iOS 7 and shadows

I’ve avoided writing about iOS 7 here until it is officially released, however I had to share this gem.

An interesting detail about the iOS 7 beta that Apple demonstrated at the 2013 WWDC keynote is that while the whole interface has depth and layers, there is no sign of that very common visual cue for depth: shadows.

I think there’s a simple answer to this, and it isn’t about iOS “going flat.” My impression of the illumination metaphor (for lack of a better word) in iOS 7 is that the whole user interface is backlit, just like the physical device screen is. Hence, no shadows.

One could argue that by making the user interface behave as if it is backlit, Apple is treating iOS 7 as a more integral part of the device itself. It’s not a mock front-lit interface with shadows and textures, it is a representation of the actual physical screen.

According to this view of things, it would seem that iOS 7 corrects a flaw in the previous design of the operating system. Where before there was an invisible light placed perpendicularly above the screen, the system accurately reflects the presence of a light placed perpendicularly below the screen.

Striking all shadows from the UI seems to be Apple’s response to the idea that they would adjust UI shadows based on real-world lighting. This is just one of the many interesting developments in the thinking behind Apple’s iOS UI metaphors in iOS 7.