Apple has a lot riding on the next version of their mobile operating system. iOS debuted with the iPhone in 2007. It was innovative, sleek and user friendly, and helped launched one of the greatest technology trends in history – the smartphone.

But iOS is six years old – a lifetime in the tech industry. Competitors have caught up to Apple – and even surpassed them in some cases. Thus, the next version of iOS looms large for Apple as they strive to maintain leadership in the mobile device field.

So what are we to expect from iOS 7?

Background and Debut
The new iOS will debut in June at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. iOS 7 is the first major development from Cupertino since the death of company founder Steve Jobs in 2011. The primary architect is Jony Ive. Ive is a longtime Apple executive who has moved into the spotlight since the death of Jobs. Ive has been one of the main design minds behind such devices as the iPod, iPad and iPhone.

“black, white, and flat all over”
The above line is the description from 9to5mac.com, as they detail the new iOS look. It’s a rather radical departure for Apple as they drop the use of heavy textures and add new black and white user interface elements. The new look is will be ‘flat’ – meaning it will lose the computer-generated shine and glare that was championed by Jobs and former iOS chief Scott Forstall. These are the so-called skeuomorphic elements (those that mimic real-world textures). For example, the linen and leather textures found in iOS, such as in the iPad Calendar app, will be updated with flat white and black coloring.

Ive is championing the move because iOS’s current applications have several differing designs. The goal is to provide uniformity across the iOS universe and to avoid confusion for users.

Design, not software
iOS 7 will not make many dramatic updates to the functionality of the core applications. The focus is design. Ive’s mark is reportedly on just about every screen of iOS 7.

Updates
While the software re-design will be the main focus of iOS 7, there will be some new and updated features, including:

  • The lock screen mechanism will be re-envisioned with a “shine-free, black interface”
  • Standalone FaceTime app for iPhone
  • Flickr and Vimeo integration
  • Improved in-car tools connected to Maps and Siri for hands-free use
  • Quick access to regularly-accessed settings

Home Screen
One thing that won’t change dramatically is the iOS home screen. Apple is touchy about redesigning the primary screen that tens of millions of users have come to know. The new ‘flat’ look will be applied, but don’t expect much more.

Release date
Expect iOS 7 to be released this fall along with a new iPhone and possibly the next generation iPad.