iOS 7 was released on the 10th of June to Developers and I have been lucky enough to have been one of these people. I at once loaded up the OS onto my iPhone 4, the last generation of iPhone to support the OS and also one which does not carry half the features released.
The good: iOS is a substantial upgrade to iOS 6. It has many new features along with an all new design which is more simple and minimalist. It has nice new animations for App launching and closing along with a redesigned multitasking view.
The bad: For the iPhone 4, not a lot of features are supported however on a newer device more of these will be available. It is also quite laggy however bear in mind this is only a Beta and is not meant for public ‘consumption’ yet.
Bottom line: iOS 7 is a substantial upgrade to the iOS line. It incorporates an all new minimalist design and will definitely make you feel like you have a new phone. It is said to look a lot like competitors however I feel this is wrong as a lot of things are minimalist and you can’t say that one minimalist design copies all the others.
iOS 7 brings with it a whole new design (for pictures, look here). It is minimalist and is almost everything that we were expecting. Johnny Ive has been put in charge of the design team and therefore, a lot of the skeuomorphic elements such as green felt in Game Centre, wood in Newsstand, and leather in Calendar have been removed to leave flatter, more minimalist designs. This makes for a much cleaner and well put together OS. Before, icons seemed to have been designed by individuals did not match each other. The new design has matching icons which better resemble the Apps they hold. For me, the best thing about the upgrade was that the clock now shows the real time and the constant 73 degrees has been removed to leave some clouds and a sun, better resembling the actual weather. Also the Maps icon now shows the location of the ‘Spaceship’ Campus 2 (Apples $38 million dollar new location being built), which better shows a more lasting OS and one which will take us into the future.
App launching is different than iOS 6 and is one of the nicest animation features. It ‘zooms’ in on the app you have selected, unlike iOS 6 where the icons just flew away, their separate ways. Also when exiting, the App zooms out from where it was and leaves you back on the home screen. The ‘flying’ of icons is also gone with a more random ‘building’ of Apps on the home screen, where they float down instead, a nice change to go with the new design. The App switcher is also redesigned with a larger live view of the different designs being shown, much like the Safari tabs in iOS 6. The media controls, rotation lock and quick access to music have disappeared with only Apps being visible. Where have these gone? Control centre is the answer. It provides access to settings such as Airplane Mode and brightness, media controls, AirPlay and AirDrop, and shortcuts to several apps including a built-in flashlight, compass, calculator, and camera. A welcome addition to those used to the quick access controls on the Android notification bar.
Safari has been redesigned with a cleaner, less obtrusive view on webpages with a smart search field in the URL bar. Other changes include infinite tabs (from the limited 9 before), parental controls, and improvements to Twitter sharing and Reading List. Also tab switching is more like Chrome for iOS with tabs being able to be closed by swiping them away. Also, a more live view is available and scrolling through tabs is easier with a long swipe browsing many tabs instead of just a few. Also a swipe from the bezels of the device allows traversing of previous and next tabs easy and more intuitive, like on Mac OSX.
The Camera App has been redesigned with a more minimalist design and has four different modes – video, photo, square photo, and panoramic photo* (not on iPhone 4). It also has filters built in and live filter viewing which draws on the Instagram front. Sharing these photos has never been easier either, with AirDrop filling the void where NFC would have been used. In my testing with an iPhone 4S and 5 (4 is not supported), the sharing was faster and easier than NFC, with no weird holding of phones back to back being necessary. Photo streams are also more accessible with many people being able to contribute to one Stream and it being accessible to many people, not just one person. It also now supports video sharing. The photos App also allows a lager view on all the different photos taken, using the EXIF data in each photo to sort photos by date and location and a larger overall view being available, making it easier to find ‘that photo’.
The App store also received a fresh lick of virtual paint whilst also receiving sorting by age ranges and a new feature ‘Near Me’, where Apps near you are available. For example say in Paris, an App corresponding to the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre would show, allowing App discovery to be easier and faster. Also, one of the best features in my opinion was added, with live updating of Apps being instant on Wifi, meaning no more badges. These updates are shown in the new Notification centre. Gone are the scrolling banners of Stocks and Weather, instead a more personal view of the weather is shown. For example, mine reads ‘Mostly cloudy conditions with 21 mph winds out of the west.’ in the ‘Today’ view. A live Calendar view is also available and at the bottom, it shows events coming up, even sometimes saying to ‘take an early night’, a really nice addition in my opinion. The ‘All’ tab shows all notifications, whilst ‘Missed’ shows notifications you have not given attention, clearing automatically. Notification Centre and Control Centre are also now available from the Lock Screen.
The Lock Screen has been redesigned, with no more slider to unlock and instead, the user can swipe the whole screen to unlock the device. Notifications can still be swiped to bring up relative Apps. The passcode now is a separate window to the left with larger buttons and a more rounded design, very assimilar to the new dialling pad. Apps also periodically update in the background, altogether to save energy. The OS also detects when you use your Apps the most and will update these during these times to speed up opening times but also save battery when you wouldn’t use them usually. This also makes the App remind you of unseen Notifications, showing them again to you.
Other changes mentioned, but I haven nor fully tested include audio-only calling in FaceTime, Weibo integration,Wi-Fi Hotspot 2.0, OS-level call blocking, app-specific virtual private networking, and activation locking through Find My iPhone.
Two other features also debuted with the new OS however I was unable to test these due to lack of resources and availability. iOS in the car promises a new OS for those with compatible cars, allowing users to dock their phones and uses Siri integration to offer eyes-free and hands-free satellite navigation, calling, music and iMessage integration through the car’s screen, bringing a new deign which will be more universal to those with cars. iTunes Radio also debuted, a highly anticipated release which will allow users to listen to unlimited music with ads (however no ads being available for iTunes Match subscribers). It however is not available in the UK at the moment, with release dates being around late 2013, so I could not test it.
The OS at the moment is quite buggy-expected from a Beta and bear in mind it is the first one, running on an almost 4 year old device. This will hopefully be fixed in to-come Betas, with one being anticipated for tomorrow (Monday 24th). This is said to bring back the voice recording App and will bring much needed stability improvements. My iPhone has restarted quite a few times and swiping is sometimes very very slow, even typing being slow and unresponsive. Apps still run on old features, with the old keyboard still used by Apps such as WhatsApp, however these will be updated when iOS 7 is released.
All in all, iOS 7 is a nice addition to the iOS lineup. It bring much needed features and a new design which I welcome with open arms. It has a nice ‘new’ feel and will certainly be a challenger to Android with many of those ‘on the fence’ at the moment, maybe deciding to wait and see what Apple has to bring in the months to come, with a lot of hardware releases being anticipated. Vote in the poll below and drop a comment on what you think of it.