Eight substantial UI changes in iOS 5 and Lion you might not have noticed

With the preview of Lion, iOS 5 and iCloud at WWDC in San Francisco and all the new services and apps announced it's easy to overlook the minor details. Following the keynote via live coverage websites and livestreams, made almost impossible to notice the changes introduce in Apple's new software. Even if you have watched the official video, check if you have also spotted these changes in the new Mac OS X 10.7 and iOS 5.

Blue iMessage bubbles

When we first used the iPhone's SMS/Messages app, many users noticed the absence of MMS capability—others complained about the green Aqua shade chosen for the bubbles. Great geniuses think alike and I can't help to remember Henry Ford and his "Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black".

The default SMS app seems to be gone in the new iOS 5 preview build, replaces by the brand new iMessage. With all its new features, one of the most striking changes is the new baby blue for the messages you've written.

Round sliders

Featured prominently during Scott Forstall's presentation, those on/off sliders you usually see in your iPhone's settings (Airplane mode for example) have been re-designed too.

For some reason, iOS 5 now uses a round sliders with the same shading and effects as the old ones. Apple designers appear to be moving away slowly from rectangles with rounded corners to perfect circles, a trend seen in other areas of the operating system.

Importance of 29x29 icons

Every developer knows that creating a app's icon is not as simple as designing just one icon. To cater for all iOS devices, screen sizes and even App Store pages, the final package submitted should contain up to six different versions with different sizes to be displayed correctly.

The smallest of all, the tiny 29px icon, was normally used in table views in things like Settings and Spotlight searches. With the new notification system in iOS, these 29x29 are getting the star treatment being featured directly on the Lock Screen and notifications. We know apps are judged by their icon, so don't make a bad first impression and re-draw those assets!

Lion's system font

The developer preview builds of Mac OS X 10.7 don't show a change in the default system font—which remains Lucida Grande—but some menus shown in a Pages to demo the auto-save feature show what appears to be a lighter typeface. The shapes are definitely part of the Lucida family, but from the pictures I would say they use a larger and clearer version than what we're used to.

iPod icon like a Touch

The classic iPod might survive in the shelves of the Apple Store and the hearts of music lovers, but from iOS 5, its iconic silhouette will be gone from the default iPod app—which is in fact renamed "Music". It appears that the next operating system will follow the trend started by the iPod Touch for no apparent reason, where Music and Movies are two separate apps instead of the old iPod one. This change might be led to embed all the iCloud's goodness, although the Movies app could also follow suit. Do you think this would be a logical progression?

Brushed metal only for presentation purposes

I'm still surprised the words brushed metal weren't trending on twitter after all the negative comments it received during and after the keynote address. For those of you thinking brushed metal is the new black, I wouldn't be so fast. It's true that the iCloud icon sports the same look of the now defunct iSync, but the rest of the plain metallic icons used during the presentation were used for illustration purposes, to explain abstract concepts more easily. 

Concepts like multi-touch gestures and full-screen apps won't have a native place in Lion as an app or setting, and those brushed metal icons will be used in promotional materials—see Apple's website—to give some consistency. Of course you can prove me wrong with the Launchpad app, but hey, wouldn't you like to customize that one?

Real names in Game Center

Apple's gaming network Game Center started asking us to select a username/nickname, to later on display our full real name on our Apple ID when sending friend invitations.

With the minor changes in this update to make it more social, you can also select a profile picture, browse friends of friends, get recommendations and compare achievements, all displaying and seeing the real names of other players.

User avatars in AirDrop

Already mentioned with the round sliders, the user avatars in Lion are another step of the "Rise of the Circle" in Apple's new UI. Either when you log on to your machine or try to share file using Airdrop, users are displayed with a round avatar with a, yes, metallic border. We've seen this effect countless of times in the App Store's app icons, but now even Lion's logo depicting the face on the animal gets this treatment instead of the more traditional X we've seen in previous editions.