iOS 14 delivered a significant update to the iPhone experience — redesigned widgets for the Home Screen, App-Library, an all-new compact UI design, updates to iMessage, Safari, and more. Apple’s 2021 Worldwide Developers Conference is just around the corner on June 7, which means the company is set to announce iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, forthcoming major software updates for the iPhone and iPad.
iOS and iPadOS, in their current state, are exceptionally sophisticated, yet some critical updates in key areas would benefit the operating system as technology continues to evolve. iOS 15 Aurora reimagines the iPhone and iPad experience with an updated Lock Screen, privacy reminders, all-new Safari, streamlined UI design, and more.
Since the inception of the iPhone, there have been software updates for the platform every year. With each release, Apple continues to name iOS as a subsequent version number, in increasing order, corresponding to new developments in the software (iOS 4, iOS 5, iOS 6, etc.).
It is an entirely different story on macOS, Apple’s operating system for Mac computers. Up until 2013, a prominent part of macOS’s brand identity was its naming after big cats (OS X Panther, OS X Snow Leopard, OS X Mountain Lion, etc.). Since 2013, releases have been named after locations in California (macOS Mojave, macOS Catalina, macOS Big Sur, etc.).
I hope to see Apple’s “legendary crack product marketing team” get creative with naming macOS’s younger siblings — iOS & iPadOS. For this concept, I picked a planetary theme — Aurora. An aurora is a beautiful natural light display in the sky, predominantly seen in high-latitude regions. Auroras don’t just happen on Earth. We’ve seen amazing auroras on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
The Lock Screen
The Lock Screen is an essential element of the iPhone experience. It shows the current time and date and most recent notifications. It is the first screen that appears when you turn on or wake iPhone. From the Lock Screen, you can view/open notifications, open Camera and Control Center, get information from your favorite apps at a glance, and so much more.
In iOS 12, Apple introduced grouped notifications, making it easier to find multiple notifications from an app in one grouped space.
According to the research data provided by Business of Apps, an average US smartphone user receives push notifications from 46 apps per day. They state that “31% of users do not like to find push notifications helpful at all; only 18% always find them useful”.
I can personally attest that my average daily notifications are from 37 apps and 171 Notifications in total under my iPhone’s Screen Time overview.
Over the years, the number of apps has grown substantially on our phones, and subsequently, on iOS 14, the grouped notifications list has turned into an endless barrage of pop-ups. This concept imagines organized notifications on the Lock Screen. It allows users to assess if they want to view notifications from a specific app, just by glancing at the app icon. It would also display the notifications badge with the number of received notifications.
Currently, Reminders has limited Snooze options, ranging from an hour to the next day. Shorter snooze intervals would help power-users to avoid procrastination. Working days can be unpredictable; therefore, snooze options as immediate as 15 minutes would help users stay on track of their everyday tasks. Even better, providing users with control over snooze intervals in addition to the pre-existing presets under settings.
iOS 15 Aurora also imagines a new feature that would allow users to set different notification preferences, depending on their current status. The new menu on the Lock Screen would enable users to select if they are working, sleeping, or driving. The new menu would sit in between the Flashlight and Camera controls introduced in 2017.
iPhone X’s edge-to-edge screen made room for additional controls on the iOS Lock Screen interface. Since iOS 11, iPhone users have enjoyed quick access to Flashlight and Camera. However, there are no options to change or customize these controls. This concept imagines a new page in the settings app that would allow users to swap the Lock Screen controls from a wide range of options.
The Home Screen
iOS 14 delivered new ways to organize apps on iPhone — Widgets, App Library, ability to hide pages, and more. Currently, iPhone widget sizes are “Small”, “Medium”, and “Large”. iOS 15 Aurora visualizes “Extra Small” and “Extra Large” sizes for even more ways to personalize the iPhone Home Screen in unique ways. This concept also imagines widgets as more functional and interactive — Clock widget with digital time, Music widget with audio controls, Reminders widget with a checklist, Files app widget for quick access to documents.
iOS 7.1 introduced an accessibility feature to enable binary settings toggle labels. While this feature helps with device accessibility, it also helps other users who prefer visual cues. iOS 11 removed icon labels from the Home Screen dock. This concept visualizes a new option to turn off Home Screen icon labels entirely. I firmly believe that icons should have labels to help users delineate between apps; therefore, labels would be enabled by default. The ability to turn off icon labels would help users with cluster-phobia and accessibility users.
On iPhoneOS 3.0, Apple introduced a new battery percentage option that allowed users to turn on/off battery percentage on the iPhone status bar. Back then, users couldn’t even change the Home Screen wallpaper. After over a decade, iOS 14 allows users to personalize the home screen with many options. You can customize your Home Screen wallpaper with a favorite photo, add widgets to keep important information front and center, rearrange favorite apps on Home Screen pages, and use the App Library to locate all of your apps in an easy-to-navigate view.
I got my first iOS device in 2011. A wish I have held onto for the longest time — the ability to change Home Screen icons. In 2013, Apple introduced iOS 7, a major release that brought a complete overhaul to the Home Screen icons. In my view, the redesign was a step forward. Over the years, the company has continued to refine on their original vision. In 2014, Apple introduced Apple Watch, which allows its users to change watch faces.
This concept imagines Icon Gallery in the Settings to change app icons and download curated third-party icons from the App Store. I understand Apple’s point of view to maintain its own iconography. With the introduction of the Apple Watch Series 6, the artist Geoff McFetridge made a surprise appearance as a watch face designer. Similarly, I imagine Apple working with selected artists & designers to create icons for iOS & iPadOS with strict guidelines to iconography and branding. The selection would be strictly controlled and curated by Apple.
In 2014, iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus featured 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch Retina HD displays — larger than the previous generation of iPhone(s). For the first time, iOS 8 allowed room for a horizontal Home Screen layout. In 2017, iPhone screens became even larger with iPhone X’s beautiful 5.8-inch Super Retina display. However, we haven’t seen a landscape Home Screen since. This concept imagines a horizontal Home Screen layout on the all-glass design.
Streamlined UI Design
iOS 10 & iOS 11 introduced bold heading typography across the system. iOS 12 & iOS 13 introduced rounded inset cells in limited areas of the system. In iOS 14, developers can already use inset cells and tables. Apple also uses them in Settings on iPadOS. Apple is yet to implement them system-wide on iPhone. Inset cells would help users map out between different groups. This concept visualizes a streamlined UI refresh across the system.
iOS 14 introduced a revamped contact card interface. However, the contacts list has remained unchanged since iOS 7, and functionally, since the first version of iPhoneOS. Over the years, Apple has introduced new technologies such as Animoji, assigning pictures to contacts, and more. iOS 15 Aurora reimagines the Contacts list experience with inset cells, contact pictures, prominent add/manage controls, and a larger dragger.
iOS 12 added the ability to set multiple timers on HomePod. However, this feature remains absent on iOS and iPadOS. Grab your device and say, “Hey Siri, set a pasta boil timer for 10 minutes.” The timer starts counting immediately. But then try saying, “Hey Siri, set a laundry timer for 55 minutes.” You will get this response: “There’s already a 10 minutes timer. Replace it?” With a simple “Yes” or “No” pop-up. iPhone’s timer functionality has remained unchanged since the first version of iPhoneOS. iOS 7 introduced a timer option in the control center, yet, there is still no way to add more than one timer. iOS 15 Aurora conceptualizes the ability to set more than one timer, pin, reset, and rename them.
Crypto in Wallet
Apple Wallet is an excellent way to securely keep your banking cards, transit cards, boarding passes, tickets, car keys, and more — all in one place. And it all works with iPhone or Apple Watch, so you can take less with you but always bring more. This concept imagines an extra page within the app to manage cryptocurrency — portfolio balance, trends, trajectory, and the ability to buy/sell within the app.
Messages is central to communicating with friends and family. iOS 14 introduced pinned conversations, mentions, group photo, and inline replies. In addition to the inset cells UI mentioned earlier, this concept imagines the ability to archive messages, recover chat threads from a recently deleted folder, mark as unread, prominent compose/manage controls, and an all-new menu that also allows for saving conversation as PDF.
Archiving messages allows hiding an individual or group chat from the chat thread list to organize conversations better. Archiving allows keeping a record of everything sent and received. Archived conversations can be stored in a separate folder — accessible via the manage menu. Since iOS 8, there has been a “read all” option to mark messages as read without opening them. Like an email, marking a message as unread can help you remember to read a message later.
Since its introduction on macOS in 2003, Safari has been the best way to experience the internet on all Apple devices. With iOS 14, Safari is more responsive and capable than ever, while giving you new ways to help protect your privacy. This concept features an all-new Safari with a coherent start page and birds-eye view for all open tabs.
Safari UI on iOS 14 feels outdated and cumbersome to use. Essential controls such as saving all tabs as bookmarks or viewing recently closed are almost hard to discover. Unquestionably, the user experience can be improved. It starts with the address bar — lower and more prominent so that it is easier to reach on today’s large devices. A streamlined UI makes way for inset cells for displaying the reading list, Siri suggestions, and more. The new birds-eye tab view makes it easy to glance at currently opened tabs and manage them.
App Privacy Reminders
At the D8 conference in 2010, Steve Jobs described his vision for Privacy:
“Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for, in plain English, and repeatedly — that’s what it means. I’m an optimist, I believe people are smart. And some people want to share more data than other people do. Ask them. Ask them every time. Let them know precisely what you’re going to do with their data.”
iOS 14 brought robust privacy protections — Website Privacy Report in Safari, Privacy labels on the App Store, App Tracking Transparency, and much more. iOS 14’s App Tracking Transparency debars apps to share IDFA, which is Identifier for Advertisers. I strongly believe that people should be in control of their data and have the choice to share what’s being collected across apps and websites.
iOS 15 Aurora conceptualizes privacy splash screens that would often remind users of the respective app’s privacy practices — a detail into what data is being collected by third-party apps. This reminder will allow users to decide if they want to continue using the services provided by the app at the expense of their data privacy.
In iOS 4, 5, and 6, Control Center was only a set of media controls & orientation lock. iOS 7 expanded the control center to a group of many functional controls, iOS 10 introduced home app integrations, and iOS 11 delivered a fresh new design with added functionality & customizable controls. Since then, the control center has remained unchanged. iPadOS 14 introduced a compact UI design for calls, Siri, search, and more. Control center is another area where compact UI design can be leveraged. iOS 15 Aurora conceptualizes a compact control center UI.
On iPadOS 14, the brightness of the Magic Keyboard automatically adjusts using the iPad’s ambient light sensor. To manually adjust the brightness of the keys, it takes extra steps to go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Hardware Keyboard. iOS 15 Aurora conceptualizes a keyboard brightness bar in the control center for instant control.
Thank you for reading!
Please share if you enjoyed! I would love to hear your thoughts on iOS & iPadOS 15 Aurora. Let me know what you think and what are you most looking forward for WWDC 2021?
This concept was posted before WWDC 21, where official versions of iOS & iPadOS 15 were announced. Apple Inc. maintains rights to SF Symbols, SF Fonts, and all the other Apple assets used in this concept.