Today, Apple gave the world its first peek of iOS 7, the software that will power iPhones and iPads starting later this year. Helmed by hardware guru Jony Ive, the update will bring the most dramatic visual overhaul of Apple’s mobile OS to date. As expected, it embraces a flat aesthetic, doing away with the skeuomorphic textures championed by Steve Jobs himself.
But just how different is iOS 7 compared to the software we’re running now? Take a look for yourself in this side-by-side gallery.
Those hoping for a radical redesign won’t be disappointed. Though the home screen remains the familiar grid of app icons, there’s no mistaking iOS 7 for its predecessors. All of the stock iOS apps were redesigned from the ground up, including a new dynamic weather app, a starkly minimalist Safari, and, yes, a thoroughly de-felted Game Center. Typography and color have been overhauled throughout.
But iOS 7 is only flat in a sense. While the interface does away with many of the gradients, bezels, and shadows that lent previous versions a faux 3-D effect, iOS 7 actually embraces the z-axis to a remarkable degree. A flashy parallax effect adds real depth to the home screen, letting you peek around and underneath icons to the wallpaper behind them. Overlays like the notification center and the new command center, which provides quick access to controls and toggles, are presented on a translucent backdrop, taking on the colors of whatever app happens to be running behind them.
It shows a willingness, in some cases, to stack functionality instead of isolating everything in its own, dedicated window. In all, it amounts to a significantly more layered experience. In other words, the UI may be flat; the UX is anything but.
Stepping back, though, what might be most noteworthy about iOS 7 is simply how much of a break it is from everything that came before—not only in terms of iPhones and iPads but Macs, too. Earlier versions of iOS borrowed all sorts of elements from OS X. Now, for the first time, Apple’s mobile devices are charting entirely new aesthetic territory.