Almost flat: The future of iOS design?

“The talk about how Apple are going to ‘flatten out’ their UI style has set the rumour-mills ablaze with completely spurious conjecture,” Tim Green writes for Gizmodo.

“Let’s start with Launcher icons given it’s the most obvious port of call… To me, there is a distinct movement towards a particular style and I would be very surprised if Apple were ignorant of it. It’s not ‘flat design’ per se and it’s certainly nowhere near the ‘Metro’ levels that people are suggesting they may follow, but it’s a mellowing out of the visual indicators that people need to trigger the idea of a tappable element,” Green writes. “Why? Because this is not 2007 anymore, and we are all now fully aware of the medium and the process; we don’t need to be led garishly by the hand. There is still a sense of depth and tactility but done in a refined and suggestive way, sensitive to the changed perceptions that people have of interacting with touchscreens.”

Green writes, “Google and Facebook have led the charge recently for throwing design resources at their iOS apps and redesigning them in a beautiful, subtle and elegant manner. The idea that either of those wouldn’t have inside information about the direction of iOS 7’s UI and styling is beyond belief and we can only assume that the similar route they have taken (which doesn’t follow Google’s completely-flat Android style – that apps like any.do have done on iOS) suggests to me a direction we might expect Apple to be pushing people.”

Full article, with icon and other UI examples, here.

Related articles:
Jony Ive preps ‘very, very flat,’ potentially unsettling UI for Apple’s new iOS 7 – April 29, 2013
Apple in deadline crunch mode for WWDC as Jony Ive’s team works on ‘deForstallization’ of iOS 7 – May 1, 2013
Apple’s Jony Ive seen risking iOS 7 delay on sweeping software overhaul; Mac team enlisted to help – May 1, 2013
Jony Ive preps ‘very, very flat,’ potentially unsettling UI for Apple’s new iOS 7 – April 29, 2013
Usage logs begin reporting hits from new Apple iPhone hardware and iOS 7 – April 15, 2013
Jony Ive to usher in big changes in iOS 7 with system-wide UI overhaul – April 3, 2013

46 Comments

    1. Tim Green apparently doesn’t see the irony in accusing others of “spurious conjecture” when that is all Gizmodo has ever offered.

      Green is also 100% wrong in his assertion that people don’t need visual indicators for selectable elements. They do, more than ever.

      As for flattening the GUI: doesn’t the horrible reception of MS’s Metro give us a clue? Windows 8 is atrocious, and any step in that direction would be repulsive.

  1. You know what I’m getting tired of?
    The tech news:
    “Google does this, Google improves that, Google introduces this for iOS, Google updates that for iOS…..”
    What the ***** is Apple doing????

    • Apple’s Aperture/iPhoto Photo Books (and software) still sucks.
    • Mail still sucks.
    • Maps *still* has not discovered the massive mall near my house. I stopped bothering helping them out with Report a Problem. Not one of the ‘problems’ has been fixed.
    • FCPX *still* lacks basic functionality.
    • OSX 10.9 is late.
    • The Finder is so outdated it’s absurd.
    • System sounds date back to the 80s.
    • Siri still can’t find her own rear with either hand.
    • You still can’t backup Stickies, or Notes.
    • Entering an event in Calendar is still a giant pain in the neck.
    • Searching the App Store or the iTunes Store or the Support pages is still hopeless.
    • The list of things ‘android’ phones can do that iPhone cannot do gets longer and longer and longer.
    Shall I go on?

    We are reduced to debating the merits of flatter app design while the competition runs rings around Cupertino’s sleeping giant. It’s sad, it really is.

    1. what are you on?

      the competition running circles around Apple… you are kidding right? Samsung maybe the only threat yet they haven’t run even one lap around anyone.

    2. Enter an event into Samsungs Calendar and tell me who’s is better.

      Google Maps is not perfect either adn they have had 5 years to perfect it.

      Lacking some features or functions in FCPX could be your own memory issues, but lets just say who cares Apple can please everyone all the time.

      OSX 10.9 is late, really by who says… and again whos competing Windows Metro – laughable

      The system sounds may be nostalgic or have similarities from the past but definitely are not the same.

      Siri is a virtual assistance she needs no physical hand nor butt.

      You can backup Stickies / Notes – manually copy and paste into TextEdit and save – duh.

      iTunes annoys me when i search and look at the details of one app, it never returns back to where I was before. Always at the top again of my search.

      Android can do more than iPhone; what and how?

      Finder – lets hope OS11 has it fix.

      YOU ARE SCATTERED ON THINGS ABOUT OSX and IOS… where the competition like Microsoft has already failed with Metro and Samsung doesn’t make any OS at all.

      1. I’m commenting on Apple’s features, not ‘Samsungs’.
        Google Maps was downloaded 10 million times in 48 hrs it’s *much* better. You don’t use FCPX, obviously. “Memory issues” lol.
        10.9 is late and so is iOS7. “The system sounds may be nostalgic”. More lol.
        Siri is useful -maybe- 40% of the time, when it doesn’t hang.
        You can’t easily backup Notes or Stickies. I have 40 or more of each.
        The rest is just drivel.
        My contention stands.

        1. Actually all my Notes and Text Edit Documents are backed up to iCloud. I can’t speak to the Stickies issue since I haven’t used that applet in years.

          Also system sounds have changed at least three times since 1984. Which ones are you referring to? Can I get a Sosumi? I rather like the current sounds but you can add more if you really care to. It was a nice fad a number of years ago to change GUI art and install replacement finders. But everyone I know who is bothered by the stock finder already replaced it 7 years ago.

        2. Citing the number of times Google Maps has been downloaded doesn’t make it “better.” I’ve used both and prefer Apple’s maps…..since getting my iPhone 5 it’s only been wrong once…and that was by less then 1 block. If you’re that unhappy, maybe you should get yourself a Scamsung POS and kwitchyerbitchin’.

        3. You can remain heated with disagreement all you like… Your focused comment was, “We are reduced to debating the merits of flatter app design while the competition runs rings around Cupertino’s sleeping giant”.

          What is Apple doing you ask?

          Here we are, reading articles and debating over flatter design WHILE the COMPETITION runs circles around Apple… is that not a correct.

          You are implying Apple needs to focus on other things like ironing out its software, though this is true my point to you is, Apple has 2 operating systems to deal with, iOS and OSX plus all its software it produces. After 30 years of computing I yet to find a prefect software. You lead us to believe the competition is beating Apple. Running circles around them. You are saying Appel is sleeping? How? In what way?

          1) Samsung is a competitor to Apple, yet Samsung does not make an OS. Competing on hardware for the most part but to be fair, Samsung does develop a few software titles as well offer tweaks to Android – those tweaks definitely are not better. And in addition to the popularity of Android sales and devices are strongest from Samsung. So I would say they are Apples only competitor really. Then to be more specific, what the competition is truly focuses on iOS versus Android.

          2) However, all your points which Apple needs improving or lacks; generally those are fixes needed to OSX applications. Now thats pretty funny because last I saw Windows 8 (which runs on both mobile and desktop devices) is honestly Apples only competition regarding a head to head with OSX. Okay, not iOS… and I am sure you know the difference. And Windows really isn’t doing so amazing. But give Apple a break here, Google controls Android and can improve whatever they wish when the want, they just LEAK the improvements to those who willingly take it. Its not like there is a huge user base on the DESKTOPS waiting for it. Also, its about time Google gets off its backside and improves Maps and whatever else. Yes, Maps might be much better to you and many other, but look at things differently, Apple produced Maps in the year it closed its doors to Googles offer where Google was kicked out of the core installation of iOS which focused Google if they wished to remain on iOS to in fact improve. IT honestly was a win win situation. Maybe you should think why it took Google so long to fix their Mapping because it still has flaws too.

          Well I understand your frustration; doubling down on secrecy really is rather annoying – it might be nice Apple offers some insight or transparency to excite us on a more regular basis. Rumours and Leaks were much more fun to read about 7 years ago. Being true or false didn’t matter so much it seemed it was all apart of the hype or creative process.

          Nevertheless, what is Apple doing… hmmmm, I guarantee you Apple is doing plenty. Flattening iOS could turn out to be a huge trojan joke and not actually be what all is being thought and reviewed or debated on. Flattening could possibly be a blanketing statement where Jony Ives direction has crushed, squeezed and pressed the differences of iOS and OSX down to being so much more similar that it maybe hard now to differentiate the two any longer. Merely speculation and interpretation, okay. Still, there has been talks that software titles need fixing along with this — iOS and OSX cleansing. And of course, the OSX team was needed, the changes in iOS need to be implemented back into OSX. I can’t imagine Apple only doing a visual change… and It takes time. Various updates to OSX have been done. Just recently iMove. Okay not what you are asking for… but the thing that this article pointed to was the iOS flattening topic. And your take on iOS7 is that it is too slow to arrive and not as important a deal as other areas of improvement need attention.

          1. Dear Frustrated Fan of Apple,

            You never needed to mention the dreaded word ‘Samsung’,
            as it is implied that Android and Samsung are Apples only competitor. Though HTC and NOKIA etc. might be competitors they really don’t compare at all. Nor does Windows 8 or Metro, the numbers aren’t there. So, the only one is Samsung with the free Google Android and its copied hardware.

            Don’t lose faith Tired Fanboy, soon,
            some excitement will be on its way.
            And the flattened iOS7 just might mean a tighter, slicker integration to OSX from both sides of each operating system, which is a major feat if done well. It will be apparent soon that the sleepy giant in fact had its entire staff working around the clock, hard to the core, making improvements.

          2. The Samsung connection is my assumption. They never admit that’s the case. However, it has been proven several times that Samsung PAY trolls to infest websites, such as this one, and write crap reviews of all things not Samsung.

            Anyway, good work there, troll killing soldier! Just not the best language usage.

        1. haha – good pointer you has

          But of course it is understood, Google is developing also for iOS to remain on the Apple platform, as it needs the strong and vast user base.

          1. ok, to stick with the tone of this discussion,

            Larry “the Mule Stool” and Andy “the robotic auto-Rubbings” like to suck on strong and vast amounts of users in attempt to milk larger quantities.

    3. I totally agree with you and that is why I am calling for the firing of Tim Cook.

      I hold Tim Cook responsible for the pitiful state that Apple is in now and he should be fired.

          1. Well, I prefer to be gentle in my admonitions. I get manic when the drugs are wearing off. 😉 I’m also working on some slightly steampunk related fiction stories and am practicing my Victorian English Gentleman method of communication. It’s highly enjoyable.

      1. Apple is not in a pitiful state. You know it as well as everyone else.

        When you’re being sarcastic use /s so the not so keen of mind will know you’re just joshing them.

        /s

    4. Here. Here. And now, now boys…
      It is true the list of problems mentioned by Tired Fanboy and there are tons more mentioned throughout MDN and many things that Tim sure each of you wish we’re fixed. However, I seriously doubt Apple has been resting on their laurels. Perhaps Apple needs to listen better to complaints from customers and or be much more aggressive in fixing these ongoing software issues. I hope some of them get addressed in the next iOS and OSs, but those always bring more problems, too. Maybe we should get these things ironed out before making a whole new one. Otherwise, it seems that some of the little stuff never gets fixed. So why chastise a Tired Fanboy for making some good points, but that might could have been made more effectively with a different premise.

      1. nothing wrong with his points,

        the disagreement comes from his comment that Apple is sleeping and the competition is running circles around them.

        — regarding Stickies: A non-issue

        The text and other characteristics of notes in the Stickies application are stored in a file named “StickiesDatabase” in the Library folder inside a user’s Home directory. To back up your Stickies, quit the Stickies application to be sure all current notes are saved. Then copy the StickiesDatabase to another location.

        To restore your backed-up Stickies, first be sure the Stickies application is not open. Then copy the backed-up file to the same location. Be sure it is names “StickiesDatabase”.

        Note: you can also export individual notes as described below for earlier Mac OS X versions.

        II. For Mac OS X 10.0 to 10.1.5

        The text and other characteristics of notes in the Stickies application are stored in a file named “.StickiesDatabase”. It is in the Library folder inside a user’s Home directory. This file is not visible in the Mac OS X Finder under normal circumstances. However, you may save a Stickies note as a file that is visible in the Finder.

        To save a note

        1. Open Stickies.
        2. Choose Export Text from the File menu.
        3. To preserve the font and style of the note’s text, choose RTF or RTFD from the Format pop-up menu in the Export dialog.
        4. Click Save.

        Important:

        You must export the contents of each note individually.

        To restore a note from a saved copy

        1. Open Stickies.
        2. Choose Import Text from the File menu.
        3. In the Open dialog, select a file that was previously exported.
        4. Click Open.

    5. The text and other characteristics of notes in the Stickies application are stored in a file named “StickiesDatabase” in the Library folder inside a user’s Home directory. To back up your Stickies, quit the Stickies application to be sure all current notes are saved. Then copy the StickiesDatabase to another location.

      To restore your backed-up Stickies, first be sure the Stickies application is not open. Then copy the backed-up file to the same location. Be sure it is names “StickiesDatabase”.

      Note: you can also export individual notes as described below for earlier Mac OS X versions.

      II. For Mac OS X 10.0 to 10.1.5

      The text and other characteristics of notes in the Stickies application are stored in a file named “.StickiesDatabase”. It is in the Library folder inside a user’s Home directory. This file is not visible in the Mac OS X Finder under normal circumstances. However, you may save a Stickies note as a file that is visible in the Finder.

      To save a note

      1. Open Stickies.
      2. Choose Export Text from the File menu.
      3. To preserve the font and style of the note’s text, choose RTF or RTFD from the Format pop-up menu in the Export dialog.
      4. Click Save.

      Important:

      You must export the contents of each note individually.

      To restore a note from a saved copy

      1. Open Stickies.
      2. Choose Import Text from the File menu.
      3. In the Open dialog, select a file that was previously exported.
      4. Click Open.

    1. Tom.
      I’m on a 27″ iMac. iPhone 5, Apple TV, iPad, etc. Fan since 1995 and daily MDN reader.
      Now, is it somehow off limits to expect more from Apple or is everyone here just a mindless fanboy drone?

      All I’m trying to say is that Apple lets things go – often for years – without significant improvement.
      Someone please tell me how the Finder has been improved. Or how Aperture has not had its *ss handed to it by Lightroom.
      Someone please explain to all the people posting YouTube videos showing Siri sucking next to Google Now that they’re wrong and need to ask better questions.
      Come on. Tell me.

      1. The Finder has had a pretty stable feature set since OS X Tiger.

        With respect to Siri I tend to use it more for commands and navigation. Google Now works best at trivia and map points of interest.

        The trouble with both interfaces is that they are seldom useful in most venues. Usually in the car or walking or alone at home are the best times to use Siri, pretty much every other time I use an individual app silently and usually with less misinterpreting by either Siri or Google Now.

        The problem with Siri is that the semantic engine is calling on a back end of databases that simply aren’t there yet except in some pretty well-defined scenarios. Google Now suffers from the opposite problem in that it provides too many answers in most situations and doesn’t connect one search to the next.

        To me both are useful and I use them but my expectations are now so high for both in comparison to what came before it is frustrating to when it does fail at things that it used to ALWAYS fail at.

        As far as disappointments go screw Aperture give me an update to Hypercard.

      2. @ our frustrated fan

        I had no doubt you own and use several Apple products. Yet, unhappily, you use your devices. You seem less interested about iOS7 and speculations of whats is to come, over fixes you want to see now, so you can enjoy once again your invested hardware. Its understood.

        The problem however, was the notion that the competition is running circles around sleepy Apple. And, what is Apple doing…

        For most, Apple remains a fairly small team. And happens to be more of software company due to its own operating systems and provides its own hardware solutions to run on. The small team does far more than fix its software. Time management equals money management. Sadly, the fixes you listed may not receive any attention for another 6 months. There is hardware to design, chips to engineer, legal battles to be won, research new products and niche markets to enter, supply parts to tapped-into, entertainment deals to gel, stock market pressures to fend-off, evolution of operating systems to be dealt with and yeah software corrections and updates. I highly disagree with your claim that Apple is sleeping. And further believe Apple has few actual competitors. Take a number and wait patiently like the rest of us.

  2. At this point in time there is no reason icons cannot be 3D objects that can be manipulated. Spin your cylindrical and spherical icons, etc.

    Instead, all this ‘flat’ rumor mongering is suggesting that THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR is at work, turning what could be GLORIOUS art work as GUI into damnably boring retrograde crap worthy of a toddler.

    Dear Apple,
    Please tell me you’re NOT going to treat us like 2 year olds with iOS 7. Please. I LIKE our 3D world and I want a 3D world in my GUI, already. People manage to walk around in our IRL 3D world. I think they can manage to navigate a 3D GUI as well. Don’t you? If not, WHY NOT?!

    1. great point

      I am trying to look for other translations or interpretations for what was said with regards to Jony Ives progress on iOS.

      A “flatter UI” was the unsettling comment causing quite a stir in the Apple community. Lets remember, Apple loves this… it creates interest, curiosity, thoughts, ideas even debates spin off from such comments. Similar to your own comments here Derek — and possibly why you provoke them. Dare I say, it could be the same brilliance? Or is that far too great of a compliment from a silly troll? 🙂

      The initial seeds to unify OSX to iOS were put in place and were seen rather negatively and unresolved. A work in progress.

      I am thinking more positive that, “flatter” hopefully means the compression of the two OSes is now much tighter, slicker, better integrated and hence a better unified experience. Possibly with either flatter or three-dimensional graphics.

      1. Whatever turns out to be the case, I expect nothing less that something new and interesting. That Apple went innovation maniacal on iOS was FASCINATING! It was brilliant that they didn’t let the Mac GUI hold them back. And the results are fine on iOS. There’s lots of room to grow and I expect it will.

        WaterFalls2013, you are such an interesting person. I have to remember not to be particularly mean to you as you always surprise me.

  3. • Apple’s Aperture/iPhoto Photo Books (and software) still sucks.
    – what is it specifically that “sucks” <— and thats why "You liar" said what he said. I have use iPhoto and iBook Author – tried Aperture had no need for it as I use Photoshop/Pixelmator

    • Mail still sucks.
    – what is it specifically that "still sucks", I enjoy Mail and use it Daily. I never have needed or wanted or tried another alternative other then Entourage which I steer away from Microsoft applications.

    • Maps *still* has not discovered the massive mall near my house. I stopped bothering helping them out with Report a Problem. Not one of the ‘problems’ has been fixed.
    – how important is this Mall near your home, do you believe its anywhere as important as the mapping New York? Maps does a turn by turn spectacular job for navigational driving done with my iPhone, the models are pretty horrid on some locations, yet overall, its a first offering and its damn close to Googles at that who has had much more time to get there act together yet still has plenty of errors

    • FCPX *still* lacks basic functionality.
    – I do not use my copy of FCPX often, its a hobby for me i am no professional but there are as many folks complaining as there are loving it

    • OSX 10.9 is late.
    – says who – you? rumour on Apr29th,2013 had suggested OSX 10.9 to appear at WWDC (appear or showcase some inspirational features) — recently May 1, 2013 – Rumor has it that Apple will be releasing OS X 10.9 later this year — late?

    • The Finder is so outdated it’s absurd.
    – already tackled by another commenter here with a good reply

    • System sounds date back to the 80s.
    – again, not entirely true – and you realize this ofc

    • Siri still can’t find her own rear with either hand.
    – pointless comment – still in beta but that should highlight your point that Apple seems to be doing nothing

    • You still can’t backup Stickies, or Notes.
    – false – provided a way for that – and a article

    • Entering an event in Calendar is still a giant pain in the neck.
    – okay – a bit of a pain – but who software out there is better?

    • Searching the App Store or the iTunes Store or the Support pages is still hopeless.
    – i already somewhat mentioned my issues there

    • The list of things ‘android’ phones can do that iPhone cannot do gets longer and longer and longer.
    – such as what — and this is again where you suddenly started to get a glimpse of your Samsung reflux.

    We are reduced to debating the merits of flatter app design while the competition runs rings around Cupertino’s sleeping giant. It’s sad, it really is.
    – this i disagree with totally, you feel Apple is doing nothing? though a rehaul of the two OSes may not be important to you perhaps it will be soon enough – after all, your Mac would run OSX if Apple never made it

  4. “The idea that either of those wouldn’t have inside information about the direction of iOS 7′s UI and styling is beyond belief ”

    That statement is beyond belief.
    Not even units inside if Apple knows what the other units around them are working on. Case maker don’t get any advanced info either.

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