A revolution for the next iOS 13.

Here I try to predict and imagine the possible changes in iOS, if only Apple pushes for a big leap in one release: more gestures, contextual SIRI and one more thing…

Several rumors already indicated an ambitious change in the UI for the current iOS 12 release. A change that was postponed by Apple to focus on optimising performance and fixing bugs, that affected the previous release.

Now, many analysts expect this “revolution” for iOS version rev. 13.

What better chance to imagine and design an improved iOS?

This article talks about: a new organization of the screens for the next iOS and an increase and consolidation of the gesture.
It seems little stuff but hardly Apple will implement everything in a release.

The current situation: iOS12

I will focus on smartphones. To date Apple has a list of smartphones with a “traditional” design such as iPhone 7/8, and the smartphones of new generation: iPhone X, Xr, Xs, sign that a transition from an interface with the home button is in progress, towards a UI based on gestures.

The traditional iPhone

iPhone 7/8 has the home button — virtual, but perceived as a physical key — and the iOS UI is localised to work with it: to go back to the “home screen”, to call up multitasking, to ask SIRI and finally to unlock with imprints, the HOME button is central.

Reassuring, comfortable, refined after years of “gradual iterations”, the iOS 12 in traditional iPhones is a design-problem-solved: using it you have the feeling that everything has been tested, finished, and discarded alternatives (like virtual buttons on screen).

In addition, the utility menu is called with a convenient swipe from the bottom edge, always reachable by the user’s thumb. A very convenient choice certainly better than the original menu of Android (which is inspired) that instead refers to the upper edge, with great discomfort.

Temporary video: a custom made gif will arrive in rev 2!

The “revolutionary” iPhone

In 2017, Apple presents iPhone X, the highly anticipated iPhone of the decade, with a new UI without the home button, and with other new pioneering features such as Face ID — much, much more secure than a fingerprint — .

These new models, the iPhone X, iPhone Xr and iPhone Xs (with related versions enlarged) have a different UI, redesigned to work without the home button, and adapted to the new format 18: 9 with that notch.

From the UI point of view the function of returning to the Home screen is done with a “long, fast” swipe from the bottom edge, while if you pause your thumb, you switch to the multitasking screen.
There are two tasks entrusted to the same gesture, but Apple has performed so well that you hardly get wrong. (Even if you must stop for a moment to think about it, though).

As a result of this, the practical and perfect Control Center that was called from the bottom has been moved up: indeed, at the top, to the right of the notch, while on the left there is the notification screen (which resembles the Lock screen but it’s not the Lock screen, but we’ll see later).

Scott Stein (Senior Editor at Cnet) show the Control Center but with two hands

Even in this case Apple has entrusted two tasks to the same gesture, but thanks to the notch in the middle to act as a separator, it is difficult to get it wrong.

Some inconsistencies remained…

The current iOS is optimised and solid, perfected over the years, however, looking at it — especially on iPhone X — some small inconsistencies remain:

  • the current screen of the Notification Center looks like the Lock Screen with the clock etc, but it is not: so much so that it was necessary put the title “Notification Center” above. By swiping down from Home Screen, it may seem that we are recalling the Lock Screen and locking the phone, but it does not.
  • in fact, in the Lock Screen we see often different notifications than the Notification Center, which can show more items
  • the old search screen on the left, hosts widgets from some releases, but seems neglected. And the widgets deserve more visibility. The search can also be called with a “drag down” made by any other screen… 
    A duplicate that sometimes activates accidentally.

And now?

Many expect a revolution from Cupertino: it is likely that the transition of iOS towards a solidly “gesture based” UI will probably be completed in 1–2 years, with the addition of side swipes. On closer inspection it would not be a revolution but still an iteration / improvement.

A post-app world

That’s why the mockup of minodesign goes further, trying to imagine and anticipate the way in which the smartphones will be used in the ’20s: prepare for a “post-app” world and even a little “post-tap”.

The apps will always exist, but because of their proliferation and the existence of multiple competitors for the same purpose — for example social media channels— the importance of the single app will be less, and the purpose of the UI will be to show the user the content in front of the icons of the app themselves. The user must be able to browse the contents coming from his channels — social, traditional SMS messages, Email, notifications — even without opening individual apps.

Have you noticed that, at the end of the day, you end up reviewing, one after the other, sequentially, the notifications of IG, then the notifications of FB, then the emails etc? The informations are in watertight compartments!

Of course, the owners of the social networks brands will not be happy — first Zuckemberg who closed the XMPP APIs of Wattsapp and Messenger — , but as said the role of the individual social will be downsized, also due to the continuous scandals related to privacy.

“The user must be able to browse the contents coming from his channels even without opening individual apps.”

A post-tap world

Reply to the messages, forward an email arrived, everything that is shown in the new main screen will be more easily “manipulated” by SIRI (a Siri rev.3!).

In general, we will touch the smartphones less. But not in the sense that we will use them less, we will do less tap!

It is likely that the eye tracking technology will be used to help SIRI understand what we are talking about right away, and the new, more efficient processors will allow SIRI to run offline, with excellent positive privacy implications.

Let’s back to iOS 13: as a result of this the smartphone becomes more a screen than a panel. 
This translated into UI means: content on top, fullscreen apps and fewer buttons, less screens.

iOS13, early sketches

As mentioned, the content and informations become central and the apps, secondary. Here is the new layout of the screens with:

  • the New Home Screen that hosts widgets, content and notifications.
  • the App Screens located on the right
  • the new Multitasking & Search screen (it’s on the left but on a different 3D level)
  • the Control Center, at the top right side(it remained there…)
  • the Lock Screen, now on top left side

The screens are obtained by swipe from the edges.
The general scheme is shown below, and the gestures refer to the Home Screen.

Other details: the New Home Screen hosts widgets, which make sense to them in iOS, and they become visible. It is also possible to insert customisable blanks, for those who want a more minimalist design.

Content and content notifications start at the bottom of the screen. 
They are listed in anti-chronological order, but they can be filtered in some way. (Taller screens now allow this layout, that was undoable at old times).

Note, notifications are listed as a log, and they do not disappear if you click! Currently notifications are lost when you click, and sometimes it can be useful to see them again.

In the New Home Screen, the 4 basic icons are hidden and appears with a swipe up from the bottom edge.

The app screens
No particular changes there, the screens are to the right of the home, and are created automatically according to the app. The 4 apps in the dock are normally visible.

The possibility of adding empty spaces would be a minor but pleasant improvement

Multitasking & Search
The screen on the left is in practice dedicated to effectively showing active processes, and has a search field at the bottom, where it can be reached with a one-hand-grip.
In the drawing below there is an improved version that features active processes such as “Solitaire game cards”, so that they are all visible and clickable without scrolling.

A more stunning SIRI button could increase its use.
The above scheme refers to a situation with an active app: Medium, for example.

The swipe-from-bottom gestures remain unchanged, now assimilated by the user base: a long swipe up to go back to the home, or a swipe up pause to go to the New Multitasking & Search screen.

One more gesture

Two other gestures could be added:
- swipe right, made from the left edge, leads to the Multitasking & Search screen, while
- swipe left, made from the right edge, directly access the first of the app screens.

Pro & cons
These last two new gestures could weaken the current side swipe gestures that iOS currently devotes in order to move forward or backward in a stack of pages. (For example in Safari: swipe right to go back)

The current forward / back function may remain, weakened as “drag left”, or “drag right”, ie working in the central parts of the window.

These last two gestures would complete the transition of iOS to a gesture-based UI. Certainly must to be assimilated by the users, but how it happened for the Nokia N9 — a phone from which Apple is drawing much — once learned, this improve the User experience!

(The N9 was a smartphone by Nokia pre-MSFT that, in 2011 had a nearly perfect swipe based User Interface, I written something about it.)


I hope you enjoyed the article and the first drawings.
Usually I write similar articles, but talking about niche operating systems like Sailfish and Meego and cult objects like the Nokia N9.

In this article I go back after months on a more mainstream topic, like iOS (and Apple). The article will be updated and edited in next weeks, and a navigable mockup will arrive soon.

Giovanni Minelli
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