iOS 7 Review

iOS 7 is a huge departure from not just iOS 6, but the 5 versions preceding that too. Since iOS 7 is about to be launched in a day or so, to inform you readers of the changes, we have put together a review of most of the huge changes in iOS 7. Read on to find out more…

There is much to be praised in iOS 7. Let me start with the operating system’s biggest change: its edge to edge, complete overhaul of the design. The old UI had glossy effects (unfortunately I do not have pictures of the old UI, but I am sure many of you are familiar with it having seen or had it for the past few years) pretty much littered all over the interface, which tended to look gaudy. The icons had a gloss effect, and worse, the stock apps were not even uniform. Some icons had gloss, some did not, which contributed to a very non-cohesive experience all around. Say what you will about iOS 7’s new psychedelic icons, but there is no denying the fact that at least they all look like they fit together as a set. Not only have the icons improved in cohesiveness, but the white based, transparency based interface serves to “give a sense of context” in the words of Sir Jony Ive, and regardless its function, it looks good. New, fresh, and above all, modern. The icons do grow on you after a while of using them, and once enough apps have updated their icons to fit in with the new design aesthetic, such as Limelight’s new icon, the homescreen on the whole will look far better than the mismatched icons of yesteryear. Not to mention, old apps’ UIs will be given a whole new look, more in line with Apple’s new design aesthetic, such as Limelight, which the developers have uploaded a teaser for, as shown below.

The New Lockscreen

It’s more minimalistic now, and has dynamic wallpapers, along with static wallpapers that will shift as you tilt your phone. It looks good, especially the new keypad for typing in your passcode. Words do not do it enough justice.

Overview of Changes to Stock Apps

When using Safari in portrait, as you scroll down, the navigation bar recedes upwards partially, leaving more room for viewing the article. And if you never noticed this, Safari has a button (this functionality is called Reader and it has been around since iOS 5) near the address bar that basically takes the text and images of an article, and presents it in a clean, easy to read format, as shown below.

In landscape, the experience is similar, but the navigation bar completely recedes as you scroll down the page. However, the highlight of Safari is its new tabs. They offer a quick view of all the tabs you have open, and with a swipe (yes, like Google Chrome, bring on the hate Android fanboys) you can easily close the tabs. Not only this, but as you tilt the phone, the tabs will move ever so slightly, lending it depth and realness. You can even tap and hold a tab, and move it up or down the row of tabs. You can also open unlimited tabs. Private mode is also easier to access, and can be accessed on the tabs screen instead of buried in the settings app. Also, similar to the Top Sites feature on many desktop browsers today, you can easily go to your favourite sites by opening a new tab and tapping the icon which corresponds to a bookmark you have marked as a favourite. Simple, but very useful. Lastly, there is also a swipeback gesture (available as a jailbreak tweak, just saying ) to go back a page easily.

The weather app has been overhauled too, but I won’t go into too many details. It looks more minimalistic and clean, like Yahoo’s Weather app. You can do the pinch to zoom gesture on a place to view more weather information on it. And pinch out of it when you are done. And of course, it shows the weather, animated according to what weather the place is experiencing now, even when looking at all the places saved. Here are pictures.

The new Camera app offers in-built filters which can be removed later on, so no worries if you spam your shots with the noir effect, because you can always remove the filter afterwards. It also looks nicer and has a square mode, like Instagram’s shots.

The Messages app now has pictures for group messages, and supports the swipeback gesture to go back from a conversation to the list of recent conversations. If you move your finger from right to left, you will see individual timestamps (also available as a jailbreak tweak, or in BiteSMS).

The Mail app has a new look too, and the swipeback gesture which can be found in messages and settings, also works here.

The calendar app deserves praise, for its beautiful interface and day view, as shown below. While it still is inconvenient to add in the events, (Fantastical, a 5 USD app, offers natural language event input such as “Lunch with Jane Pearseed next Friday at 2 pm at the coffee shop” which will be parsed automatically on the go) there is one extremely useful feature of it, which I shall come to later when I talk about the revamped Notification Center. Of course, you can always get an app like Fantastical and use that as your calendar app, because everything added there goes into the calendar app, which in turn allows for the use of the Notification Center’s Today View.

The new Music app looks beautiful, clean, and very inviting. There is no more Cover Flow, but instead a wall of album art when you use it in landscape, which can be pinched to view more albums, or less, as you wish. I think it looks and functions better than endlessly swiping through thousands of songs. And there is also iTunes Radio, which I find to be a good music discovery tool, especially because in Singapore, we have no Pandora Radio, and Spotify just only launched a couple of months back. (However, I do apologize in advance if you, using a Singapore iTunes account, are unable to access iTunes Radio. I use a US account as there are more apps being released earlier in the US than in Singapore, and hence I have been able to access iTunes Radio since its inception, when Singapore accounts hadn’t yet been supported. I am unsure if Singapore accounts are supported yet, but it should be eventually.) Also the fact that iTunes Radio is integrated in the Music app, and allows for an iTunes wishlist you can add songs to as you listen to them, serves for a very simple, easy to use, and above all, fluid experience.

The compass app basically has a cosmetic change as well, and two new features. One, is that when you swipe left, you get a level. Another, is that the compass has a little + in the middle to show that your device is horizontal when using the compass, which aids in navigation (but I wouldn’t know too much about that as I am not a scout).

The Photos app has a lot of new features, namely the collections feature, which helps you get to a picture taken a while ago, very easily. Because it is best explained in video, I shall just embed this video of the photo app being demonstrated during WWDC 2013 in June.

I’m not going to bother with the Stocks, Videos, Passbook, iTunes Store, AppStore, Game Center, Calculator, Notes, Contacts, Clock, Reminders, Phone and Voice Memo apps but I will just post the screens for your benefit. They don’t have much new except for a redesign.

Revamped Multitasking

Double tapping the home button now brings up a cards-like display reminiscent of WebOS’ multitasking switcher. You tap to go to an app, and swipe up to close it. You can close up to three apps at the same time using three fingers, one for each app. It also works in landscape mode.

Notification Center

The Notification Center has been revamped too. Gone is the old linen background, replaced by a transparent, blurred layer that slides down over whatever screen you are on. It looks modern and refreshing compared to the old one. And for once, it can be accessed from your lock screen.

It has 3 tabs which you can swipe to from left to right or right to left, or tap the buttons at the top to navigate to: Today, All, and Missed.

“All” works like your regular Notification Center: all your notifications are there.

“Missed” shows those notifications that you have not acted upon for 24 hours. Basically, the ones you ignored for an entire day.

“Today” is interesting. It shows you your schedule for the day (taken from your calendar), stocks information, reminders that can be marked as done by tapping the circle next to it, the day and date, as well as simple weather information and a countdown to your next scheduled event for the day. It also shows if you have any events (and how many) for the next day, and as dusk dawns (hur hur), when you should sleep according to how early your event starts. In other words, amateur Google Now. Supposedly, Apple is going to implement a feature where the phone would be able to tell you when to leave based on where you are going next, and how you are going there, but for now there is nothing. But when that happens, then Apple will be able to take on Google Now with its at-a-glance information on the Notification Center.

Gone are the sharing, weather and stocks widgets (weather and stocks are still viewable, but not as widgets like before) for the Notification Center, however, and I highly doubt (but I wouldn’t know for sure) that existing Notification Center widgets from Cydia will work with this new Notification Center, when iOS 7 is eventually jailbroken. Sad, because many great tweaks were made for the Notification Center, especially tweaks like NCSettings, which provided shortcuts to system toggles. Speaking of which…

Control Center

Ah, finally a way to access system toggles, system wide. Accessible anywhere, in apps (unless you disable it in Settings), the homescreen, and the lockscreen (unless you disable it in Settings). It has quick toggles for Airplane Mode, Wifi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, and Orientation Lock. A slider to adjust the brightness on the fly. Music Controls (no longer available when you double tap the homes button to view your multitasking apps). An Airdrop toggle (because nobody wants to leave it on all day, it drains battery).

It also has some shortcuts to apps: Clock, Calculator and Camera. And a toggle for the flashlight (finally). These apps can be accessed from the lockscreen, (yes, two ways to get to Camera from the lockscreen, rather weird) and you do not need to type in your passcode to open them up. But you cannot access the rest of iOS through this, just those three apps, so your phone is secure.

This is something jailbreakers have had for years with SBSettings and NCSettings (and Android already has this feature built in), but now it’s adopted by Apple, everyone benefits. Or so you’d think. While the idea is great and the implementation is good, (swiping up from the bottom of the screen, pretty neat) there is much to be improved on. And when I say much, I mean 4 specific things. Firstly, a way to have more than just 5 toggles. Secondly, a way to customize your toggles. Think: swiping left and right on the toggles bar to access the rest. Third, a way to have more app shortcuts (I don’t even need to have the camera on the lockscreen ever, but they’ve given me two ways to do that!), and lastly, a way to customize your app shortcuts. It would be great if I could quickly go to Safari through this, without needing to unlock my phone.

Its design is great, but in terms of functionality, it falls short of what it could be. In NCSettings for jailbroken devices, you could choose from about 20 toggles, and arrange them in any way. I expect that once iOS 7 is jailbroken, these issues would be fixed unofficially. And Control Center would be perfect.

Siri

Siri has a new look, new, more natural voice (sorry Apple, but Google Now’s voice is still more realistic than Siri), some new functions, and is finally out of Beta if the iOS 7 GM is accurate.

The new Siri UI. No more of that glowing, encircled, skeuomorphic microphone. It's replaced by a wave that also shows you if you are speaking loudly enough.
The new Siri UI. No more of that glowing, encircled, skeuomorphic microphone. It’s replaced by a wave that also shows you if you are speaking loudly enough.

Siri can now search in Wikipedia specifically, searches in Twitter, and displays web search results from Bing (not Google… The rivalry is strong with Apple) that actually stay in Siri instead of taking you to Safari (but clicking a result still brings up Safari).

You can also tell Siri how to pronounce a name that is hard to pronounce phonetically.

Its new male and female voices are available using US English, French and German, but Austrailian, British, and other English variants do not get the love.

Other Random Features

There are so many other new features in iOS 7 though, that I cannot possibly cover them all. A few of the other notable ones off the top of my head are the panaroma wallpapers, which can move according to how you move your phone. Dynamic wallpapers, basically the bokeh bubbles floating and responding to your movements, but in many different colours now. You can slide notification banners up to dismiss them too. And MFi (Made For iPhone) Game Controller support, which I have done a write up on. Also, there is now Airdrop between iPhone 5, 5c and 5s, (not the 4 series nor anything below that) and the iPad 3 and 4, which basically allows for file sharing wirelessly without email or SMS.

Well, that’s my review of iOS 7. While I tried my best to highlight all the features, there are just too many to fully cover, and there are still more new features (albeit minor) that I have not covered in this article. Do drop a comment down in the comments section below to share your opinion on the new design of iOS. I, for one, love it. Do you? Also, do like our Facebook page, and follow our Twitter to receive updates from us on the go, and share this story with your friends and family.

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