iOS 7 likely to bring big changes to iPhone, iPad — but when will it launch?

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By Rosa Golijan

The next major update of iOS, Apple's phone and tablet operating system, is likely to showcase a massive design overhaul led by Apple design guru Jony Ive. But the scope of the project may mean a delay in rolling iOS 7 out.

As soon as it was revealed that Jonathan "Jony" Ive, Apple's senior vice president of industrial design, would lead the company's human interface team, we knew that changes were bound to hit iOS hard. Scott Forstall, the former senior vice president of iOS software, is out and Ive, who heavily draws inspiration from German industrial designer Dieter Rams and his functionalist approach to things, is holding the reins now. While a radical redesign only makes sense given this transition, new leaks appear to support that supposition.

According to 9to5 Mac's Mark Gurman, multiple sources who claim to be familiar with the future of iOS explained that iOS 7 "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."

Bloomberg's Adam Satariano supports this claim by explaining that individuals familiar with the state of affairs at Apple suggest that Ive has "embarked on a sweeping software overhaul that leaves the company at risk of falling behind on a new version" of iOS.

Gone is all the "gloss, shine and skeuomorphism," Gurman's sources say, referring to strange representations of real-life objects — think about the bookshelf-like appearance of the Newsstand app, the yellow Notepad app, and so on. Instead, the new iOS interface will be "very, very flat" — a clean minimalist appearance replacing shadows, chrome and wood grain.

"In addition to losing the complex interface design characteristics from earlier versions of iOS, Apple has been discussing and testing ways to add more ‘glance-able’ information and system options panels, like Notification Center, to the software," Gurman adds.

"While the company still expects to release iOS 7 on time as soon as September," Satariano explains, "internal deadlines for submitting features for testing are being set later than past releases." Daring Fireball's John Gruber — who tends to have a finger on Apple's pulse — previously wrote that he'd heard that engineers have been pulled from the OS X team to work on iOS, because it's running behind.

Not entirely confidence inspiring. But there's a lot of faith in Ive and his golden design touch.

In late 2012, Bloomberg Businessweek's Josh Tyrangiel interviewed Apple CEO Tim Cook and asked about Ive's new responsibilities with the human-interface team. "I mean, look at our products," Cook said while reaching 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."

When we put together our iOS 7 wishlist, we kept revolving around some general ideas: Cleaner looks, more fluid interactions and better placement of certain features. If rumors pan out, we might just get that, albeit a bit late. Hopefully we'll hear at least some news at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference this June. We've been hoping for these improvements for years, so what's an extra month or two of wait time?

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