Today (Wednesday, September 18, 2013) is a big day for Apple fans: the software that powers the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch is getting its major yearly update. That’s right: today is release day for iOS 7.
iOS 7 represents the first truly significant design change to iOS since the iPhone was first announced back in 2007. iOS now has an intense focus on typography, color, and depth. I’ve been running it on my two-year-old phone for a week now and it really does make it feel like a new device.
But while I think it’s a great update, there are some changes that may throw a more casual user for a loop. The web is full of in-depth previews and reviews of the differences and new features of iOS 7 and I don’t want to re-tread that same old ground. Instead, I want to take a look at how iOS 7 might look to the most casual of users who might be taken aback by some of the more sweeping changes.
After your device reboots, you will be greeted by the new lock screen. The new lock-screen is a showcase for the new design sensibilities in iOS 7: its edge-to-edge wallpaper, complete lack of OS-chrome, and emphasis on typography are all themes that you will now find throughout the new operating system.
The old “slide to unlock” slider is gone now. Instead, you can slide anywhere on the screen to move the entire screen out of the way and unlock your device. It’s elegant and natural and it feels like the way it should have worked from the beginning.
There are a few things to call out on the lock screen. At the top and bottom of the screen are two rectangular indicators. On the right-hand bottom corner, there’s a little camera icon.
These are there to let you know that you can slide in from the top or the bottom of the screen to some special features. If you put your finger on top of your device above the screen (say, on the earpiece) and swipe down, you’ll access the Notification Center. If you put your finger at the bottom of your device below the screen (say, on the home button) and swipe up, you’ll access the new Control Center. And if you swipe up on the camera icon, you’ll be granted quick access to the camera app without ever needing to unlock your device (or entering a passcode).
The Notification Center is an update to an existing feature. Now, there are three tabs at the top: “Today”, “All”, and “Missed”.
The Today screen becomes more useful the more information you put into your device. It can give you a short weather forecast along with the current conditions. It can give you an at-a-glimpse view of your financial holdings. If you use your device’s calendar, it can tell you when and where your next appointment is and give you a quick snapshot of your calendar. It can even give you a preview of what your schedule looks like tomorrow.
The “All” tab is roughly the same as the entire Notification Center in iOS 6. It will list any notifications that apps have given. Tapping a notification will open the appropriate app and tapping the x icon will remove those notifications from the list.
Dragging up from the bottom of the screen will instead open an entirely new feature: Control Center. Control Center is a fantastic reason to upgrade. With just a swipe, you can control your device’s radios (by turning on or off WiFi or Bluetooth — or enabling/disabling Airplane Mode). You can activate Do Not Disturb to keep your device from intruding in your life and you can activate the portrait lock to keep your device from rotating.
There’s now a slider to easily adjust your screen’s brightness and you have full access to music playback controls. There’s even a feature to turn on your devices camera flash so you can use it as a flashlight.
Both Control Center and Notification Center are accessible from anywhere in the system. Even if you’re in an app, you can just swipe up or down and they’ll be there.
Once you unlock your device, you’ll see the new Home Screen.
The biggest change to the home screen is probably the new icons for the built-in apps. Instead of showing those changes here, I’ll link to this Mashable post which does a really good job of showing the new vs. the old. Overall, I think the new icons are recognizable updates of their now-classic ancestors.
Apple’s built-in apps have also been redesigned to match the new look of their OS. In addition, you can expect 3rd party app developers to work to update their own apps to avoid looking dated.
I won’t run down the full list of changes: other sites have done that far more thoroughly than seems warranted here. Instead, I want to look at a few of the highlights that might be most likely to throw someone for a loop.
The Calendar app is a showcase for some of the dynamic animations that Apple wants to encourage throughout the system. It’s a clean design that’s nice to use.
The biggest negative is that Apple has kind of “hidden” the extremely handy “list view”. This view is now found along with the search interface.
Once there, you can easily see your agenda in a handy list view. (Note: Additional blurring added by me)
Safari, the web browser, has fully embraced the chromeless look. When you first load a page, it feels a lot like the iOS 6 version.
But, as you scroll down the page, the toolbar at the bottom of the screen disappears and the address bar display shrinks.
By removing its interface elements, Safari really lets the web page’s content shine. But, some of those buttons (like “back”) are really useful. To summon them back, you just need to tap on the now-miniaturized address bar.
The Photos app has been given a new focus on “moments”. It starts by organizing your photos by year and then guesses which photos belong together based on the time and location they were taken.
I find this view to be completely useless. Fortunately, Apple left an escape hatch. The “Albums” button in the bottom right hand corner takes you to a familiar album list. From there, you can access your camera roll just like always.
The Camera app has become a bit more functional. The major new feature is some built-in effects. These can let you spice up your pictures without needing a separate app.
iOS 7 also offers some deeper features that can help you get the most out of your device.
Home Screen folders now have a new look (and a fantastic new animation) and, most importantly, support paging.
If you double-press the home button on your device, you’ll be presented with the snazzy new multitasking interface.
This lets you easily scroll through your apps (in the order that you’ve most recently used them) and shows a gorgeous visual of just what you were doing the last time you were in that app.
If you need to close an app for some reason, you can just throw the screenshot up towards the top of the screen. This gesture will be particularly familiar if you ever used a Palm Pre.
The just scratches the surface of all of the changes between iOS 6 and 7. I think it’s an incredibly worthwhile update and would encourage everyone to upgrade. But it’s possible I haven’t touched on the best feature yet.