iOS 7 is probably the biggest change that the iOS operating system has ever seen. Since its inception the core look and feel have remained largely untouched, with new features merely added over the top, but with iOS 7, suddenly it all looks and feels different. The big question, of course, is has it changed for the better?
Bright and bold
iOS has always been fairly colourful, but now with iOS 7 the colours and icons almost seem to pop out of the screen they’re so bright.
The layout of homescreens is still much the same and they still use square icons with rounded corners to represent apps, but the actual colours and images on the icons have been changed. Generally this change is for the better, replacing the previous camera lens image (which at first glance wasn’t obviously a lens) with a picture of a camera.
However some changes weren’t so successful, as for example Game Centre is now just several coloured bubbles, which really carries no association with games.
All in all though, the good outweighs the bad with this new look, freshening up an aging interface and keeping it relevant.
Siri has been substantially updated for the new version of iOS. On the superficial side new voices have been added, but more usefully Siri can now get its information from a greater selection of sources, with for example Wikipedia and Twitter now being added.
It also feels like a more full featured hands free virtual assistant now, being able to take on extra tasks like returning calls. It’s still not really a replacement for actually operating the phone yourself but it’s getting there.
One of the big new additions to iOS 7 is Control Center. A quick swipe up from the bottom of the screen will launch it over the top of whatever you’re doing and give you access to numerous controls, such a screen brightness, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggles and more. It also includes shortcuts to certain apps such as the calculator and camera.
It’s a very powerful screen which lets users quickly change settings without interrupting what they’re doing. It’s a little like the notifications screen on Android and has been a long time coming.
If we have one complaint it’s that the shortcuts can’t be customised, so the calculator can’t be replaced with Facebook for example.
The camera has seen a bit of a change with iOS 7. Switching between photo and video modes is now done with a swipe and a couple of new features have been added, such as a square format mode and some filters that you can apply before taking a picture.
It’s not a huge change, but new features are always good and once you get used to swiping to change mode it’s actually easier to operate than before.
Multitasking has been given a new look, as a double tap of the home button will bring up a full screen carousel of recent apps (rather than the little bar that appeared in older versions of iOS). It’s a little easier to use this way but not a huge change.
However apps can now also update in the background and be set to automatically update, which will make keeping your apps up to date a lot more painless.
AirDrop is another new feature for iOS 7 (though it’s been available for Mac for a while). Essentially it allows you to share files and information with other iOS 7 devices. It’s very quick and easy; you just select from a list of compatible devices in the vicinity and tap to send. The downside of course is that it’s limited to iOS 7 devices, so the ability to share things with friends will be quite limited unless everyone you know has an iPhone.
Apples mobile browser has been substantially overhauled for iOS 7. For one thing the address bar now disappears when not in use, allowing you to view web pages in full screen. That’s an obvious but hugely useful change.
It also bakes in AirDrop, allowing you to use it to share links from the browser, plus there’s a reading list which lets you save pages for offline reading.
Perhaps the most innovative change though is ‘Shared links’ which finds links that friends have posted on Facebook or Twitter and presents them all in a list for you to explore from your browser.
Though you’ve always been able to lock your iPhone with a pin or passcode and for a long time have been able to track lost or stolen devices with ‘Find My iPhone’, the security has always felt a little lacking. For one thing thieves could just switch the phone off to stop ‘Find My iPhone’ from working. Now though it’s possible to have the phone ask for your Apple ID and password when switched off and on again, remaining encrypted and useless until that information is entered.
Assuming hackers don’t find their way around that it essentially renders the iPhone useless and almost valueless to a thief and may by extension cut down on the number of iPhones that get stolen.
There are plenty of other little tweaks and changes with iOS 7. For example folders can now hold an unlimited number of apps, email now has gesture controls, letting you swipe to bring up options, the notifications screen is now more full featured, complete with a list of key things happening today, a flashlight has been added and more, most of which is for the better.
iOS 7 is a big, bold and perhaps even brave change. It’s not going to please everyone but a few missteps aside it’s undoubtedly an improvement. More than that it freshens up a look that was in danger of going stale and brings iOS closer to Android in terms of core functionality. It’s the biggest update iOS has ever seen and you should download it as soon as you’re able.
3G will continue to track this and report more soon.
By Simon Thomas on 23rd September, 2013