iOS 7's Design From the Future's Perspective

In 2011, Corning (the Gorilla Glass manufacturer) made a video “A Day Made of Glass”, about their imagination and concept of future information-communication-technology based entirely on glass surfaces, followed by a second episode in early 2012. In June 2013 Apple announced iOS 7, which stirred up a lot of fuzz, especially about their “weird” design. In July my cousin and I noticed that Apple may be taking “the next step into the future” towards something very, very similar to what Corning had imagined.

About all the reviews regarding iOS7 compared it with current-generation operating systems like iOS6, Windows Phone 8, and Android. And doing so resulted reviews such as

  • “iOS7 took a whole new approach that many of us can’t understand”
  • “iOS7’s icons are so bizarre-looking and ugly, they’re like designed by my 4-year-old son”
  • “Apple is a copycat, they copied Android, Windows Phone, and even the Jailbreak Community!”.
  • Many people were even doubting whether iOS7 is a brilliant push forward or a tragedy to the history of iOS.

Those conclusions are not good enough. To understand something that’s radically new, we need to stop relating it to the past, and think about the future. The new design in iOS 7 – the white background and colorful palette, the flat icons and simplistic UI with rounded corners, the abstract graphics rather than skeuomorphic objects, the Gaussian-blurred translucency… it seems like glass, although nothing in iOS7 tries to directly resemble it (because that would be skeuomorphic again).  Instead of trying to put 3-dimensional objects onto a flat screen interface like iOS 6 did, iOS 7, with its ‘flat’ design, made depth emerge from the layers of flatness. Furthermore, like Johnny Ive said, this is not just about the way it looks, how it appeals or what it appeals to be. It’s about how the whole user interface works and interacts on so many levels, and combines the software and hardware into one magnificent feeling. He is right, because in the 21st century people recognize a button on a screen even if they don’t look like a button. The operating system doesn’t try to simulate glass within the interface –  it’s rather like simulating a feeling that the interface is on the glass.  A bond between iOS itself and some other hardware that doesn’t belong to the present day, something like this…

OMG, dude that’s iOS7! Don’t you have that feeling? We do. But this is not iOS 7 at all, it’s Corning’s imagination of future technology in their video “A Day Made of Glass” (Corning is the company that makes the Gorilla glass on smartphones and tablets). It’s like either Corning got the idea from Apple or the other way round. But look at the video’s description: the two episodes are from 2011 and early 2012. The first one is probably even before Apple got started with iOS 7’s design process. But since iOS itself is earlier still, the devices in Corning’s video such as the glass phone and tablet seemed to deeply represent the iPhone and iPad. Needless to say more about how much alike iOS 7 and corning’s “glass future” are, just look at this video we made comparing Corning’s concept with iOS7’s design. Oh, and just for fun, we also added the soundtrack from Apple’s official iOS7 introduction video, and it just magically fits the whole thing! (Sorry for waterprint and bad video quality.)

So far, we hope you are convinced of our theory that Apple is preparing for glass technology, and if our guess is right, it means that Apple has probably thought way beyond – so far beyond that it may be a step too far and too early for our acceptance for us being in only 2013, not the year when glass technology starts to dominate.

Actually, there are already prototypes of transparent glass phones (although with very limited functionality). Picture a mobile OS running on it. Nothing would fit better than iOS 7. Although operating systems like Android look great on current generation devices, it wouldn’t match running on a transparent phone. It might not seem significant right now, but soon, we believe it will – because we think Apple may be the only company that might have thought in this direction and this far. The only thing standing in the way now is the trouble longtime iOS users are having letting go of the old design – has Apple thought too far, or is it a wrong direction and future products won’t be like that? No matter how much we imagine of the future in 10 years or 20 years, we cannot predict, only time will tell. We’re not saying that iOS7 is perfect either, because it does have parts to improve to meet whatever its destiny and goal. However, towards future technology, it’s the way to go.

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