iOS7 is a sleek and sexy refresh of the nearly six-year-old mobile operating system. Though it’s not quite in its final form, the latest build shows a solid operating system that will push the platform into the next decade.
The seventh version of Apple’s iOS software was first seen at its WWDC conference last month. It solicited oohs and aahs from the blogosphere. On stage, Tim Cook promised that the new OS would be ready for the fall — presumably for a new line of devices — but didn’t give an exact release date.
For the lucky few with access to a developer’s account the release date for iOS7, albeit in beta form, was on June 10, just after it was announced on stage. The second beta was released on June 24, and the third beta was released earlier this week.
VR-Zone gone its hands on iOS7 earlier this week and we’ve been playing with it since. To put it bluntly: iOS7 is an impressive piece of software. It’s graphical refresh is certainly a welcome change from an interface that only changed slightly since its launch in 2007.
While the new iOS is strikingly different, visually, from its previous self, it’s also fundamentally the same. It sticks with the signature app-grid metaphor and customization aside from rearranging the position of apps, or putting different ones on the springboard is forbidden. Arguably this is quintessentially Apple; the we know better approach. To users used to live tiles, or Blackberry 10’s customizability, this can be something of a loss.
At the same time Apple’s approach does have its upsides: it’s clean and free of bloatware. Anyone who has booted up a Galaxy phone for the first time and have had to sift through all the seemingly useless bundled apps knows the annoyance of a phone full of things of dubious value.
Let’s take a look at what’s changed in iOS7:
The Control Center takes all the features you might need quickly and gives you access to them with an easy swipe. It’s even accessible from in front of the lock screen. With the new control panel you can access to airplane mode, flashlight, screen brightness, music controls and the camera (but you can’t go rummaging around the saved pictures).
Like the Control Center, the Notification Center, introduced recently into iOS, has been completely redesigned. Swipe from the top and you can have access to your calendar, tasks, stocks and weather forecast on the new today feature. It’s easy, convenient and it looks damn good.
iOS 7 has significantly redesigned multitasking in a way that some will call reminiscent of WebOS. A swipe of the finger to the side allows you to scroll through open apps; a swipe of the finger upwards and the app will close.
Apple has promised that iOS7 will “learn” your behaviour and be able to predict it to things schedule updates at convenient times, or auto-download offline reading material. We haven’t seen these things in action, either because we haven’t used iOS7 enough or they are coming in a later beta build.
The iOS7 camera app has gone through a pretty significant cosmetic overhaul. When you open the app the bottom slider has three capture modes for still photos: standard, a new square frame and panoramic. A button on the right brings up the Instagram-like filter mode, providing real time display of available filters.
This functionality, while really superficial, is a cool update to the OS’ camera app.
Siri, with a makeover and a new friend:
Apple’s voice-activated assistant, Siri, has gotten a makeover in iOS7 and also has a new friend: Bing.
Siri on iOS7 sounds more human and less (old-school) Cylon, and apparently has better recognition of French and German. Her interface has been redesigned to match the look of the rest of iOS7 and she generally seems faster and more responsive than her previous self.
Because of hostility between Apple and Google over Android, Siri will no longer Google things for you. Instead, she will Bing them for you which is a bit disappointing because Microsoft’s search engine still doesn’t have the finesse for accuracy that Google has.
Apple’s Safari web browser has gotten an overhaul. As it isn’t in final form so we haven’t run any benchmarks on it, but it’s fast, nimble, and it now has a search/navigation bar as well as a slick multi window interface.
Samung made waves with the introduction of its NFC and WiFi powered S-beam. An extension of Android beam, it makes sharing content between Samsung devices easy as pie.
With AirDrop, iOS finally has something similar. Sharing will be done via WiFi or Bluetooth and will require an iCloud account.
There isn’t much new functionality in the weather app, except for the fact that the new one is simply stunning. It looks damn good.
Overall, what Apple has shown us from iOS7 is exciting. The updated UI is gorgeous, and the new features are well thought out and intuitive. There’s a ton of small improvements that take some time to notice: improved animations when going between apps, fade in and fade outs, and semi-translucent backgrounds. These aren’t big and important features, but they add to the visual appeal of the OS The wait until it is officially released to the public will be a long one.