Apple unveils a fresh new look for iOS 7

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Published:  June 11, 2013
Desktop
Apple unveils a fresh new look for iOS 7

After months of speculation Apple have unveiled iOS 7 at the 2013 Worldwide Developers Conference, and it features a significant interface re-design. The overhaul was directed by Jonathan Ive, following an announcement last year that he would be taking over from Apple’s former Human Interface Group head Scott Forstall.

Ive and his team have stripped back the skeuomorphic look that has become a hallmark feature of iOS to date, and updated it with a so-called ‘flat’ design that largely does away with visual metaphors and textures, instead opting for simplified icons, bold colours, uniform typography, and white space.

“There is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity, in clarity, in efficiency. True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter and ornamentation—it’s about bringing order to complexity,” said Jony Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of Design. “iOS 7 is a clear representation of these goals. It has a whole new structure that is coherent and applied across the entire system.”

The re-design sees most system icons either updated or completely reinvented to suit the new visual style. Some of the most notable changes include the familiar sunflower icon used for Photos changed to a bright, graphic colour wheel, and the retro ‘parlour room’ look of Game Center has been replaced with a similarly bright and cheerful collection of bubbles. All icons have been redrawn using a grid system to promote uniformity.

According to Apple, the new structure and interface design  is “purposely unobtrusive” and that “Conspicuous ornamentation has been stripped away. Unnecessary bars and buttons have been removed. “. The philosophy behind the new look is largely in-line with Ive’s approach to industrial design, however reactions to the outcome have been mixed.

The concept is ambitious to say the least – completely transforming the visual language without disrupting the underpinning structure or the established user experience. Without actually testing the interface firsthand it’s hard to say how successful the transformation is. Additionally, the designs revealed today are still effectively in beta – so there are sure to be some adjustments made before the official release later this year. However based on the videos and images Apple have made available there is a feeling that some issues with the transfer from skeuomorphism to flatness haven’t been fully resolved. This is largely a complaint about the icons though – which have always iterative anyway. The app preview screens certaintly do appear to be more elegant (if not a little more generic) than they were previously.

The super-bright gradients and the thin typeface both seem to be choices driven by a desire to take advantage of the high-definition retina screens and to push things in a more contemporary direction. These are not choices that are going to appeal to the personal tastes (and UI standards) of many users, but personally I don’t have much of a problem with either – text looks perfectly readable on the preview images and some of icons have been vastly improved. It’s also important to remember that Apple’s promotional images only feature native apps. I don’t know about you, but less than half of the apps on my home screen are pre-installed, and I certainly don’t use any of the supplied wallpapers. And yes, there is a lack of “consistency” – but that has always been a part of the iPhone design ecosystem. Even now Apple’s apps don’t have the exact same look and feel (compare Photos to Messages or Compass to Mail for example) and all developers have varying degrees of difference in the way that they design their icons and software.

Details aside this move is both audacious and necessary, and it should be regarded as a turning point rather than a final destination: the moment at which Apple really started to match the sophistication of their software design with that of their hardware.

Apple also state that “every detail warranted the same rigor toward design. like refining the typography down to the pixel. redrawing every icon around a new grid system. and sticking to a precise color palette. on their own, these may not be details you consciously demand or even expect. but they all work together to create a more harmonious relationship between individual elements. and a better, more delightful experience overall.”

In addition to the design, several new features and improvements to system apps have been announced including:

  • Control Center. Now the controls you want to access quickly are all in one convenient place. With just one swipe from the bottom of your screen, you have access to controls for Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Do Not Disturb, and the ability to adjust screen brightness, pause or play a song, jump to the next track and stream your music with AirPlay®. Control Center also gives you instant access to apps such as Clock, Camera, Calculator and the Flashlight.
  • Notification Center is now available from the Lock screen so you can see all your notifications with a simple swipe, and the new Today feature in Notification Center gives you an at-a-glance view of your day with a summary of the important details such as weather, traffic, meetings and events.
  • Improved Multitasking. Developers have the ability to enable any app to multitask in the background with a new API. Users have the ability to switch between their apps in a more visual and intuitive way, and iOS 7 pays attention to which apps you use most and automatically keeps your content up to date in the background.
  • AirDrop is an entirely new way to quickly and easily share content with people nearby. When you’ve got something you want to share, AirDrop shows you your contacts close by. Just select who you want to share with and AirDrop does the rest. AirDrop transfers are peer-to-peer so you can use it anywhere, without any network or set up required, and transfers are fully encrypted so your content is protected and private.
  • The new Camera app features filters so you can add real-time photo effects. The Camera app now includes a square camera option, and you can quickly and easily switch between your four cameras—video, photo, square and panorama—with just a swipe.
  • Safari’s redesigned user interface lets you see more of your content—starting with full-screen browsing. The new smart search field helps simplify searching, and there’s a new view for your bookmarks and your Safari tabs. With iCloud Keychain®, your passwords and credit card information are securely stored and available on all your devices, so navigating password protected sites or autofilling during transactions is simple and secure. Enhanced Parental Controls allow you to automatically block access to adult websites or only allow access to a specific set of permitted websites.
  • Siri has been improved and features new male and female voices. Siri also now includes integration with Twitter, Wikipedia, and Bing as well as the ability to change device settings and play back voicemail.

Additional new iOS 7 features include:

  • A new Find My iPhone Activation Lock feature that requires your Apple ID and password before you can turn off Find My iPhone, erase data or re-activate a device after it’s been remotely erased;
  • Night Mode in Maps that responds to ambient light when you use it in the dark;
  • FaceTime® audio for high quality calls over a data network;
  • Notification sync, so when you dismiss a notification on one device it is dismissed on all of your devices;
  • Phone, FaceTime and Messages blocking to prevent specific people from being able to contact you;
  • Tencent Weibo support for users in China, a Chinese-English bilingual dictionary, and improved Chinese input including handwriting recognition for multiple Chinese characters;
  • The ability for businesses to more efficiently deploy and manage iPhones and iPads; and
  • Enhanced in-car integration, bringing an Apple designed experience into the car for the first time.

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One Response

  1. It seems an amazing level of detail has gone in to this overhaul of iOS. Pixel precision typography and a grid system for iOS standard icons show the level of detail Jony Ivy has gone to. The incorporation of a parallax design on the menu screens is quite interesting too. Very much looking forward to seeing how that works in the flesh!

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