Apple May Be Prepping an iOS Makeover
Back in 2007, the first iPhone introduced people to a new way of interacting with phones via finger-swipes and pinches. Most mobile operating systems have followed suit, but now job postings at Cupertino hint that Apple may be thinking about a new look for iOS, one that will help the company maintain its innovative edge.
02/06/13 11:58 AM PT
Changes to Apple's operating system and user interface might be under way, with the company restructuring the design side of operations.
Since Scott Forstall, the former vice president of iOS, left the company last fall, Apple has posted job openings that indicate it is looking for employees to help "reimagine" its mobile operating system. Some of Apple's recent open positions include senior software engineers for the company's iLIfe suite, someone to help develop Siri's character-driven dialogue and personality, and another person to help build a new set of APIs and frameworks.
Forstall had been with the company since 1997 and rose through the ranks to eventually manage Apple's mobile operating system. When Apple announced his departure last fall, the company revealed some corporate restructuring would take place, meaning a single person didn't take over for him. Craig Federighi now oversees iOS and OS X, and design chief Jony Ive is in charge of the human interface and industrial design across the company.
Taking iOS to the Next Level
Under Ive, Apple's mobile platform could switch to something more sleek and better suited for the times, said Allen Pike, cofounder of Steam Clock Software.
"Observers have been calling for an overhaul to the iOS look and feel for some time now," Pike told MacNewsWorld. "The default look and feel of the system apps such as Mail is starting to feel dated, especially as third-party apps have evolved and exposed users to beautiful, modern designs."
Apple currently uses many elements of skeuomorphic design, such as the look of the fake stitches and tear-away date pages that make the calendar app resemble an actual calendar. Newer operating systems designers, however, are approaching the field with a more elegant and sleek look that is streamlined across platforms, and Apple might be following in their footsteps, said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research.
"It's weird to say, but iOS in the future might look more like Windows 8 or even BlackBerry," Kerravala told MacNewsWorld. "Apple's operating system was very innovative when it came out, and it helped the world move away from a Web-driven interface to touch. But by this point everyone else has shifted too, and there's really nothing different about Apple's user interface than when they first launched it."
When it comes to a redesign, streamlined abilities across devices are critical for a successful mobile operating system now, he noted.
"People are using their cellphones for much more than they were when the iPhone came out, so integration is crucial," said Kerravala. "When you look at the integration on the new Windows platform and even BlackBerry, in many ways the interfaces are far superior because that was a key goal. They can do a lot by having multitasking and better integration."
Slow and Steady Redesign
While Apple is likely headed in the direction of an iOS makeover, nobody should expect it to happen overnight, said Steam Clock Software’s Pike. The company will probably test refreshes gradually, only after they've been perfected, until the platform has a new and improved look and feel.
"We should look to Apple's other operating system, Mac OS X," he pointed out. "For 11 years, Apple has evolved the interface of OS X evolutionarily. Some releases tweaked the standard look and feel, most releases entirely revised the interface for certain apps, and new apps often have a totally new look. If you compare OS X 10.0 to the modern-day version, the user interface is dramatically improved, but there was no release in that time that had dramatic changes."
Consumers are ready for those changes, said Kerravala.
"People want a new interface," he argued. "This one has been around awhile. One of Apple's hallmarks is that they release products and designs that are easy to use, so I suspect that no matter what changes they come out with, they will be well received."