On Tuesday (in NZ) Apple announced it’s latest iteration of iOS coming to iPhones this fall. It’s a satisfactory update for the iPhone with some welcome tweaks all over. It’s also a dramatic update for the iPad with a whole host of multitasking improvements that will leave you a little giddy.
I’ve been running iOS 11 on my 5s for a few days and while bugs abound, from my limited use I think there are a few subtle UI tweaks that signal a bezelless iPhone coming later this year.
The Apple Watch was Apple’s first venture into OLED displays. WatchOS is built with a white on black UI, and because it’s OLED the black areas of the screen are so dark they blend seamlessly into the rest of the watch, this provides some interesting UI design challenges which you may not notice initially. The honeycomb app layout on the Apple Watch is actually very intentional, if they had gone for a layout similar to the iPhone, when the user swipes the apps across, as they go off the edge of the display it would be very apparent to the user where the display ends and the watch body starts. But because they cleverly made the apps circular and instead of disappearing of the display they just shrink, this makes it a lot harder to discern where the screen ends, creating an illusion of a bigger and more seamless display.This intentional blurring of the edge of the display is consistent across the whole OS. The main way of displaying information is in rectangles with rounded corners, this way the rectangles don’t get cut off at the edge but appear to float on the display, again hiding how small the screen actually is. This effect can be easily broken by switching to one of the time lapse or photo watch faces. These faces go right to the edge of the screen and are cropped in a harsh line which highlights just how small the display is. It is for that reason that I tend to stay away from these watch faces.
With that background in mind regarding Apple’s approach to creating an edgeless display, let’s look at a few changes in iOS 11 that show an edgeless iPhone is coming.
1. Control Center
In iOS 11 control center is seeing a major update, instead of having multiple panes for settings, music and home automation, this has all been condensed into a single screen with the ability to customise which toggles show up. You’ll notice though that these new boxes all have rounded corners and sit in from the edge of the display. If we take the queue from the Apple Watch, we know that this makes it very easy to create a seamless transition from screen to body.
2. Cell Signal
In previous versions the cell signal on the iPhone has been represented by a series of circles, this however is changing in iOS 11 back to the classic bars, albeit a little more rounded. This gives the status bar at the top of the screen a lot more room which makes sense if this next iPhone looks just like the rumours suggest it will. With the cameras being cut into the screen the cell signal and battery status will be pushed to the sides meaning much less room, so the condensing we see here makes sense.
Lastly and perhaps the most subtly compelling is the calculator. In iOS 11 the calculator has received what feels like an unnecessary update. The previous version was already very simple and well designed and fitted with the feel of the OS, so the change to circular buttons and new icon (which takes a bit of getting used to) seemed unneeded. But if you think about it in the context of an edgeless display it makes perfect sense. Much like the control centre boxes, these new buttons need to sit in from the edge of the display and be rounded so they don’t appear cut off. The new calculator looks a little weird on the current iPhones, but once it’s on a bezzelless phone with very dark blacks it will look perfect!
These are just three small changes to iOS that I think signal an edgeless iPhone coming later this year. The video player design has also changed to remove edge to edge boxes. I wouldn’t be surprised if the dock changes to a more rounded version as it is on the iPad, before the release of the new iPhone as well.
Comment below if you have any more examples hinting at and edgeless iPhone 8, or do you just flat out disagree and think Apple has lost the plot with this calculator redesign? Let us know!
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