iOS 7 Will Be Flat by Design
Like every other rumored Apple project or product, the forthcoming iOS 7 is the object of much speculation. The latest reports point to the company's design guru Jony Ive as being very hands-on with a possible total redesign that stresses flatter, minimal style over its current real world emulations. The design danger? Looking too much like the competition.
May 3, 2013 5:00 AM PT
Compared to recent Apple announcements, the secrecy surrounding the next release of the company's mobile operating system, iOS 7, has almost been hermetic.
There have been reports of improvements in email and calendar apps, as well as a possible expansion of the operating systems' gesture library so it will match Apple's OS X products.
Apple is working feverishly to get iOS 7 ready for its app makers in June, when it will host its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). It is reportedly pulling talent from other divisions of the company to get the OS ready for that deadline, but some apps, like email, may not be ready in time.
However, there seems to be a consensus forming that the new iOS will be getting an interface overhaul -- one that will make it flatter in style and design.
A user interface that moves away from skeuomorphic objects -- software objects that emulate their counterparts in the real world -- and toward flat, functionary ones is highly possible, said Michael Morgan, a mobile devices analyst with ABI Research.
"We've been expecting that ever since Ive took over design," he told MacNewsWorld
Sir Jonathan Paul (Jony) Ive is Apple's senior vice president of industrial design and has long been part of a movement within the company to dump skeuomorphic design.
When Scott Forstall, the chief proponent of skeuomorphic design left the company following Apple's Maps disaster, the design approach's days were said to be numbered.
Ive wants to bring a kind of consistency to the interface that can't be achieved with skeuomorphic design, noted Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.
"He wants a cleaner, more direct view of things like books, instead of having all the frills around it," he told MacNewsWorld.
Leader Now the Follower?
Sacking skeuomorphics is more than an aesthetic move, Bajarin said.
"Ultimately, Apple wants a specific look and feel across all its products," he said. "The skeuomorphic approach, while it was good because it represented some realistic-like things, didn't do that."
A new design for iOS 7 "will be a unifying process to make the look and feel clean, neat and consistent," he said. "Jony is bringing them back to their roots."
Since iOS's competitors -- Windows 8, Blackberry 10 and Android -- all have flat interfaces, could it be argued that Apple is being a follower and not a leader? Not so, said ABI's Morgan.
"Apple isn't following anybody," he said. "The decision has been debated internally for quite some time. People don't buy the iPhone because a page turns when you swipe it. The real value of iOS hides in the clarity of its user interface."
Apple will always have its fans and critics, noted Charles Golvin, a principal analyst at Forrester Research.
"There are people who say Apple's innovations are unique and distinctive," he told MacNewsWorld, "and there are people who say Apple's designs just imitate others."
Apple learns from the innovations of its competitors. "They pick and choose from them and find a way to introduce them as an Apple innovation."
Compared to how Windows 8 and Android deliver live information, iOS could be improved, Golvin added.
"It makes sense to me that they would be looking to address that deficiency," he said. "Whether that ends up being portrayed as an innovation or an imitation is going to be in the eyes of the beholder."
Because Apple has the hatches sealed tight on this latest version of iOS, it doesn't seem that much will be known about the new OS until June.
"There was a trend there where secrets seemed to come out more and more about what's coming up next, but I really haven't heard much about iOS 7 except that it might be delayed," ABI's Morgan said. "Either the secrecy is better or there's nothing to talk about, which would be even worse."