iOS 7: Flat or not?

The predominant opinion seems to be that the iOS 7 look is flat, or atleast that it’s significantly flatter than the previous editions of iOS. As I see it, in iOS 7, Apple has added flatness in one sense and removed flatness in another sense.

In a typical iOS 6 app, all parts of the UI of an app appeared to be on the same plane, with different areas of the plane having different textures, or having different heights. It was like things of different heights were on a table, but all on the same table. Some stuff bulged out, like toolbars, some parts were embossed in, like the Back button. The purpose of the shadows and the glossiness was to give us this sense of height difference within a plane.

In many of Apple’s iOS 7 beta apps, there seem to be multiple planes, with a significant depth difference between them (which decreases flatness), but each plane itself is totally level (which increases flatness). If there’s a navigation bar, it exists on the same plane as the status bar, but the content seems to exist on an underlying plane. Within a plane, there are no textures, nothing appears concave or convex. The depth difference between the planes is conveyed through the translucensy of the overlying plane.

Extending this thought process, we can see that Windows Phone 8 takes this to the extreme, and has one single totally flat plane.

One of the main themes of iOS 7, according to Apple, is depth. The default for status bars and navigation bars in iOS 7 is to be translucent, so that the depth of the underlying element shows through.

So, the takeaway is that iOS 7 refuses to be slotted as either “flat” or “not flat”, or even “flatter”, and has invented a new as-yet-unnamed design style of its own.

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