Apple transformed the iPhone 10 years ago and was still feeling it today

Leading up to WWDC 2013, Apple had a lot to prove. The company was still licking its wounds from the botched launch of Apple Maps in iOS 6, and complaints had been mounting around iOS’s increasingly stale design. While the iPhone was now a proven success, iOS was starting to look outdated. Remember the notepad-like Notes app? The strange linen background behind the Notification Center? The green felt background of the Game Center app? Compared to things like Microsoft’s very flat and, for its time, very modern Windows Phone Platform (RIP), it felt like iOS needed a shake up.

So it came as no surprise that, on June 10, 2013, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced what may have become Apple’s biggest iOS update ever: iOS 7. But he didn’t linger on stage, quickly abandoning the spotlight on a video narrated by Apple’s then-SVP of industrial design, Jony Ive, who had taken over software design from deposed iOS executive Scott Forstall a few months earlier.

I think there is a deep and lasting beauty in simplicity

I think there is a deep and lasting beauty in simplicity. In clarity. In efficiency, Ive said at the beginning of his video. True simplicity comes from so much more than just the absence of clutter and ornamentation. It’s about bringing order to complexity. iOS 7 is a clear representation of these goals.

The video revealed a transformed operating system. iOS 7 would change the look of almost everything, eschewing skeuomorphic designs in favor of a more modern look. Many of these changes seemed radical at the time and went too far in the direction of simplification, white space and a digital design language, but much of what was introduced in that release still serves as the basis for what we see today on our iPhones. .

The iOS 7 changes were immediately apparent. The iPhone home screen was much brighter, thanks in large part to Apple’s completely redesigned app icons that were flatter and filled the screen with bright reds, greens, and blues. Apple has added translucency all over iOS to give the operating system a sense of layers. The marker bars have also been re-evaluated, replaced by five circles.

The new design also felt less bulky. Apple (early) changed the font to Helvetica Neue Light, a much thinner typeface. That flat design and thinner font carried over into Apple’s apps, which have been modified to fit the new aesthetic and to better support swipe gestures. And apps used a lot more white, empty space. We just completely ran out of green felt! Craig Federighi joked as he introduced iOS 7 on stage.

The new design was not a hit from the start. The same day Apple revealed iOS 7, Joshua Topolsky, The Virgins a former editor-in-chief, called the redesign just confusing and criticized things like the design of many of the app icons (the message speech bubble is so bloated and oversized compared to its thin tip that it looks like it’s going to tip over) and how Apple added weird new icons within apps (iOS 7 introduced the weird box with an up arrow for sharing).

Apple has listened to the complaints and made some small changes between the operating systems revealed in June and the September release, including updating the font to the more readable Helvetica Neue and increasing the battery and cell signal indicators on the screen block. But the overall design philosophy was still there, whether or not you liked it; when everyone had iOS 7 on their phones, they still saw the weird blobs that now somehow represented Game Center.

I think David Pierce said it best in his September 2013 review of iOS 7: Apple on a mission to convince buyers that it’s still relevant, still innovative, still cool. iOS 7 is full of big, sweeping changes along these lines, and there’s real power in making something fresh and bright, but ultimately, the new images don’t offer many changes beneath the surface. Not yet, however.

That last line is important because we now know how important it was. Many criticisms of iOS 7 have focused on its initial implementation: too thin fonts, inconsistent iconography, non-stop animations that take too long, says Janum Trivedi, design engineer at The Browser Company. The limit. But you’d expect any new design language to take time to cook.

While Apple has refined many elements of the look of iOS over the years, overall, the core ideas remain. Apple app icons are still pretty flat. Apps still have a lot of white space and even some transparency, like in Safari and Messages. Over the years, the design language has matured, and the new elements of iOS 7 have become core parts of all Apple design today: blurs, transparency, vibrancy, interactivity, animation, depth, says Trivedi.

We must not forget that iOS 7 also introduced new features which have since become the staples of iOS. The new Control Center sounded revolutionary when it was finally added, an easy way to activate airplane mode! and while it was kind of a jumbled mess at first, it underwent a major redesign with iOS 10 and another with iOS 11 that turned it into the very useful panel you might recognize today. iOS 7 added AirDrop, which has become an incredibly useful way to share things between Apple devices. The iOS 7 Camera app lets you switch between photo, square photo, landscape, and video modes with a tap, which you can easily do with the app anyway.

There is a growing desire for change and customization

After all this time though, people start to itch; many more people are using the operating system now than in 2013, and there’s a growing desire for change and customization. This may be why we’ve seen people jumping through hoops to customize their iPhones, and why Apple has given users some design control with iOS 16’s cool lock screen tools. And even though Apple itself avoids still largely skeuomorphism, we’ve recently started to see some app designers like The Browser Company having fun with it again.

Apple maybe played with it mashed potato safe in recent times with the design of iOS. After a decade, today, I still can’t believe that the iOS 7 design style is still present in new iOS releases, says Enid Hadaj, an independent iOS developer. The limit. Sometimes I can’t tell the difference between them because they look very similar. But for the most part, iOS works, so Apple probably doesn’t need to rock the boat.

To wrap up his introductory video, Ive said something that sounded like typical Apple inspiration: Together, we see iOS 7 as defining an important new direction. And in many ways, a start. Ten years later, it turns out he was right.

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