What’s Black and White and Flat All Over? iOS 7

| Rumor

The first delicious rumors have emerged on what Sir Jonathan Ive is doing to iOS 7. 9to5Mac reported that unnamed sources have described the new look and feel for iOS 7 as "black and white and flat all over," a play on the old-school riddle about newspapers*. The sources also said that iOS 7 will focus almost entirely on this interface change rather than on new features.

The point, however, is that gone will be reflective interface elements, and that texture-rich, skeuomorphic interfaces will be replaced by flat, space-efficient interfaces dominated by black and white colors. This flat, non-reflective look will apply to icons, interfaces, the lock screen, and more.

Additionally, there will be a much more consistent interface between Apple apps (Calendars, Notes, Reminders, etc.) with a unique dominant color to help users know which app they are using. As an example of this, let's look at a mockup of the Music and Calendar apps developed by Simply Zesty:

iOS 7 Mockup

iOS 7 Mockup by Simply Zesty

These mockups show a consistent interface dominated by white with strong color app-specific accents. The icons for these apps would be built around these same colors.

9to5Mac's source also said that Sir Jonathan has argued that skeuomorphic designs don't stand the test of time. Such designs, which use real-world analogs to convey instant-meaning to software tasks, were favored by both Steve Jobs and Scott Forestall, who was fired from Apple in the fall of 2012.

Other changes will include replacing the transparent time bar at the top of the lock screen with a shine-free, black interface. There will also be a new grid for entering your unlock PIN code, a new Notification with support for gestures, and other changes.

Sir Jonathan took over the look and feel of iOS 7 in October, which isn't all that long for such significant changes. To that end, 9to5Mac's sources said that every change has gone through multiple versions, and those different versions are likely to continue up until it is unveiled at June's World Wide Developer Conference (and probably up until it's released in the fall).

Accordingly, the details might change, but all of this is in keeping with expectations based on less-specific rumors earlier this year.

We think the described changes sound fantastic, and are looking forward to seeing iOS 7 get such a major face lift. It will also be great to see what developers do as they adapt to Apple's new interface.

* Ask your parents about "newspapers."

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other side

“We think the described changes sound fantastic”

I think it’s a Microsoft-style re-skin.

An “all new” OS had better do more than just look different.  If there is truly nothing else in iOS 7, those little red flags popping around Apple will become big red sirens.


Sir Jonathan has argued that skeuomorphic designs don’t stand the test of time.

I completely disagree. It’s the trendy designs, the coloured panels, the plaid shirts, the flashy ties, the bold patterns, that look dated in very short order. Look at what was predicted for cars and computers and home design back in the ‘50s and look at what we have now. It’s a lot closer to what they had then, with hi tech integrated in, than to what they predicted back then. We still use wood furniture and fabric with a weave, and leather BECAUSE they are familiar and comfortable. Even the synthetics we live with every day, laminate flooring, wall colours, the interior of cars, clothing mimics the familiar look and feel of the classics. It’s what people feel comfortable with.

I suspect that the Windows 8 tiles will will look very dated inside a couple of years. OTOH Apple’s icons that look like documents and manilla folders in a grid has lasted and lasted, even Android is using them. The GUI that Apple pioneered has been copied by Windows and Linux, and most everyone else. OK I’ll grant you that making the recording app look like a tape recorder was too far, but you can’t judge it all by one mistake. I think over time people will come back to familiar organic design elements. We are organic creatures, we like what’s familiar.

Does iOS need a refresh? Oh yeah. Behind the scenes and in front. But if it goes too far into the ‘futuristic’ it will look as dated as the stark rooms and flashy gadgets of Buck Rogers and Captain Video.


One more thing:
There is a danger, and you can see it in the mock-ups above in these flat designs. It makes the screen look two demential, like a flat piece of glass and plastic. OK it is a flat piece of glass and plastic but it should have depth just like the finish on an expensive car or quality furniture. We have Retina displays on our devices to improve the picture quality and they do. When I put a desktop picture on my screen it looks like I could almost reach in. At least it looks like I’m looking out through a window. Take that away and you take away one of the biggest hallmarks of the quality of the device. I want buttons that appear to depress when I touch them. I want games that look like the action is flowing toward me. I want my calendar app to be more than soulless marks on a flat plastic plane. Depth implies substance. It subliminally tells me that I got my (not insignificant amount of) money’s worth. Otherwise why spend the extra for an Apple product when I could get a crappy phone with a cheap screen for free.


The colour coding to distinguish between apps sounds good. And it is a feature that is as important as the technology under the hood. Clarity in the UI makes it easier to work with improves workflow. As long as all functions and features are retained a sparser look is welcomed.


Any changes that shrink the size of an app or speed it up by removing “eye candy” would be welcomed. However, the appearance must still tell you what the app does. Not everyone can distinguish colors. Stripping an app of all visual cues may make things more difficult for many.

Lee Dronick

Don’t take it to the other extreme, it can be just as tacky as too much skeumorphism.


I think people should trust Apple and wait until the OS is released until comment. The interface for Quicktime is largely black and white, with a splash of color and looks great. Moreover, different teams work on the design of the GUI, and features. Until people can actually see and play with the OS, proving opinions on it seems silly. More than one type of design can work.

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