iOS 15: Apple gives users option to reverse controversial new Safari redesign entirely

Andrew Griffin
Wednesday 18 August 2021 11:54

Apple has reversed a controversial part of its new iOS 15 update yet further, almost entirely reversing it.

When the company introduced the new iPhone and iPad software in June, one of the chief features was a new design for Safari. It changed how tabs work and moved the address bar to the bottom of the screen.

Apple said on its website that the new version of Safari is “reimagined for the way we browse today”, and that it had been built to “maximises your screen space and stays out of the way as you scroll and explore”. It also noted that the move to the bottom of the screen made it easy to “navigate and jump between tabs with just your thumb”.

But almost as soon as it was released, it was hit by an unusual amount of backlash. Users complained that it made websites hard to navigate, that it both got in the way and also managed to get lost, that key functions had been hidden and that it moved around unexpectedly.

That criticism came even from those who tend to be fairly positive about Apple’s software. Blogger John Gruber, for instance, said that the company had aimed for simplicity but had instead made it worse – “it just looks simpler,” he wrote.

Since that backlash, Apple has been making tweaks to the new design, in an attempt to address some of those criticisms. It brought back some of the buttons that had previously been hidden, for instance, and stopped the bar moving up from the bottom when users typed into it.

Now Apple has made the most significant reversal yet – and given people the option to change Safari back to what it calls “Single Tab” mode, which all but brings back the old version of Safari entirely.

The changes come in iOS 15 beta 6, which was released to developers yesterday. The same changes are likely to come to those on the public beta programme soon.

The full version of iOS 15 is expected to be released next month, alongside the iPhone 13 and other rumoured products.

Apple stresses that beta software is intended to find bugs and improve the operating system before it is pushed to the public. But it is unusual for a redesign to be reversed to thoroughly, rather than refined, as in the case of the new version of Safari.

It is also unusual for Apple to offer different options for the design of an app, rather than choosing on users’ behalf. “I’m glad Apple is now offering an option to revert to the old Safari address bar in iOS 15, but this idea of Apple offering two different UIs as a setting is un-Apple like, I think,” wrote Apple reporter Mark Gurman.

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