Apple released iOS 6 in September 2012, just ahead of the iPhone 5's debut, and released iOS 5 in fall 2011, just ahead of the iPhone 4S's debut. Before these two fall debuts, Apple released new versions of iOS during the summer months. Given Apple's recent track record of releasing new mobile operating system versions each fall, many expected iOS 7 to arrive at about the same time. Gruber's comments call to question that thinking.
One reason behind the possible delay is designer Jony Ive's addition to the iOS team. Ive has been the head of Apple's hardware designs for years, and was brought in to refresh the look and feel of iOS in October of last year. iOS has not changed its basic appearance since its 2007 debut. Many believe it is past due for a refreshed look.
[ What role did Steve Jobs play in the development of the forthcoming iPhones? Read Steve Jobs Shaped Next Two iPhones. ]
Ive's work is "apparently making many people really happy, but will also apparently make rich-texture-loving designers sad," according to iMore's Rene Ritchie. Some people in the design world complain about Apple's use of skeuomorphism in iOS design, which adds textures and an authentic, real-world look to some of its apps. Take, for example, the iBook or Newsstand apps, which use wood grain textures to make the apps look more like 3-D objects than applications. Ritchie's comments suggest that skeuomorphism may be on the way out, thanks to Ive.
Ive's work is also apparently top secret. Gruber noted, "Word on the street is that iOS engineers with carry privileges all have some sort of polarizing filter on their iPhone displays, such that it greatly decreases viewing angles, thus making it difficult for observers to see the apparently rather significant system-wide UI overhaul."
Apple never publicly set a release schedule for iOS 7, so saying it has been "delayed" is perhaps a bit of a stretch. It is entirely believable, though, that incorporating Ive's design changes has pushed back the original intended release date.
Software delays are not stopping Apple's hardware team from moving forward.
A separate report in The Wall Street Journal says Apple will begin production on the next iPhone this quarter. The Journal's sources suggest that two new iPhones are in the works. The first new device is "a refreshed iPhone similar in size and shape to its current one." That meshes with thoughts that the iPhone 5S, as it is likely to be called, will be a simple spec update to the existing iPhone 5.
The second device will be a less expensive iPhone that will keep the 4.0-inch display, but will swap out the metal casing for something less expensive. "Apple has been working on different color shells for the phone but its plans remain unclear," reported the Journal. Again, this gels with earlier reports about a low-cost iPhone.
The new iOS software release won't be tied to the new iPhone hardware release, that much is clear.