Does Apple’s iOS need a makeover?


File: Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers the keynote address at the Apple 2012 World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) at Moscone West on June 11, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/GETTY IMAGES)

Apple designers are said to be working around the clock on major changes to iOS to update, streamline and improve how the mobile operating system looks ahead of the company’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference in the second week of June.

The changes may be so drastic, Bloomberg reported, that the company may even consider delaying the release of iOS 7.

Apple’s hardware design, under the watch of the meticulous Sir Jony Ive, has always been seen as a benchmark for the industry, but its software design hasn’t always been as well-received.

Is it time for a change? There has been some chatter that Apple needs to update its look. Generally speaking, iOS’s appearance hasn’t changed much since the first iPhone was introduced in January 2007. Even BlackBerry chief executive Thorsten Heins — who, admittedly has an agenda behind his digs at Apple — called out the iPhone for having an “outdated” look. The in-and-out way that the iPhone flows, he said, hampers users’ productivity, since it’s not that easy to multitask on the phone.

And, as Apple faces stiffer competition from Android smartphone makers, complaints about the design of the company’s home screen have continued to crop up as well. Android’s open platform has allowed companies to make “widgets” of their apps — essentially richer versions of the app icons that populate Apple’s homescreen — to further customize their phones. Apple’s design, while clean and easy to use, isn’t nearly as easy to personalize.

With Ive now at the helm of the company’s overall “human interface” design, which includes dictating the look for both hardware and software, many are expecting to see some of Ive’s more minimalist sensibilities show up within Apple’s phones, too.

One of the first likely targets? The company’s adherence to replicating real-world textures in a virtual environment — think the wood on the iBooks “bookshelf,” the leather stitching on the Mac’s calendar program or the reels on the Podcasts app. This style of design was said to be in favor with late company co-founder Steve Jobs and former iOS head Scott Forstall, but has earned Apple its detractors.

Instead, the company may be looking to emulate the flatter, sleeker look that tech lovers have been seeing out of Microsoft’s new generation of products. (Say what you will about Microsoft’s Windows 8 platform or the Windows Phone — the company has shown a certain flair for design of late.)

Plenty of Apple bloggers — Rene Ritchie at iMore, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber and 9 to 5 Mac’s Mark Gurman — have said that they expect iOS 7 to ditch a lot of the textures and shadows that are on the current system. Ritchie said that the Home screen itself should look much the same. But Ritchie did back up Gurman’s thoughts that there may be more sliding panels — like the Notification Center on the Mac — that puts more information at users’ fingertips.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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