Apple is currently planning to use the new system font developed for the Apple Watch to refresh the looks of iPads, iPhones, and Macs running iOS 9 “Monarch” and OS X 10.11 “Gala,” according to sources with knowledge of the preparations. Current plans call for the Apple-designed San Francisco font to replace Helvetica Neue, which came to iOS 7 in 2013 and OS X Yosemite just last year, beginning with a June debut at WWDC…
The slightly flashier and somewhat more readable San Francisco font first appeared on the Apple Watch, which was shown in September 2014 and released last month. Given the considerably smaller displays used on 38mm and 42mm Apple Watches, Apple developed the San Francisco font “specifically for legibility,” according to a description of typography on the Apple Watch Human Interface webpages for developers. San Francisco scales more dynamically to “maintain clarity and legibility” regardless of text size.
Ever since switching to particularly thin weights of Helvetica Neue in iOS 7, Apple has been chastised for using a font that emphasizes clean lines over readability, and San Francisco is intended to solve this. According to the sources familiar with the decision to move to the San Francisco type face on iOS and OS X, Apple higher-ups also believe that the new look will serve to refresh its familiar operating systems, helping iOS and OS X to avoid becoming stale. However, some Apple engineers have told us that they are not fans of the new font, which may look particularly rough on non-Retina screens.
Installing a new system-wide font is also not as simple as it may seem. The change requires Apple to tweak all of its pre-bundled applications across iOS and OS X to fit the new font. It also requires additional quality assurance testing to ensure that the font does not unintentionally alter usability at different font sizes, or across third-party App Store apps. Multiple Apple employees tell us that new daily builds of OS X 10.11 and iOS 9 began including the new font toward the end of March. Apple will likely also push developers to redesign their apps ahead of the new font’s general release this fall.
Some third-party developers have already started to redesign their apps for San Francisco, which began to stretch beyond the Apple Watch when the new 12-inch MacBook debuted with keyboard characters printed in the new font. While Apple is certainly well into the process of redesigning its two main operating systems to match the Apple Watch’s typography, sources did warn that Apple could ultimately choose to retain Helvetica Neue this year and push back or cancel its plans for San Francisco. The WWDC keynote will be held on Monday, June 8th.