In 2008, Apple changed the mobile industry with the iPhone and iOS, its mobile operating system. Over time, we’ve seen minor tweaks to the iPhone’s design, but not much about iOS has changed – until now. Here’s a look at Apple’s bold and colorful redesign of iOS that might be their best update yet.
iOS 7 Installation and Setup
updating to iOS 7. i expect a combo of pain and joy. — Brad Feld (@bfeld) September 18, 2013
Installation and setup is business as usual. Update iTunes, plugin in your iPhone, backup your data and download the latest update (752MB). Once installed, you’ll be greeted with a completely new look and array of colorful icons! I haven’t seen Apple use this much color since they launched the iPod Mini (now the iPod Nano).
A New Attitude for iOS
If you can get past all the color, you might call iOS 7 the best update released by Apple. The previous look has been stripped away in favor of a clean and minimal design. There’s a lot of whitespace and transparency in iOS 7 that looks good and refreshing. There are also a handful of new features that brings many iPhones and iPads up-to-date with features that have been available to Android and Windows Phone users for years. So, let’s dig into what’s new.
iPhone and iPad both updated to iOS7. World not destroyed; mind not blown. Flatness, flatness, all around. — Steve ‘Doc’ Baty (@docbaty) September 19, 2013
iOS 7 Lock Screen
Say goodbye to those hideously thick black bars that lined the top and bottom of the lock screen. Everything is now transparent with your wallpaper and the information you need front and center.
The date, time, charging status and battery information are still along the top of the screen. “Slide to unlock” stills occupies the bottom of the screen next a camera icon that takes you straight to the camera app when you swipe up on it.
When music is playing, the lock screen transforms into a media center complete with a large album art cover and media player controls.
When you receive a call, it you’ll still see either your wallpaper or the contact’s picture along with three self-explanatory call options: Remind Me, Message and Slide to Answer. Remind me can remind you to call a person back in 1 hour or when you leave your current location (location must be enabled).
When you receive a notification, the wallpaper blurs and darkens for easier reading. Swiping notifications to the right takes you to directly to their app. Unfortunately you can only dismiss notifications from the notification center, which requires swiping down on your screen.
Overall, the lock screen in iOS 7 looks beautiful, but clearly borrows its minimalistic look from Windows Phone and takes after Android’s lock screen functionality.
iOS 7 Home Screen
The home screen has only minor changes to it, but seems brand new because of the color icons and transparent status bar, folders and dock.
App labels change colors according to your background. Spotlight can now be accessed from any home screen with a quick swipe down. The bland black boxes that Apple used for folders have been replaced with transparent squares that also hold more apps. Newsstand can now be hidden in those folders too!
Interestingly, the lock screen and home screen have a motion effect that causes wallpapers, icons and labels to float or shift with the movement of your phone. I hardly notice it, but it can be turned off under the Accessibility menu in Settings.
iOS 7 Notification Center
You can still access the notification center with a quick swipe down from any screen. It has a brand new look that sorts notifications into three areas: Today, All and Missed.
Today gives you a glimpse of your daily agenda. This includes a summary of weather, traffic and upcoming events, your agenda for the day, reminders, stocks and a summary of tomorrow’s events.
The All tab includes notifications from all your apps and the Missed tab seems to do the same. The only noticeable difference between the two is that you can only clear Missed notifications from the All tab. At least you can customize what notifications show up under Settings.
Apple did a horrible job of packaging all of this information in iOS 5, but nailed it in iOS 7. It still doesn’t compare to Google Now, but with the latest enhancements iOS 7 brings to Siri, Apple isn’t very far from a complete Google Now competitor.
iOS 7 Control Center
Control Center is styled in a transparent glass box, etched with tappable toggles to enable or disable Airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirDrop, AirPlay, Do Not Disturb and a flashlight. You can also skip, pause or play songs or open the timer, calculator and camera.
It feels like this is only the beginning for the Control and Notification Centers. They feel incomplete and there are many ways for Apple to improve them.
iOS 7 Multitasking
Pressing the home button twice will quickly bring up a preview of all the apps you have open, which you swipe left or right to scroll through. More importantly, you don’t have to wait for apps to reload when switching from one to the other. When you’re done with an app, just swipe up on its preview to get rid of it.
iOS 7 Camera
The camera app has been cleaned up a bit. A thin black bar lines the top of the app with options for Flash, HDR and switching between the front and back camera. HDR settings and grid options have been moved to Settings under ‘Photos & Camera’. A thick black bar at the bottom holds a new shutter button, shortcuts to photos and filters that can be used before or after taking pics. Unfortunately, filters can’t be used on videos or in Pano mode.
In the middle of all this is the viewfinder. Beneath the viewfinder is a carousel of shooting modes: Video, Photo, Pano and Square (for Instagram addicts). The iPhone 5s has an exclusive shooting mode called Slo-Mo that records slow motion videos. There’s also a burst mode that takes up to 10 pictures a second by tapping and holding the shutter button. You don’t have to worry about it saving blurry shots either.
iOS 7 Photos
Photo management has always been a mess on iOS, but that could change with the new Photos app. iOS 7 brings three new ways to view photos: Albums, Shared and Photos.
If you liked the old Photos app, then you’ll love Albums. It’s a classic photo gallery view decked in iOS 7 attire. Shared lets iCloud users interact and view activity from all of their shared streams. Photos organizes pictures by Years, Collections and Moments. Years gives you a bird’s eye view of photos by year. Collections groups those images by timeframe and place. Moments are the grouping of Collection images by day and time.
The deeper you dig into the sorting options, the bigger the photo thumbnails appear and vice versa.
You can tap and hold your finger over photo thumbnails to get a slightly bigger preview of an image under Collections and Years. Collections with locations tags can be viewed on a map by tapping the location name and you can share your Moments using the built-in sharing options.
In full photo view you have three standard options: share, trash or edit them. Edit mode provides tools to rotate, crop or auto enhance a photo. There are nine filters that you can apply or switch between if you’ve already applied a filter. There’s also an option to get rid of red-eyes in photos. Does anyone still use this feature?
Since its introduction, iOS has severely lacked wireless sharing options. Android has Android Beam, S-Beam and Wi-Fi Direct. Both Android and Windows Phone support NFC. iOS? Just bluetooth, and a very limited version of it at that. It’s part of what led me to switch from iOS to Android last year.
AirDrop is Apple’s answer to wireless sharing. It uses a combination of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to wirelessly send anything that’s not a music file or app to another iPhone. The catch? It’s limited to the latest line of iPhones (iPhone 5 and up). When enabled on two or more iPhones, an image of the owner of each device will show up under the sharing options. Just tap the image to send your file. You can even set privacy settings to only allow your contacts see your device when you enable AirDrop.
If you’re wondering if AirDrop for iPhone works with AirDrop for iMac, you’ll be disappointed to hear it doesn’t. Silly, I know. AirDrop should’ve been one of the most impressive feature of iOS 7, but it’s too busy playing with itself to play nicely with others. Typical Apple.
Safari for iOS 7
Safari finally has an omnibar! When you scrolling in a webpage, all bars and buttons immediately disappear and remain hidden until you scroll back up. Swiping left or right will take you back a page or move you forward. Tabs are shown in one long column and can be closed with a quick swipe to the left or right – just like Google Chrome.
Reading List is grouped with Bookmarks and a new feature called Shared Links. Shared Links gives you a look the the latest links being shared in your Twitter stream. Too bad you can’t do anything beyond reading the links. Hopefully Apple will add options to engage with tweets from this view as well.
iTunes Radio is Apple’s version of Pandora complete with ads (less than 10 seconds) and skip limits. You’ll find this new feature inside of the redesigned Music app. It lets you create a radio station from over 250 DJ-curated and genre-focused stations or start your own based on your favorite artist, song or genre.
There are several things you can with a station. Tapping the star icon lets you play more songs like the current one, never play that song again, or add it to your iTunes Wish List. The “i” icon at the top of the screen lets you start a new station based on the current artist or song. From here, you can also tune your current station for hits, variety or discovery, allow explicit tracks and share your station.
iTunes Radio keeps track of each station’s history and your Wish List under the History section. You’ll see a history of songs you’ve listen to from each station rather than one stream of all the songs. This should make it easier to fine-tune your stations and keep up with new discoveries.
You can also control iTunes Radio using Siri with commands like “Play more like this” or “What song is this?”. And no matter what i-device you’re using, iTunes Radio picks up where you left off. This is one of my favorite features from iOS 7!
Siri for iOS 7
Siri received a nice makeover as well as male and female gendered voices. The new Siri is cleaner and more polished with a transparent overlay that covers whatever you’re doing. Sound waves at the bottom of the app indicate whether Siri can hear you. Apple claims that Siri sounds more natural, but both male and female voices pronounce words like a computer to me.
Siri can search new sources such as Bing, Wikipedia and Twitter. Just ask Siri what’s trending on Twitter to get an overview of the latest Twitter trends. More command options have also been added to return calls, play voicemails, control iTunes Radio and more.
With these new additions, Apple is slowing but surely moving into Google Now territory. In fact, I found Siri to be slightly faster than Google Now at returning results. Not to mention Google Now can’t tell me what’s Trending on Twitter. It also can’t return Twitter search results.
Add in Touchless Controls from the Moto X, tie Siri into the Notification and Control Centers and Siri could give Google Now a run for its money.
That about wraps up the major changes in iOS 7. There are plenty of minor changes that would take all day to list, but here are a few that you should know about.
In addition to a new look, the App Store received two new features: Popular Apps Near Me and a Kids category. You can also enable background app refreshing which lets apps continue updating content or use GPS in the background.
Find My iPhone now requires your Apple ID and password to turn it off and to erase your device. If your iPhone still manages to get erased, it’ll still show a custom message and require your Apple ID and password to reactivate the phone. Smart move!
You can also block unwanted phone numbers from calling, texting or iMessaging you. And if you’re looking for timestamps for text messages, swipe to the left of any message and hold your finger on the screen to see them. Careful not to accidentally swipe back to all your messages!
One Last Thing…
My only major complaint with iOS 7 is that you still can’t clear the insane amount of cache/data that apps tend to keep on the iPhone. iOS is supposed to take care of this, but it waits until you’re about to run out of memory to free up that space. Not to mention it only frees up just enough space instead of cleaning every app.
I’ve also seen reports and tweets of iOS 7 not running as smoothly on i-devices older than the iPhone 5. So, if you have an older model (including iPads), you may want to do some research before upgrading.
iOS 7 Verdict: Solid, But Unoriginal
It’s no secret that Apple is playing “follow the leader” with iOS 7, but it is surprising since they’re supposed to be the leader. iOS 7 clearly borrows design elements from just about every mobile OS dead or alive: multitasking from Palm’s WebOS, Windows Phone’s simplicity and Android’s controls.
Where is the mark of Apple in iOS 7?
If you think about it in another way, Apple took what was already inspired by them, made it prettier and gave it to iOS users who were long overdue for an update anyway. It’s a copycat move, but that doesn’t stop iOS 7 from being the most solid update that Apple has ever delivered – at least if you own an iPhone 5 and up. I guess Jony Ives did something right, despite my initial impressions of iOS 7′s childish looks.
A poll that pits iOS 6 against iOS 7, shows iOS 7 as the clear winner in terms of design. But do people prefer the feel and function of iOS 7 over previous versions? I do, because Apple just brought an entire lineup of iPhones almost up-to-par with Android and Windows Phone devices in one fell swoop.
Did you upgrade to iOS 7?
What do you think about it?