We’ve got just over three weeks left to wait before Tim Cook takes the stage at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on June 10th and as one of the biggest single tech events in the calendar, we have high hopes for exciting new developments within the world of Apple and in particular, iOS.
Whilst many are hoping for new iPhones and iPad Minis, not impossible so soon into 2013, we’re more certain of the arrival of iOS 7 – a release that could prove to be the most significant shift in Apple’s mobile OS to date.
Although tradition alone should be enough to reassure most people that this year’s WWDC will give us the first glimpse of a new iOS, Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing – Phil Schiller has also gone on record confirming that iOS is going to feature heavily at WWDC 2013.
TrustedReviews quotes Schiller who stated, “Our developers have had the most prolific and profitable year ever, and we’re excited to show them the latest advances in software technologies and developer tools to help them create innovative new apps.” He continued, “We can’t wait to get a new version of iOS and OS X into [developers’] hands at WWDC.”
New ‘flatter’ design
Leaked imagery of iOS 7’s new look is slim on the ground, but word has it that it will look significantly different to all previous iterations of the OS currently found on iPod Touches, iPads and iPhones the world over.
The main reason for the new design direction lies with news that Sir Jony Ive, the man responsible for much of the industrial design work Apple pours into its iconic hardware, having now been tasked with steering the aesthetic of the existing iOS experience in a new direction.
Despite the popularity of iOS and the devices that support it, the platform has seen increasing criticism for its lack of innovation, particularly with regards to its UI.
According to the Wall Street Journal with Ive at the helm, the new design direction for iOS 7 will move away from Scott Forstall’s present vision – littered with elements of skeumorphism, and instead follow a far more minimalist, ‘flat’ aesthetic; with some drawing comparisons to Windows Phone’s tile design.
9to5Mac has heard new details about the iOS 7 redesign from sources. According to the site, iOS 7 has been described internally as “black, white, and flat all over.” Skeumorphic elements have been dropped in favour of flatter and cleaner designs, with Ive apparently saying that physical metaphors “don’t stand the test of time.”
Changes to iOS elements include a new “slide to unlock” bar along with a new PIN entry layout, plus new widgets and glanceable information in the Notification Bar. Apple is also said to be testing a new panel that will give dedicated access to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Airplane Mode. App icons will also appear flatter, with Apple’s core apps such as the Camera and Photo gallery cited as the most significant examples of the new direction.
The publication’s sources also say that several apps have been redesigned to accomodate the new black and white approach. Notes, for instance, has ditched the yellow theme in favour of a “flat, white look.” Mail, Calendar, and Maps share similar traits, and 9to5Mac even says that each core app will follow the white layout but have its own unique colour that will mark the difference. That’s not unlike what Microsoft currently does with its own software suite.
Update: Such speculation has also been embodied in a the form of a newly leaked ‘blurrycam’ image that claims to showcase the flatter design most clearly on the iTunes, App Store, Safari and Music icons. The image, which emerged earlier this week on iDownloadBlog.com comes from Australian tech blogger Sonny Dickinson.
New native app functionality
As we discovered a few weeks ago, Bloomberg has established that as well as a visual tune up to the main user interface, a number of native Apple apps will also receive a fresh lick of paint and perhaps some additional new functionality too.
Although what there’s nothing solid on what these new tools and tricks may be exactly, particular mention of the native email and calendar apps was made.
In addition, 9to5Mac has stated that although the iOS 7 preview which we’ll likely see at WWDC will be in a fairly complete state, Ive is also said to be toying with the idea of gesture control and ways in which iOS 7 and the apps that come with it can interface with the user without the necessity for direct screen input.
An element that many manufacturers, particularly in the Android camp, have latched onto is the inclusion of some form of car mode.
Although it’s true that automotive companies have already shown a strong willingness to make their in-cabin environments iOS friendly, the devices themselves have never featured anything more than a third-party app or the connection of integrated 40-pin/Lightning connectors.
Reports from PCMag suggest that using Apple Maps and Siri as a foundation, Apple will be showcasing a new dedicated car mode at the Moscone Center.
Passcodes replaced with image recognition
A more left-field notion is that Apple may decide to do away with passcodes and instead opt for an image-based unlocking mechanism. We’re sceptical; as such a radical departure from conventional unlocking methods won’t appeal to everyone, but following a discovery made by MacWorld, this rumour does hold some water.
Apple has apparently applied for a patent application with the USPTO which requires a user to identify a randomly selected photograph from the their contacts and respond by selecting a name using touch or even voice.
The reasoning behind this alternative unlocking solution comes from Apple’s opinion of existing methods, which it says, “can be easily compromised.” In addition, Apple acquired the Delaware-based company AuthenTec back in 2011 and perhaps this will be the first fruit of that procurement taking physical form.
Despite the benefits a refreshed UI will no doubt bring, John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame was one of the first to report that such a significant change in design is likely going to result in a delay in the finished article coming to market. Gruber stated that he’s heard (from sources unknown) that Apple has had to pull in engineers from OS x 10.9 to help speed along the completion of the new operating system.