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Apple iOS 7.0

By , 20 Sep 2013

People may still camp out for days to be the first to wrap their mitts around the latest iPhone, but Apple has never faced greater competition than it does right now. Google’s Android operating system is finally a slick affair and the epic modern devices released by the likes of Samsung and HTC run it beautifully.

In response to those challenges, Apple has retooled its entire smartphone OS to stop the faithfully straying from the path of fruity goodness. “It started with a desire to take an experience people love and make it better.” That was Apple’s iOS 7 mission statement to the world, billing the changes as “the start of a new chapter for iOS”. However, it’s a fact that people fear change – and Apple doesn't want to scare anyone off. There may be more than 200 new features in this completely redesigned system, but Apple is keen to stress that users won’t need to learn it from scratch.

This latest version of iOS 7 was officially announced on 10 September 2013, with the free download available from 18 September 2013. The software works with the Apple iPhone 4 and above, iPad 2 and above, iPad mini and the fifth generation iPod Touch music players. Updates in the operating system software include:

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Look and feel

You don’t even get past the lock screen before the differences in iOS 7 start to make themselves known. Pulling a tab from the bottom allows extremely useful access to: Airplane Mode; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings; a Do Not Disturb option to screen certain calls and alerts; Screen Rotation Lock; brightness; music controls; AirDrop settings; Flashlight; Alarms; Calculator; and the Camera. In this first version of iOS 7 those icons can’t be swapped out for others, which seems like a missed opportunity but may well be remedied in a later upgrade.

Unlocking the device no longer means sliding that bar along its path and users can swipe anywhere across the screen – just like on a Samsung Galaxy device, but without the ripple effect. Once inside, the whole system has been designed around a new grid system – with a whole new palette of extremely bright colours. It’s this garish look that will likely surprise most Apple enthusiasts, and it does take some getting used to.

However, there are some neat new features to counterbalance it and the design aspects go deeper than an extended palette. For example, something as simple as changing your background image has a knock-on effect on the way your whole system looks. There are also translucent menus that give the software a layered feel, with apps and menus still visible as cloudy blobs hidden below. New approaches to animation and motion also add to what is a very useable system.

Control and Notification Centres

Allowing access to the Notification Centre directly from the lock screen is incredibly useful but once you’re into the system the changes don’t stop there. Control Centre bundles all the options you want to access quickly in one place. The idea is to deliver users directly to the things they do most, in one convenient place, with just one swipe from the bottom of the screen. A new Today feature also offers an at-a-glance view of – you guessed it – the current day, with a summary of important details such as meetings, events, weather and traffic.

Camera app

The photography options in iOS 7 have also been spruced up. iPhone 5S users benefit from up to two-times faster auto-focus, quicker photo capture and better dynamic range. Deeper integration with the new Touch ID and iSight camera sensors also enables new features like automatic image stabilisation, Burst Mode and Slo-Mo video with 120fps.

Everyone gets the option of increased versatility, with a single touch all that’s needed to jump between video and camera modes. Photos are also now stacked by their time stamp to be shared as 'Moments', with friends able to contribute images taken at the same event.

Improved Multitasking

Multitasking is really a way of saying you can jump between ‘open’ apps more easily, while programmes can now be closed with a single flick. The software also cleverly keeps track of your most-used apps and automatically updates the content within them, downloading data in the background.

AirDrop

AirDrop first showed up in the Lion desktop OS back in 2011 but its inclusion on the iPhone is far more exciting as it allows users to share files very easily with anyone in the nearby vicinity. Users appear as icons and can offer to send each other things such as files, images or web links. Anyone not wanting random strangers to spam them with dodgy content can set AirDrop to only accept requests from existing contacts or this feature can be turned off altogether.

Safari

As well as full-screen browsing with Safari’s redesigned user interface, a new smart-search field helps to simplify and improve results. The redesigned iOS 7 also includes a new view for your bookmarks and your Safari tabs.

Siri

Apple’s voice-activated search and navigation continues to improve. The latest features to be included are a dedicated Twitter search, the option to query Wikipedia and Bing web searching from within the app.

Siri has also been programmed with a number of new male and female voices, although at the launch of iOS 7 the only available options were US English, French and German. Apple says additional languages will be added over time.

iTunes Radio

Hailed as one of the major announcements on 10 September, iTunes Radio finally gives Apple a streaming music service to take on the likes of Spotify or the excellent Nokia Music. The free internet radio service features over 200 stations and is based on music in the iTunes Store.

Audio

Aside from iTunes Radio, there were a few other audio tweaks worthy of mention. For example, those looking for high-quality voice calls over a data network can now turn to FaceTime Audio, while Apple also composed a number of new ringtones, alarms, alerts and system sounds. Maybe now the whole room won’t check their pockets when that standard iPhone text alert beeps.

Conclusions

There's no doubt that this is the most significant change since Apple debuted the iOS software. “iOS 7 lets you work in ways that are instantly familiar, so there’s no need to relearn everything,” Apple claims, yet there will inevitably be some resistance to such an extensive overhaul. Those starting off their Apple experience with an iPhone 5S will wonder what all the fuss is about, having not lived with iOS 6. They’ll just see an extremely useable, intuitive, slick interface.

Eventually, that’s what everyone else is likely to see, too. Yes, those eye-gouging colours do edge a little too far from Apple’s usual restrained look, adding a Fisher Price feel. However, once the initial shock has passed, this update does feel like a leap forward from iOS 6. The responsiveness of iOS 7, coupled with easy navigation from the lock screen and ever-improving Siri features, mark this as a bold step in the right direction for a company that has lost the singular vision of its founder. With designer Sir Jony Ive brought in to overlook iOS and match form with function, it seems like Apple is in safe hands once more.

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Comment by Tris from UK on 12th Feb 2014
Ios 7 is a major leap forward but...... and a very big but... It doesn't feel finished. ios 6 was very polished but this feels rough in some places. Things like icons that don't have continuity and arrows and numbers that look rushed. The very fact that settings and notifications are not a leap forward. Its mostly catchup. Overall it does work, and will get better no doubt.

Comment by Thomas from UK on 28th Oct 2013
Admittedly, there are things to like on ios7 and you've documented them here, but there's plenty i hate about it on my iphone 5. From small to not-so:

My first reaction on upgrading it: Why am i having to squint to read the time? The date, the clock... etc etc... and setting these in bold on that font, barely improves a single thing. It's Too Damn Thin! And reducing the size of the time at the top of the screen. Well if you have 20/20 vision, i'm sure that's ok for you... but not me. Setting the timer/alarm now feels awkward and fussy as you scroll through the numbers.It's gone basic and minimalist in far too big a way.

The app icons... well i'm sure if you're a child, they're great, but what's a child doing with a bloody expensive iphone? I loathe them for their lack of sophistication. I loathe the way my texts now look garish, like some neon snot-monster has sneezed in the app.

Pictures: If it's not an iphone size pic, the image stretches out to fit the ends. Cutting off the width of the image. As a photographer who likes to move a few jpegs onto the phone now and then to use Snapseed and the like, this is VERY annoying.

That thing you do where you double click the home button and tidy up your memory cache thingy (technical term) now takes 3 or 4 times as long. You could just tap the things, now upward swiping. I had no idea my fingers needed so much exercising!

Compass: Must i ALWAYS swivel the little red dot around the circle every time i want to use the bleedin' compass? And does it now use True North or Magnetic North? (the "levelling" addition is nice, though)

And lastly, and most importantly (though i'm sure there's plenty of other things i could add, but these are just off the top of my head...) this update freezes my phone. It's NEVER done that before. No matter what app i'm using, from pictures to text to a photo app and anything else, there invariably comes a moment (well, several actually) in the day when the phone refuses to do anything until i hit the home button or turn it off and on again... it's like the IT Crowd in the back of my head- "have you tried..."

Anyway. Thank-you for your excellent reviews, S21. I don't always 100% agree with them, but always appreciate them. =D


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