Apple announced a massive face-lift to Safari and its User Interface (UI) on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey. The redesign features a complete reconfiguration of where UI elements like the address bar are located, how users switch between tabs, and more.
According to Apple, Safari on iOS 15 “maximizes your screen space and stays out of the way as you scroll and explore.” The “new tab bar design” brings the address bar and all other key buttons down to a strip at the bottom of the screen, and switching between tabs is now controlled by swiping gestures.
The design primarily focuses on facilitating easy one-hand operation on a screen that is consistently growing in size. According to Chris Lee, a former staff interaction designer at Google, the company started working on a very similar redesign for Chrome on mobile in 2016.
Lee, who created the “original concept and pitch” for the project, described it as an “ambitious redesign of mobile Chrome’s main UI.” With the new design’s mixed reception and mainstream Chrome users saying it “felt disorienting”, the redesign was killed off as passionately as it was worked on in 2018, revealed Lee in a blog post (via 9to5Google).
Lee also said the following about the planned design overhaul:
It brought Chrome’s toolbar to the bottom of the screen and turned [it] into a peeking panel that could be swiped to expose additional controls.
A swipe up on the address bar would display the Discover and recent sites, Downloads, Bookmarks, and History sections, and other key features were still neatly tucked under a “three dot” menu. The redesign served to both simplify one-hand operation and bring some underused but nifty features to the forefront.
A derivation of the project, named Chrome Duplex (and later Chrome Duet), then took off, keeping the address bar at the top of the screen but bringing all other controls and menus to a strip at the bottom.
This project was also abandoned by Google in mid-2020, solidifying that the tech giant was not ready to make any drastic changes to Chrome’s UI on mobile just yet.
Apple, however, doesn’t seem like it’s going to back off despite significant gripe from its user base. The iPhone maker is currently testing and tweaking the new, redesigned Safari in the iOS 15 beta, and plans to launch it alongside iOS 15 later this year.