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iOS 7 Undergoing Ive-Led Transformation

Sweeping changes are in store for Apple's smartphone operating system.

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Apple put its lauded hardware designer Jony Ive in charge of the company's iOS platform late last year after shaking up some of its executives. Ive is introducing significant design changes to the platform, which is expected to make its first appearance at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) next month.

A new report from 9to5Mac offers some insight as to what Ive is bringing to the table. His ideas are described as "black, white, and flat all over."

One of the signature characteristics about iOS is its 3-D look and feel. Apps and their icons have shadows, shines, reflections and textures that give them a three-dimensional look. This appearance was favored by the late Steve Jobs, Apple's former CEO. It is these and other design elements that Ive is stripping from the operating system to give it a flatter, more modern look. Ive feels that the 3-D elements won't stand the test of time.

[ What else should iOS 7 have? Read Top 10 Changes iOS 7 Needs. ]

Ive is also looking to give the operating system a more uniform look. As it is, apps across the OS such as Notes, Maps, and Mail have wildly different appearances and color schemes. iOS 7's apps all will have the same look and feel.

Among specific changes, expect the lock screen and notifications to change. There will be less shine and a softer look to the unlocking elements. Notifications will be more actionable through gestures on the lock screen, rather than just visible. Also going away: Textures such as the background linen in the drop-down notification tray. Ive is looking to make other usability enhancements, such as panels that make adjusting the iPhone's radios (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS) more easily accessible.

The basic architecture that forms the home screen, with app icons floating in a grid, will remain the same. iOS 7 will offer support for panorama wallpapers, though, something that's been featured on Android devices for years. The keyboard has been a sore point with many iOS users for years. The new keyboard will have a different look, but 9to5Mac doesn't say anything about the keyboard's underlying software.

Apps that will see the biggest changes in iOS 7 include the App Store, Newsstand, Game Center, Safari, Camera and Weather. For example, the weather application will offer animations that coincide with the current conditions, such as snow or rain. (Again, something Android and even Windows Phone have done for years.) The Game Center will lose its old-time casino look, with the green felt disappearing. The Newsstand app will lose its wood-grain textures in favor of a more modern layout, and the way Safari organizes tabs will be altered as well.

Based on the report, it sounds like Ive is breathing some much-needed life into iOS. The operating system has remained essentially unchanged in its appearance since its 2007 debut. It sorely needs some updating in order to remain relevant next to the fast-changing Android platform. Even Windows Phone has a more modern look and feel.

For the moment, Apple's engineers are focusing on delivering these changes to the iPhone first. Although the new operating system will be previewed next month, it won't arrive on devices until the fall at the earliest. It will likely debut with the next version of the iPhone, and won't be available for the iPad until some point later in the year.

The WWDC keynote is set for June 10.

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User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2013 | 7:36:35 PM
re: iOS 7 Undergoing Ive-Led Transformation
Too bad Jobs isn't around to defend his brilliant baby. Too bad its step-dad Ive is going to screw the pooch going forward.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/26/2013 | 1:10:23 PM
re: iOS 7 Undergoing Ive-Led Transformation
Flat, black, icons ... blah, blah, blah. Forgot that and deal with the behind the scenes of what an OS does. What can be improved that will serve the user not the designer.
User Rank: Ninja
5/25/2013 | 5:23:47 PM
re: iOS 7 Undergoing Ive-Led Transformation
I have several concerns with flat UI and app design. The first is that these designers seem to be listening to the tech press. That's never a good idea. These writers are, after all, computer nerds. They seem to think that just because something is working on a computer screen, it must be computer-like. Computer-like to them, meaning flat, little color, and quite frankly, boring.

But the vast proportion of the people in the world are not computer nerds. They don't necessarily agree. I know, that even though I am, to a certain extent, a computer nerd, that I don't agree.

We find comfort in things that have stood the test of time. Our homes are Colonial, Tudor, etc. our furniture is mostly not excessively modern. Even most of our clothing styles have been around for some time.

The other problem with true flat design is that there is no longer anywhere to go with it. With current designs, colors and textures, along with shapes are how elements are defined. Once that is eliminated, there are very few tools to differentiate usage in a design.

This leads to the awkward situation where the only place to go is away from flat design, back to where we were before. Though, of course, not exactly the same as before.

I imagine we'll go through cycles of flat and then more 3D and textures, then back to flat, etc.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/24/2013 | 7:49:51 PM
re: iOS 7 Undergoing Ive-Led Transformation
All this discussion about the appearance of icons. What about changes in features and functionality?
User Rank: Apprentice
5/24/2013 | 7:29:26 PM
re: iOS 7 Undergoing Ive-Led Transformation
Flattening the look of iOS worries me. Flat is modern?? Or is it "me too". Sounds like change for the sake of change. To me the textures and 3D give the iOS GUI its character. While the flat Windows 8 tiles bore me. At this point its probably too late to influence iOS 7.0, but J.Ive could help us all by giving the GUI customizable themes (and fixing Maps, adding Swipe, ideas/influence from WebOS, ...) for 7.1.
User Rank: Guru
5/24/2013 | 6:49:21 PM
re: iOS 7 Undergoing Ive-Led Transformation
Whoa! Is this a step forward? It might actually be a step backward. As a graphic designer, I know the dangers of following what the latest design fad is... many do not withstand the test of time. What looks good today might not look good tomorrow. And Eric even compares iOS appearance to that of Android as if Android were coming out on top. I'm not sure anyone, even those who know nothing about design, have ever considered the Android appearance to be anything special. As both an Android phone user and an iPad user, I prefer the iOS appearance far more than what appears on my phone! I'm shocked that anyone would even suggest that iOS needs to be more Android-like. Windows 8 is okay, but again it's not setting any pace for it's competitors.

If dull flat icons are the major change in the OS, I will not be impressed. Apple... give us true ground-breaking changes and not just worthless cosmetic alterations. And please, offer a "change appearance" setting for those of us who may not be impressed with your new look and want to change it to the way it was before!
User Rank: Apprentice
5/24/2013 | 3:58:54 PM
re: iOS 7 Undergoing Ive-Led Transformation
Good, unless he goes the Microsoft way and creates a mess of undiscoverable controls that you can't distinguish from their surroundings.
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