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Apple reportedly steps up iOS 7 work

John Cox | May 6, 2013
Sleeker, 'flatter' UI design in works at Apple for iPhone, iPad software; September release on track

Work on the next major release of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 7, seems to be speeding up, as the company shifts engineering resources and adjusts deadlines to meet two milestones: a preview at June's annual developer conference, and a release in September.

Though details are still very sparse, reports this week from The Wall Street Journal's AllThingsD blog and Bloomberg cite sources, some of them apparently Apple employees, who agree that at the least, iOS 7's "look and feel" will be distinctively different from iOS today, under the guidance of Jony Ive, Apple's senior vice president of industrial design.

But if Apple also succeeds in bringing to fruition a battery of underlying OS and services improvements -- to iCloud and data syncing, inter-app communication, Apple Maps and iTunes -- iOS 7 could have a big impact on the overall user experience for Apple's mobile devices, at a time when its mobile competition is intensifying.

"It's a pretty big update," according to John Paczkowski, in a post this week at The Wall Street Journal's AllThingsD blog. He's citing "sources who declined to be named because they are forbidden to talk publicly about Apple's plans."

That's an artful way of hinting that the sources can be forbidden to talk because they're Apple employees.

"With SVP of Industrial Design Jony Ive now overseeing [user] interface design, sources say Apple has adopted a unified approach to software and hardware design," writes Paczkowski. "And evidently the spartan, elegant aesthetic that Ive has developed around Apple's hardware is now being brought to bear on its software, as well. Last week, 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman reported that iOS 7 would feature a "flat" design that favors simplicity over flash. I've heard similar descriptions from sources who say iOS 7 is iOS "de-glitzed."

In part, de-glitzing seems to mean doing away with what's known as skeuomorphic design -- trying to replicate in detail the look and feel of a bookcase, for Apple iBooks, or of a notepad for Apple Notes

Gurman's post cited "multiple people who have either seen or have been briefed on the upcoming iOS 7." They say that iOS 7 "sports a redesigned user-interface that will be attractive to new iOS users, but potentially unsettling for those who are long-accustomed to the platform."

"The [iOS 7] interface changes include an all-new icon set for Apple's native apps in addition to newly designed tool bars, tab bars, and other fundamental interface features across the system," according to Gurman. The changes are typically described as "flat" which Gurman defines as being "based on simplicity," eschewing "heavy textures and digital metaphors of real-life objects found in skeumorphic [sic] interfaces," and "could also point to a more streamlined interface across the entire system ..."


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