Khoi Vinh makes the case that the “classic” iOS Back button is the best ever:
If you ask me, that back button, the one that has been with us since the iPhone debuted, was the best back button design of all time.
The pre-iOS 7 back button consolidated these things into a single button shape that tapers into an arrowhead on the left side, and it housed a text description of where the button would lead you. It basically did three jobs with a single element. First, it visually signaled the way back, so that even if you didn’t read the descriptor text, you would still recognize the button’s function instantly. Second, if you did read what it said, it gave you the title of the previous view, without forcing you to tap and hold or take some secondary action to reveal that information. And finally, unlike the new back button in iOS 7, it was explicit about what you could tap and where; the target area was clearly demarcated by the button shape, and managed to do so without crowding the title of the view to its right (by contrast iOS 7’s new back button text often seems to run right into the title of the screen).
Vinh makes some valid points, but I mostly disagree with his assertion.
The iOS 7-style buttons are effectively the same thing, except they don’t have the arrowhead shape that Vinh likes so much. But, again, they function pretty much the same way, and fit better with the new design philosophy. Moreover, the standard
UIKit Back button seems to be used less and less nowadays: apps like Facebook and Foursquare, for example, use their own custom, left-pointing-arrow-with-no-text control. In fact, the Back/Forward buttons in Safari work the same way, without the explicitness. My opinion is I like iOS 7’s redesign better, but I’m just as comfortable with simply a plain arrow with no label.