Apple’s iOS 7 is almost here, and on September 18 you’ll have an almost entirely new OS to maneuver. But how well does the new design perform? Is it everything you hoped for and more? Read on.
The redesigned aesthetic of iOS 7 takes a cue from Windows and employs a flat design.
This aesthetic removes superfluous elements that distract, such as the previous iteration’s skeumorphic gradients, shadows and 3D effects. What we have now are solid colors, plenty of white space, and bright colors that provide a clean and modern look.
Apple is essentially going for simplicity with iOS 7, which it describes as “simplicity through complexity.” Such simplicity, Apple claims, allows users to instinctively pick the phone up and instantly know what to do.
Is it true? Yes and No.
On the one hand, the redesign features a Control Center, accessed from the lock screen and within apps.
Accessing the control center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen reveals a bevy of features – airplane mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, Lock Orientation – all previously hindered by cumbersome maneuvers to the home screen and settings.
Built-in UI support for flashlight, as well as quick access to your clock, calculator, and camera make the Control Center a place of convenience.
Then there’s the notification center, which provides the date, weather forecast, daily summary of your tasks, and a summarization of how your schedule is looking the next day.
It’s all very simplistic indeed.
Gone is need to swipe through multiple screens on your home screen to get to the Spotlight Search. Now you simply swipe down anywhere on the screen to bring down the search bar. What’s more, you can fit a seemingly endless amount of apps into groups, which allowed me to clean up my home screen from three tabs to one.
On the other hand, the redesign is so much that current iOS users will need to reorient themselves with it, as the changes are jarring.
There’s also a weird/cool effect of your background shifting in space as you move, which gives the illusion of your apps floating in a three-dimensional space.
It doesn’t actually do anything, which kind of goes against the point of the new flat design, but again, it’s cool to look at. That is, unless its taking place outside of the home screen, which can make it look buggy when in the context of an app.
Everyone loves to talk to Siri, if not just for the novelty. With iOS 7, Siri is revamped to work with Twitter, allowing you to search by trends, hashtags, and general musings about people and keywords.
It also integrates deeper into the web, using Wikipedia as a source and displaying pictures and videos in results. What’s more, Siri sports a redesigned look and adds new voices and languages.
Overall, it’s a more seamless experience that provides less hassles and more helpful feedback, but its still far from perfect. On my 4S, connected to a WiFi network, Siri failed multiple times, and other times when it didn’t, it still failed to understand me. That said, I can’t discount how it performs on an iPhone 5S or 5C.
One of my favorite WebOS features was its card system, which allowed users to multitask by opening multiple “cards” and flicking them upward to close them.
Apple must’ve like it too, because its new multitasking is exactly like that and I’m not complaining. I’ve always wanted a way to remove apps previously used from the timeline, and now you can do that with the flick of a finger.
Safari might take the biggest getting used to, as its redesign will throw people off who are all but too familiar with Safari’s old design.
Gone is the need to switch between full screen and normal view, as Safari simply orients to a completely full screen view (without those pesky transparent markers) as you scroll down (in both portrait and landscape view).
Scrolling up reveals the URL bar and the rest of the HUD. Tabs have changed, providing an overhead index card view displaying the content of your tabs. There’s also an option in the lower left corner to switch to private viewing, which was previously done from the settings menu.
The dictionary in Safari is also improved, utilizing a “manage” button that reveals several new dictionaries to pull definitions from, including the Oxford Dictionary of English and several languages.
Going even deeper into its Twitter integration, bookmarks and reading list are accompanied by a tab devoted to links shared from your Twitter feed.
Clicking on one of these brings you into a new tab, which features the next shared link at the bottom of the page with the words “Up Next” and the name of the user who tweeted or re-tweeted it.
What’s more, your reading list is brought to life with the added aesthetic of images displayed next to each entry.
iOS 7 reinvigorates Mailboxes by adding simple touches, such as the ability to edit the order of your accounts, as well as adding tabs for unread messages, CC’d messages, attachments, and more.
The simplistic flat design of iOS 7 is really on display here, giving your mailbox a clean, minimalistic look without sacrificing content, and in fact adding more.
Camera and Photos
The camera app is easy to access now, thanks to the Control Center. Once in, you’ll notice a completely retooled app, featuring Instagram-like filters, and a bottom toolbar for switching between video, photo, square, and panoramic.
Even the “snap” of the camera is redesigned, featuring a speedy shutter that doesn’t wait for the camera to focus.
Other touches such as the ability to tap HDR to switch it off and on make this the best camera update yet on the iOS. That said, the camera crashed several times, especially when choosing panoramic mode or shooting with a filter on.
With Photos, the new additions not only change the aesthetic, but streamline the experience as well. What we now have are photos organized by years, collections, and moments.
Years is self-explanatory, while collections breaks it down into location specific photos, and moments features bursts of photos taken close together. Other nice touches, like the Activity tab, portray your photos in an album-like collage of photos.
Let’s face it, Game Center was hideous before – iOS 7 makes it beautiful.
Your home menu is organized by Games, Turns, Challenges, Friends and Requests. Turns feature turn-based game activity, while Challenges allow you to receive challenges from friends to beat their scores or equal their achievements.
With a 64-bit processor hiding somewhere in its framework, and support for gaming controllers, the revamped Game Center is simply setting the table before the appetizers come out, let alone the main course.
iOS 7 takes its cues from some of the better design elements of other operating systems, but it does so with enough style to make them its own.
While iOS 7 update the OS more than enough to make users of old iPhones feel as though they are handling a brand new device, it’ll take an iPhone 5S or 5C to truly appreciate iOS 7. Using it on a 4S felt snappy on the home screen, but lagged more than usual when using apps like Maps or even Safari.
The bottomline, iOS 7 is a great, if not essential, introduction for the iPhone 5S and 5C, and it’s undoubtedly the best mobile OS on the market today.
Johnny is a freelance writer whose work features on PopMatters, Critical Distance, Nightmare Mode, Writer's Weekly, GlobalPost and much, much more. Um, If his mom is reading this, he says he applied at that "one place" but they're currently not hiring. Now he's telling me to tell her that he'll, uh, be back with the car by six...