When the original iPhone launched in 2007, its software design was hailed as a masterpiece of simplicity and usability. Apple relied heavily on visual metaphors like stitched leather, green felt, and rich wood textures to help users understand how to interact with this novel device. These ornate yet familiar touches, known as skeuomorphism, made the phone feel approachable.
Over time, as smartphones became ubiquitous, skeuomorphism fell out of favor. A growing chorus of critics argued that the visual metaphors were outdated and tacky, holding back iOS from realizing its full potential.
The Tipping Point
The climax came in 2013 when Apple unveiled iOS 7, which eliminated most skeuomorphic elements in favor of a clean, modern aesthetic centered around flat graphics, bold colors, and streamlined icons. This divisive redesign was led by newly appointed senior vice president of design Jony Ive, marking a new direction for Apple’s software visual language.
For long-time iPhone users, iOS 7 represented a dramatic departure from the UI they had come to know. The green felt was gone from the Game Center. The Calendar’s leather stitching had vanished. Across the OS, once-familiar textures and visual cues were nowhere to be found.
Embracing the Future
While disorienting for veterans, iOS 7 established Apple’s new design direction for generations to come. It allowed content and apps to take visual priority thanks to simplified backgrounds and controls. This more focused interface resonated with new, younger users who had grown up in an age of flat graphic design and minimalist interfaces.
The Legacy of iOS 7
Over a decade later, iOS 7’s stripped-down aesthetic remains the foundation for Apple’s mobile devices. Each year brings tweaks and refinements, but the core principles established in 2013 continue to provide an intuitive yet powerful experience for each wave of new iOS users.
Despite early criticism over the abandonment of skeuomorphic elements, Apple’s gamble to modernize the visual language of iOS was a long-term success.
Lasting Influence on the Tech Industry
The launch of iOS 7 sent shockwaves across the tech industry. Within a year, Google, Microsoft, and other major players unveiled flatter, more minimalist updates to their own software. The era of rich textures and visual metaphors was giving way to streamlined designs centered around content.
iOS 7 redefined not just the look of the iPhone home screen, but the visual standards for mobile devices overall. Its bold makeover set the tone for modern mobile interfaces focused on simplicity, glanceability, and putting key info front and center.
New Users, New Expectations
As the company prepares to unveil iOS 17 and a new generation grasps their first iPhones, they’ll discover an OS whose origins trace back to that controversial redesign over ten years ago. For these users, iOS 7’s pared-back aesthetic is not a stark departure – it is the baseline modern iPhone experience.
While early iPhone owners may still have a nostalgic place in their hearts for stitched leather calendars and green felt game boards, the last decade has seen a complete reset of expectations. The influences of iOS 7’s redesign persist through the years, proving that beneath each software update lies a carefully crafted design philosophy that connects Apple’s mobile devices through the generations.