Sources tell ace Apple reporter Mark Gurman that iOS, the iPhone and iPad operating system, is about to get a radically different new look, and that it could be “unsettling” for current iPhone users.
Gurman, a reporter for 9to5Mac, has an excellent track recording reporting Apple news before anyone else on the Internet.
He says the new operating system is code-named “Innsbruck” inside Apple.
Right now, iOS icons and graphics have a glossy, reflective look to them. If you look at your lock screen while it’s charging, for example, you’ll see that the green or red filling up your battery appears to be reflected in the blackness of the bottom half of the screen. The battery itself has a shine to it.
When “Innsbruck” comes out, all that shine and gloss is going away, say Gurman’s sources.
Instead the software and icons will look “very, very flat.”
One source told Gurman that the software will look almost as “flat” as recent releases of Microsoft’s Windows Phone “Metro” UI.”
This is what “Metro” looks like:
Gurman says the new flat look will be part of 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.”
“Innsbruck” will also ditch another pervasive element of the current iPhone and iPad software.
Currently, lots of Apple software is designed to look like the real world hardware it is replacing.
So, for example, the iPhone Notebook app looks like a yellow legal pad. The calendar app looks like its made out of leather.
In “Innsbruck,” these kinds of design metaphors will go away.
That’s a huge departure from the way Steve Jobs used to insist Apple software be designed.
But it’s in keeping with a new wave of design that’s popular among current Apple employees, starting with the company’s top designer Jony Ive.
Perhaps ironically, the move toward “flatness” and doing away with software that looks like real-world hardware began a couple years ago with design from Microsoft.
The New York Times tech writer Nick Bilton makes that point in a column out this morning.
It might sound audacious to think that Microsoft, the arbiter of uncool, was at the forefront of design a few years ago. But it was.
It turns out the company’s decision to focus on “flat design,” a type of visual scheme where everything has a smooth and even look, was a few years ahead of the rest of the technology and user interface industry.
While Microsoft was flattening its interfaces as if it were a child pushing down on a bulge of putty, its competitors – including Apple and Facebook — were focused on skeuomorphism, a type of look in which, say, a note-taking feature on a Web site or in an app would look like a spiral-bound notebook, a reference to the real world look of a notebook.
Now everyone seems to be following in those flat footsteps.
Steven Heller, co-chairman of the M.F.A. Design Department at the School of Visual Arts, tells Bilton that “flat” design is important on smartphones where the screens are smaller.
“It’s clear if you put too many things on a page you’re going to cause a distraction. In a small screen environment, you can’t do that either. You can’t afford distractions.”
Gurman says that while the look and feel of iOS is about to change radically, the way its functions – it’s “core apps and system fundamentals” – will continue to “mostly operate in a similar fashion to how they do today.”