your thumb to reach those Done or Back buttons that get pushed farther and farther away makes for a much better user experience.

3 things Apple should steal from Google and Facebook for iOS 7What: Tap twice and hold, then drag up or down to zoom in and out.

As found in: Google Maps for iOS.

How it works: In Google Maps for iOS, Google has built in a simple one-fingered gesture that allows a user to zoom in and out using only their thumb. In Apple's Maps (and other apps that allow zooming) the standard zoom gesture is a two-fingered pinch to zoom in or out, and a double-tap to zoom in. While this is great if you're standing still, if you're using Maps while walking down the street, particularly if you're other hand is full, pinch to zoom is generally a pain.

That's because generally most people can't do pinch to zoom with one hand. It normally requires the other hand to hold the device. Also, while a double-tap does allow you to zoom in, it doesn't allow you to zoom out (sure, a double-tap with two fingers allows you to zoom out, but that still requires the other hand to hold the phone). Google realized this and came up with an ingenious gesture: in their Maps app, the user can simply double-tap the map then keep their finger on the screen and move it up or down to zoom in or out.

Why: Once you discover and use this gesture you realize: this is how zooming should be done.

How it would benefit iOS: It makes one-handed zooming in and out easy. Apple doesn't only need to borrow this gesture for their Maps, it can add it to any other app that uses zoom -- like Photos, Safari and more.

3 things Apple should steal from Google and Facebook for iOS 7What: Gradient borders when scrolling.

As found in: Google Search.

How it works: When you preform an image search in Google Search you're presented with the standard search results: image icons on a white background. However, when you start scrolling down through them, the white background goes through a gradient change to black.

Why: Visually, it's more appealing to the eye. The gradient change also makes it easier to pick up individual images. Plus it signals to the user that they have moved the elements on the screen so if they are looking for the the first small thumbnail in the list, they know from the black background that they have scrolled past it.

How it would benefit iOS: Unlike the other suggestions, I think this would only benefit apps that use image thumbnails -- namely Photos. However, any visual cues -- even for a single app -- that give users a clue as to what they are doing on a small screen is always beneficial.

So those are three of my hopes for iOS 7. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot more I want to see from iOS 7 (like fixing the disastrous way Apple implemented switching between groups in Contacts in iOS 6), but adding the above is a good start. Please use the comment below to give your thoughts on what UI improvements you hope iOS 7 brings.

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