Hands on with Apple's iOS 7

  • Mobile
  • June 11, 2013
  • Sim Ahmed
Hands on with Apple's iOS 7

One of the handy things about having an app in the Apple App Store is the iOS developer centre , which comes with early access to new builds of the operating system. After downloading and playing with the beta version of iOS 7 for iPhone I've come to the conclusion that Apple's made real strides to compete with Android, but has managed to get hit by the ugly stick on the way.

Most people consider Apple's design philosophy to be leading the pack. I've never been a fan of glass bubbles and brushed metal interfaces – which is why the move away from skeumorphic design (the end of digital leather calendars) is appealing. Not for any reason of great importance – I just like the things I use to look nice, is all.

The latest look for iOS is jarring. It's as if a unicorn barfed up on my phone after a night of eating Skittle burritos. The design feels unfinished and not in a charming artistic way. While this is a flat design similar to Windows Phone, Apple has included small visual cues such as the parallax effect background to to make the operating system feel anything but flat – these small elements are very attractive and help save an otherwise unsightly mess.

The most useful new feature I've found myself using constantly is the control panel, which swipes up from the bottom of the screen. As its name suggest, this menu controls the phone including wifi, screen rotation, music and brightness. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a toggle for turning 3G on and off like which would've been incredibly useful.

True multitasking is finally available with iOS 7. The 'previously used' apps menu (reached by double-tapping the Home button) now brings up a card flow-type display showing the last screen of the most recent apps you've used. Unfortunately only the stock Apple apps have the required software to make multitasking work, but by the time this software ships in Q3 I suspect all the major apps will have it too.

There are no longer limits to the number of apps that can fit in a folder. They go as deep and wide as your iTunes account allows it. And yes, you can finally hide away that unused Newsstand app in the junk folder. Hoorah!

Unsurprisingly for a beta the performance is still herky-jerky, hanging on some of the gorgeous (but unpredictable) new app animations. I haven't noticed a significant change in battery life.

Overall, I think if Apple can smooth out some of the performance issues by launch (which it will), and take another look at the design (which it might, but not likely) – it'll have another winner on its hands.

Original Story:

Bleary-eyed iOS developers, technology journalists and Apple fans across the country woke up this morning for their yearly virtual pilgrimage to WWDC, Apple's developer conference. Today Apple unveiled its latest mobile operating system, iOS 7, the biggest shake up to the OS since its introduction in 2007.

iOS 7 evolves not only in features but also design philosophy, doing away with a lot of the brush metal user interface that has so closely defined the software for the past seven years. Apple also closes the gap with its competitors when it comes to functionality such as multitasking and background updates.

This reporter is currently staring at a blank maintenance page on the Apple Developer website, trying to download the beta using a developer account. UPDATE: The Dev Center is working now and the beta is being installed as we speak.

The update will be available for the public in Q3 of this year, supporting iPhone 4 and later, fifth generation iPod Touch and iPad 2 and beyond, including the Mini.

Design

Goodbye skeumorphism and hello flat design. Apple joins the design party that's been pioneered by Microsoft with its Windows Phone and Window 8 products and does away with much of the linen and brush metal UI that litters the OS currently.

Apple says the minimalist style makes things appear larger on screens.

Multitasking

Perhaps the most exciting feature in terms of actual functionality is the improved multitasking. Limited multitasking exists already, but only available to stock Apple apps. It's now been extended to support for all apps.

Apple says it's implemented a system which doesn't dramatically affect battery life, a byproduct of having processes running in the background. This includes using push notifications to trigger app updates in the background and updating others when there's strong wifi coverage.

iTunes Radio

Possibly the biggest announcement made today is Apple's step into the streaming music market with iTunes Radio.

The service is a Spotify competitor, giving users on demand music which is either free with ads or ad-free with an iTunes Match subscription. It will only be available in the US to start.

Safari

Apple's mobile browser gets the fullscreen treatment in iOS 7, doing away with the navigation bar at the bottom when it's not in use and opting for gesture-based navigation.

The company is finally doing away with the frustrating separate search bar also.

Camera and gallery

The camera also gets a user interface refresh matching the flat design look of the rest of the OS. New features include filters and video sharing through iCloud.

App Store

Apart from a make over, the App Store gets new tools to help users find relevant apps – including geolocation-based app charts. For instance, the most popular app in the museum you're visiting.

For those of us living on the wild side with 20+ unupdated apps, Apple's introducing automatic app uploads to take place in the background.

What do you think of the iOS 7 announcement so far?

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