A New iOS Home Screen

Earlier this week, Federico Viticci published his iOS 6 wishlist. In his list, Federico mentions the iOS home screen layout, suggesting the venerable design is due for an overhaul. Endorsing Federico's argument, Shawn Blanc has written a post dedicated to the far-reaching implications posed by a redesigned home screen. Shawn writes:

Not until recently have we felt much of a need for a revamped home screen. Since 2007 iOS has evolved significantly in both its functionality (i.e. multitasking and Notification Center) and in the amount of available apps (thus folders, and multiple Home screens). After five years the Home screen is feeling cramped and outdated.

Both Shawn and Federico make some intelligent points but it is important to remember that, with Mountain Lion, Apple has embraced a world of mutual aesthetic dependencies in its software ecosystem. iOS and OS X exist as separate entities but, in sharing various cosmetic cues, the overhaul of one OS or another has a great deal of far-reaching ramifications for its sibling.

The Developer Preview of Mountain Lion provides rather strong evidence that the home screen will not be altered significantly this year. Having just reached some semblance of aesthetic parity between iOS and OS X, it is increasingly unlikely that Apple would callously undo such work.

Although LaunchPad goes rather unused, I would assume, for the vast majority of people reading these words, it poses a significant number of advantages for the basic Mac user. In Mountain Lion it has clearly been given several incidental improvements suggesting development, but no hints at a complete aesthetic shift. Reminders and Notes have also made the leap to OS X in Mountain Lion boasting virtually identical designs. I would argue, as I wrote last week, such trends are indicative of aesthetic stability in iOS for the coming year.

I have no doubt that the home screen will enjoy a some significant upheaval in the not-too-distant future, but I hazard a guess that such innovation is not going to come in 2012.

Following the release of the original iPad, it took some time for iOS to broaden and harmonize with the iPad's new features. I tend to regard Lion as analogous to the iPad's original iOS 3.2 and Mountain Lion as the harmonizing piece of the puzzle akin to iOS 4.0. In short, Lion took the first steps and Mountain Lion has finished the move.

With the oft-rumored iPad Retina Display on the horizon, we are on the cusp of a significant change for iOS developers once more. As with the iPhone 4's Retina Display and the original iPad's introduction, it takes time for developers to adjust to change. If Apple were to introduce a Retina iPad and then revamp the home screen, I imagine it would pose a great number of problems for developers while simultaneously re-opening the disparate design void between iOS and OS X.

Returning to my house metaphor, once the two have attained stable parity, that is when true change will be invited into the metaphoric house. That is when the two entities will be able to explore mutually beneficial improvements - improvements that were not possible when existing apart.

Of course, for all of the reasons I might lend to such a theory, it is impossible to know. Inferences are just that, and Apple is a notoriously difficult company to read. As such, I'd love to be proven wrong by Apple this Summer. But, for now, I tend to reside on the side of conservatism in my outlook for iOS 6.