iPhone 8’s radical redesign could bring awesome UI change

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iPhone 8
A mockup of iPhone 8 with its edge-to-edge display.
Photo: Benjamin Geskin

Thanks to secrets hidden inside Apple’s firmware, we’ve discovered a lot about the iPhone 8 this week. One of its biggest features — quite literally — will be a significantly larger display that leaves no room for a physical Home button or bulky bezels.

Here’s how iOS could change to take advantage of it with a sweet new user interface.

According to developer Steve Troughton-Smith, who has been trawling through the HomePod firmware to bring us all kinds of juicy details about the iPhone 8, we can look forward to a display with a 2436×1125 resolution.

“This resolution is 375 x 812 points rendered @3x – exactly the same logical width as the iPhone 7, but 22% taller,” explains Allen Pike, a developer who previously worked at Apple.

But the iPhone 8’s display won’t just be bigger; it will also be a different shape to accommodate the handset’s new design. Apple graphics reveal it will surround the front-facing speaker and FaceTime camera and extend to the top edge of the phone.

This might seem strange at first glance, but there are ways in which iOS could take advantage of it to deliver an awesome new user interface. Pike describes some of these in a post on his blog, complete with some rough mockups.

He envisions that Apple will reserve a lower portion of the display for virtual buttons, like those on Android. There might be a virtual Home button in the middle, obviously, with contextual shortcuts for our apps on either side.

iPhone 8 UI mockup
A virtual Home button with contextual shortcuts.
Photo: Allen Pike

“The mockup above is what happens when you dedicate the bottom 66pt of the iPhone Pro’s resolution to what we currently know as a navigation bar, but replace the title with the home button,” Pike explains.

It wouldn’t be difficult for developers to make this change inside their own apps, since UIKit asks them to simply specify left and right buttons rather than explicitly placing them at the top of the screen. “A lot of apps could work this way with just a recompile.”

Of course, placing these buttons at the bottom of the display would make them much easier to access — particularly on a larger display. And assuming Apple allows it, they could be used for more than just navigation; developers could place other buttons for different actions.

You’ll notice that Pike has removed the time in the middle of the status bar. That’s because the iPhone 8’s speaker, FaceTime camera, and facial recognition sensors will sit here. On one side of it, we’ll see our cellular and Wi-Fi signals; on the other side we’ll see the battery indicator.

Apple has already taken steps towards this new interface in iOS 11. The cellular signal indicator has been changed from circles to bars again, because they take up less space. App headers are bigger and bolder, leaving lots of white space in certain apps.

But that white space makes sense when you imagine the new interface, with those bigger and bolder headers right at the top of the screen.

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