Two weeks ago Apple CEO Tim Cook stood on stage at the annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco and unveiled the latest version of the company’s all important mobile device operating system iOS. iOS 7 will be available for iPhone and iPad users later this year, while you wait, EFTM has spent two weeks hands on with the new look.
Tim Cook describes iOS 7 as “the most revolutionary overhaul of its operating system since the iPhone” – and that is 100% spot on. Sure a lot of nifty features have been added over the years like Notification Centre, but for the most part it’s been very minimal cosmetic changes to the icons.
With iOS 7 it’s extreme. Nothing seems the same, in fact you’ll appreciate your “old” apps having their legacy looking icons on your screen just to make you feel a little more at home. Otherwise it’s like moving into the Bellagio in Las Vegas after spending every hotel stay in your life at a Best Western – you’ll be looking all around and admiring the changes.
This will polarise people. Android fans will say it’s not revolutionary enough, while Apple fans will either love it or hate it from day one. Those that love it will find those that hate it coming over to love it within days or a week. It’s almost like – but not quite as extreme – moving from Windows 7 to Windows 8. Everything is there, but its all so different!
A lot has been written about iOS 7, I thought I’d tell you about a few things which I’ve noticed most.
Newsstand in a folder!
Look it may just be me, but I was always very frustrated that the Newsstand app could not be placed into a folder. I think like many other iPhone users I have a folder for those Apps which you cannot uninstall but that I rarely use. Newsstand fits right into that category. However it wasn’t possible to throw it into your “rarely used” folder.
Now it is. As simple as that is, its important.
Every single icon has been redesigned. They are “flat” and are using rather childish lollie like colours. And they take some getting used to. After two weeks – I’m at peace with the changes. My biggest issue is that the Facetime and Messages app icons are very – very similar, so I’ve pressed the wrong one more than once.
Other than that, it’s part of the entire purpose of simplifying and minimising across the operating system. You’ll get used to it. Trust me.
The Lock screen
This is where I have my biggest issue. The lock screen is radically new. Thin text makes the time difficult to read depending on your background wallpaper, but the real issue are the new lock screen gestures.
There are four in total.
Slide up from the bottom right corner to launch the camera. Very handy, and easy to do.
Slide down from then top for the notification centre. Nothing radical there
Slide up from the bottom and you’ll see your new Control Centre – more on that later – needless to say one slide without unlocking access to turning off WiFi, Bluetooth and to get the torch on – very handy indeed.
But perhaps the biggest change is the “slide to unlock” section of then screen. On every iOS until now there was a small space to slide from left to right. The toggle slider moved with your finger as if to be real. In iOS 7 there is no “button” to slide. You just slide the screen out of the way. Good news – you can slide sideways from any point of the screen – top middle or bottom. Bad news is that there is a very small “up” pointing arrow just below the “slide to unlock” notification. It sounds petty, however for average users this is very confusing.
My tip is that’s one of the key things that will change before the public release of iOS 7.
The App Store
It functions the same as before, but in iOS 7 you’re getting that consistent clean and white look.
Searching is a bit strange, you click search and get a blank screen – up the top is the search bar – I think it could be more obvious where you need to type to search.
There’s a little bug in the system right now which shows the word “OPEN” getting cut off in a square box – Another one you wont see on the public release.
Pop Up screens
In many cases, like the volume notification you get on-screen when you adjust the level up or down – instead of an icon appearing over the screen and with no background, or instead of a pop up which you can almost see through, the iOS 7 pop ups in many cases are actually solid boxes that just adopt the colours or close to them of the wallpaper behind them.
It’s a very design driven without question, I just couldn’t help thinking there should be some level of transparency on these messages – but perhaps it will grow on me. Perhaps
There is something very different you’ll notice about the notification centre. Until now it’s been a long list of things. Stocks, Info, Alerts.
With iOS 7 your default view is “today” when you slide down (Other options are “all” as seen above, and “missed” for notifications you missed). On this screen you get your calendar, plus a very personal and frankly well crafted few paragraphs about your day.
Starting with the weather, then a bizarre location and time based message, then a description of your day or next event from the calendar. Your basic calendar is then shown underneath.
I found this more and more useful the more I looked at it. For at-a-glance confirmation of your next meeting and location, to that bizarre location message, this – much more than Siri ever has for me, feels like a personal assistant. I feel like the phone knows me well.
That location message – it may say something like “right now, it would take you about 28 minutes to drive to Wahroonga”. Ok, so if my next calendar meeting was in Wahroonga I’d say that was cool.
The reason it’s bizarre, and frankly brilliant, is that it seems to know you based on where you’ve been.
For me, I don’t live in Wahroonga – we’re selling our house so we’re living elsewhere for a while. Yet, even though I haven’t updated my contact info or “home” location, the iPhone seems to know I’ve been staying in Wahroonga, so it’s offering me a prediction based on that – not my diary. Brilliant.
This is without a doubt the biggest change in functions for iOS 7. This is not about looks, this is a fundamental change, and frankly one that is a long time coming.
Android has offered simple access to toggles and settings like screen brightness, WiFi and Bluetooth on and off as well as Airplane mode and more.
Add to that quick access to your calculator, camera, clock and also a one touch torch and the Control Centre will impress.
It’s such a simple thing, but regular travellers will appreciate the airplane mode shortcut, as will power users looking to draw the most out of a low battery by switching off services and reducing brightness.
You can also control your music player, AirPlay settings and use the new AirDrop functionality for file sharing.
Find My iPhone
The basic principles of Find My iPhone remain the same, however there is one key thing which should be a default for all mobile devices. Theft deterrent. If you can’t activate a stolen phone again, what is the point of stealing it.
Today it’s possible for a criminal to steal an iPhone and if Find my iPhone is installed its easily bypassed by removing the SIM and restoring the phone.
With iOS 7 when you the owner set your phone as stolen in Find my iPhone online, you are rendering it useless.
The new “owner” will restore the phone, but when they try to activate it, a simple check is done with Apple’s servers and your phone will not be useable.
Well done Apple – lets see more of this.
Switching between your apps is improved in iOS 7. Double click that home button and not only will you see icons for your running or available apps along the bottom, you will also see a preview window showing the app itself. Close apps by sliding the preview window up, you can close up to three at a time if you get your fingers in the right position.
In addition, according to Apple the operating system learns what apps you use and when, and in doing so can provide updates to those apps and their content more regularly in the times that you use them. I didn’t notice a radical impact of this, however it’s possible this will come as apps are updated for iOS 7.
Compass with “spirit level”
Sure the compass is a pretty simple app, but how annoying has the “calibration” been? Move your phone in a figure of eight? So lame and embarrassing to do in the company of others.
With iOS 7 the compass gives you a very clear guide as to your calibration – you rotate the device to complete a circle. It’s easy to do and the indication of progress is an important part of that.
New to iOS 7 is a spirit level like app within the compass. Slide the compass to the right and you’ll get a percentage value. Lay the phone flat on its back, or on its side and you’ll get a 0 on the display and a bright green screen indicating level. Good bye all the spirit level apps in the App store!
Gone is the torn yellow paper with lines, replaced by a textured white paper with no lines. Revolutionary huh?
As is the list of notes, a slight blur around the words and a very clean design.
One of the biggest changes and also one app that needs a lot more work during this beta phase is the Calendar. Clear lines, flat colours and a lot more information on-screen. I like the day at a glance standard look. Scrolling between days is a simple swipe across the dates which is easy and comes in very handy.
However in Month and Year view you get no indication whatsoever that there is an event on a given day. For me this isn’t a huge issue because there is always something in my diary! But in reality many people would appreciate some dots or lines to indicate some appointments. I can’t imagine it will launch without that.
In the spirit of Instagram taking over the world you’ve got some effect options on your photos right in the iOS 7 camera app. You also have four camera modes at a swipe. Video, Photo, Square and Pano.
- Video mode has one new feature – zoom while recording. Previously you needed to set your zoom prior to recording.
- Photo mode is default, HDR is a simple single click option.
- Square mode takes square photos – why? Instagram? I’m really not sure on that one!
- and finally Pano mode gives you slide access to panoramic photo mode.
Sick of calls from a certain number? Add them to your address book then add them to the Blocked calls list. No more calls, texts or facetime requests. A nice feature – assuming you have the number you want blocked.
Words can’t do this justice. The best I can do is show you two images and say “spot the difference”. As part of the “layered” approach to iOS 7, your wallpaper sits a layer behind your icons. Using the gyroscope on board the phone knows you are twisting it around, so when you twist it right it’s like you can see further around to the left behind the icons. It’s all just an optical illusion. The home screen image is simply not ever shown in full, so when you tilt one way, the image is moved sideward to give you the perception that you’re looking in and around the icons. Simple, fun and very captivating.
There is a huge number of other changes and features, overall this is a very different experience, and many people will be challenged by it. The problem for most users is they wont have a choice. They will upgrade because they can – iOS offers a simple upgrade experience and the conversion to the new versions have been very high so you can expect the same this time. Lots of people will be frustrated by the changes on day one, but in time they will learn to live with it or love it. Only time will tell, for my mind this is a refreshing and long overdue change for Apple.
iOS 7 will be available some time
around September 19 in Australia around 3am in the morning – and will be for iPhone 4, 4S and 5 – plus the new iPhone due in October. As well as for iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4 and iPad mini. iPhones 3G and 3GS miss out on iOS 7, as does the iPad 1. iPhone 4 and 4S users will have some features missing so check with Apple if you’re wondering