In The Future, iOS Might Display Shadows Based On Actual Light Sources

In The Future, iOS Might Display Shadows Based On Actual Light Sources

You can’t tell in a still photo, but the reflections on the volume slider button in iOS 6 dynamically update as you move the device.

Since the early days of Apple, an emphasis has been put on realistic user interfaces, starting with the Apple Lisa’s GUI in 1983. This drive for skeuomorphism in design is more present in iOS than ever before. Having a touch screen allows applications to feel more natural, simulating actual real-world buttons and objects. If speculation is to be believed, future versions of iOS may take this trend even farther by placing user interface shadows based on the actual position of the light source in the room.

Benjamin Jackson at Buzzfeed reports:

One Apple employee (who I can’t name as the company does not allow employees to speak on the record without approval from media relations) said that in the future, your phone will show drop shadows based on the actual position of the light in the room, as detected by the phone’s ambient sensor — and everything in the UI will be rendered in 3D on the fly.

While a system like this may seem like pure fantasy, remember that iOS 6 introduced an animation in the music app on the volume slider, changing the button reflections based on how you tilt the device.

With all of these design innovations coming to iOS, it’s important to consider one thing, though. Will a system like this really add to the overall user experience? Above all, iOS is about simplicity, and I’m not sure if dynamic drop shadows really convey that message. Sure, it makes for a great demo, but there comes a point where less is more.

In all honesty, the changing reflections on the volume button in iOS 6 are a little bit cheesy, and I can’t help but wonder if perhaps Apple is overdoing it when it comes to design. If you need any more proof, look at the likes of Game Center and the Calendar app in OS X.

What do you think? Are all these design tweaks overdone or is just part of the natural evolution of the user interface?

  • Joches

    I think that little “improvement” is elegant. I mean, it’s not like a “DreamScene” wallpaper for iOS that will be nothing but cheesy.

  • G_i_sa

    calendar-note-game center and all this sort of app that wants to simulate somethings just taste horrible!
    on the contrary i do not totaly scorn with the reflection on volume slider button.
    in any case apple should adopt a more graphic and tipografic design of UI instead of “virtualize”

  • Betrthanren

    Did you know on iCloud.com the silver login box reflects when you move your mouse around the screen…

  • John Howell

    Every CPU cycle wasted on a feature like this is less time for your app to do work, less battery life etc. as long as these effect can be offloaded to the GPU, and don’t impact battery life then sure, make it pretty, otherwise, save it for the desktops.
    As for complexity, look at the settings app now compared to ios 3. My wife now has no idea what most of those features do. Now there is a separate podcast app, and gues what, it doesn’t seem to integrate with the playlist counter In iTunes, so podcasts ther don’t get marked as played (at least not that I’ve noticed), and this now means my voice command “play unplaced audio podcasts” now plays casts I’ve already listened to. Really annoying.

  • CharilaosMulder

    It’s a natural progression. The shadows thingy sounds great, but then I really hope battery technology evolves just as much as the UI eye candy.

  • SoloJon

    I know I may be alone, but I like the whole “skeuomorphic” design philosophy… but this may be taking things a bit too far…

About the author

Michael SteeberMichael Steeber is a student who is obsessed with everything Apple. He enjoys making videos and runs the MSComputerVideos YouTube channel in his free time. You can follow him on Twitter as well.

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