What 5 Dots In iOS 7 Reveal About A Decade Of Apple Design Strife

A “new” element of iOS 7 has been buried since the iPhone’s original mockup.

Signal bars are ubiquitous on phones, so much so that we’ve developed an entire language around it–“How many bars do you have?” or “I don’t know why the call dropped, I had, like, three bars!” With five simple dots that sit on top of the iPhone’s home screen, iOS 7 has taken design ownership away from the silly bar iconography and distinguished iOS in a new, subtly branded way. Soon, we’ll all be asking one another, “How many dots do you got?”


So here’s the story’s almost allegorical twist, spotted by Cult of Mac. Apparently, the dots were part of the iPhone’s original 2005 hardware mockup. Jony Ive was building the body in secret while Scott Forstall was building iOS in secret. And Ive’s team used a dummy screen to complete the picture–a dummy screen with five dots and flatter icons to boot.

[The 2005 iPhone prototype (left) features dots for signal “bars” and a flatter UI–the same features that resurface in today’s iOS 7]

Now if you watched yesterday’s WWDC keynote, you’ll have caught several pointed jabs at skeuomorphism–great lines like Craig Federighi’s quip about the new Game Center: “We completely ran out of green felt.” On one hand, it’s hilariously self-deprecating. On the other, it’s as if Apple is pretending some of its worst iOS mistakes were made by a whole other company.

To me, these simple, specific dots are proof that there really has been a dividing line of design inside Apple. This tiny piece of UI had been sitting on a dusty shelf for nearly a decade since its inception, and here it is today, positioned as the cherry on top of the new interface. It really does add credence to the narrative that Scott Forstall led iOS one way, while, under the surface, another, often better design sensibility was seething.

[The 2005 OS prototype]

Now is that sensibility Ive’s? Quite possibly, but it’s just as likely been fermenting within the ranks of Apple’s army of world-class designers for a while now. Either way you spin it, somebody made those dots, and almost a decade later, they’re fistpumping like crazy.

Read more here.


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach


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