Is Apple’s Design Sense Dated?

For a company often praised for its sleek, hyper-modern design aesthetic, Apple seems conflicted about the future of its user interfaces. In the wake of a staffing shake-up that went under-reported thanks to Hurricane Sandy, the company seems to be in the midst of a subtle but certain visual re-branding.

A New York Times report that will get a lot of design nerds excited notes the importance of the Monday departure of mobile software development leader and Steve Jobs loyalist Scott Forstall, who was dedicated to the company’s current “retro”, real-world visual style. A few widely maligned examples of that old-school aesthetic include this faux-leather “find my friends” app:

Don’t think any Apple fans will miss that one. A podcast app modeled after an old-timey tape machine won’t be a big loss either:

Forstall’s replacement, Jonathan Ive, is one of many within the company who have expressed their disappointment with design elements that they consider relics, and Ive has repeatedly praised the cleaner, flatter, more industrial aesthetic adopted by prime competitor Microsoft. Does that mean that next-gen iPhone displays will look less like this:

And more like this?

All follow-up reports indicate the answer to be yes, and most analysts think the staffing shake-up will amount to little more than a small bump in the road.

Apple fanatics: Will this supposed design shift affect the brand at large? Will it make the tech geeks swoon, or will it render Apple interfaces less distinguishable from those of its rivals?