The myth of a flat earth which became widespread during the first half of the 20th century shares a common bond with recent reports that the upcoming iOS 7 interface design driven by Apple's SVP of Industrial Design Jony Ive — is said to be “very, very flat”.
If those reports are accurate, the latest streamlined iOS 7 will lose all signs of gloss, shine, and skeuomorphic design elements like faux leather-stitching and wood veneers evident in both current and past versions of the popular iOS. A longstanding design aesthetic based on real-life visual metaphors blessed by the late Steve Jobs.
One source went as far as saying that the new iOS has a level of “flatness” approaching recent releases of Microsoft’s Windows Phone “Metro” UI. Serious fighting words amongst most Apple faithful.
While some reports have claimed that the software release will be delayed — Apple’s iOS 7 operating system is still expected to be unveiled for the first time during the company's keynote at WWDC 2013 on June 10th. The reimagined iOS is expected to become available to developers sometime after the keynote and then launched to the masses with the latest iPhone 5S device around late September.
So just how far will the grand flattening go in Apple's retooling of iOS 7 which has been codenamed “Innsbruck”?
“According to multiple people who have either seen or have been briefed on the upcoming iOS 7, the operating system sports a redesigned user-interface that will be attractive to new iOS users, but potentially unsettling for those who are long-accustomed to the platform.” Mark Gurman wrote for 9to5 Mac.
Earlier this year, CEO Tim Cook spoke to Bloomberg BusinessWeek about putting Jony Ive in charge of software design — speaking with great admiration about Ive's integrated design experiences.
“Jony [Ive, senior vice president of industrial design], who I think has the best taste of anyone in the world and the best design skills, now has responsibility for the human interface. I mean, look at our products. (Cook reaches for his iPhone.) The face of this is the software, right? And the face of this iPad is the software. So it’s saying, Jony has done a remarkable job leading our hardware design, so let’s also have Jony responsible for the software and the look and feel of the software, not the underlying architecture and so forth, but the look and feel.” said Tim Cook.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in the world that has a better taste than he does.”
If you rely on the unnamed sources who claim to have seen iOS 7 in action — the “Flat” design is based on simplicity and pushes aside heavy textures and digital metaphors of real-life objects found in skeumorphic interfaces, according to 9to5 Mac.
I'm convinced that many will welcome the overdue change with open arms no matter how “unsettling” the imagined new flatness in iOS 7 may be for a small minority of iPhone and iPad users who will suffer from a deep feeling of betrayal. It won't be the end of the world, just the end of an era.
For the record — the city of Innsbruck Austria is a narrow valley surrounded by rugged mountain peaks. A seemingly flat valley surrounded by picturesque 3D mountainscapes. A dramatic drop from high peaks to flat streets. Get it?
Flat is the new peak.
iPhone image at top by Anton Repponen