As with most others, I was getting bored of iOS and began to found myself jealous of my friends who used Android devices. With Google Now, more customization, and a better looking user interface, Android had not only caught up to iOS, but surpassed the Apple-only operating system. Now, iOS 7 takes the best of Android — and Windows Phone — and makes a unique operating system, one that looks simple on the outside but is intricate on the inside.
iOS 7 is definitely a complete overhaul, and you can tell from the lock screen. Everything’s changed, but for the better. Safari’s update is gorgeous, and the omnibar and full-screen mode are somewhat basic features, but it’s good that Apple finally updated Safari to include those features. Safari can now also have more than eight tabs open at the same time, and the interface to open/close tabs in Safari has been altered as well. Reminders also received an update, and resembles Messages; both apps are a lot cleaner and more basic. Notification Center also received an update and got a “today” tab, where it summarizes your tasks and important dates for the day. It also shows how your stocks are doing, the day’s weather, and a glimpse into tomorrow as well.
Control Center is definitely the biggest new feature to iOS 7. Just by simply swiping up on your screen, you can turn on and off a multitude of services, like Airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Do Not Disturb. You can change your screens brightness or the systems volume, easily connect to other iOS devices using AirPlay, or access a flashlight, timer, calculator, and camera. It’s something that is extremely basic, it is incredibly useful for quickly and efficiently turning off some key features that can deplete your battery life.
Calendar, which many felt was severely outdated and one of the biggest complaints among iOS 6 users, got a huge update. Now its not only easy-to-use, but a pleasure to use. As you can see from the screenshot, it looks completely different and almost resembles something Google would make. Calendar’s been simplified and now the dates are simply circles on the top of the screen. It used to be such a chore to use Calendar that I just didn’t use it, but now, I can see myself using the stock Calendar app a lot more.
iTunes Radio, Apple’s new streaming radio service, is a better buy than competitors like Pandora and Spotify according to Business Insider, but I’m not a huge fan of streaming radio service. The issue is that iTunes Radio is simply a radio service; why use it when you can use Pandora (if you already use Pandora)? I can see the appeal of buying iTunes Radio over Pandora if you’re new to the streaming music service fad, but if you’re going to subscribe to one of the big three streaming music services, why not Spotify? It not only has a radio, but lets you save playlists offline, play any song you want at any time, and more. A radio streaming service just seems limiting compared to Spotify’s streaming music service.
Multitasking got a huge update too. Instead of switching between apps by double tapping the home button and a small row of active App icons popping up, iOS 7 uses live tiles (like Microsoft in Windows 8) and preview screens of the apps you have open. To close an app, just swipe up. It’s a drastic change from what multitasking was originally; I can definitely see some iOS users getting a little confused when they upgrade their phones to iOS 7, but it’s easy enough to figure out.
Siri and Maps Still Have Issues
Siri got slightly better too, but it’s no where near as useful as Google Now. Siri can now answer more questions and works with Bing (note: Not Google. Clearly, Apple is still trying to get away from their main competitor), Wikipedia, and Twitter to provide more information for users. In a Google Now-esque move, Siri now uses audio waves to show when the program is listening. Google Now uses the more efficient text-to-speech method, so you can see what Google Now is interpreting as you’re speaking. So, while Siri definitely got better, it still can’t compare to the omnipresent Google Now (unless there are more updates to Siri in the future that aren’t in this build).
We should also note that Maps didn’t get much better either. Last night, when I was sitting in my apartment, Apple Maps couldn’t even get my location right (they said I was about a block away). Yes, a block isn’t a big deal, but you would think Apple would focus its Maps app since the debacle in iOS 6. But, the same problems still exist — weird, apocalyptic, buildings that are half collapsed, etc. However, to be fair, I don’t think Apple included the Maps update into the first iOS 7 build. Maps wasn’t included in the iOS 7 release notes, only the MapKit was. I’m sure they’re going to wait until later versions to release it, since they want to make sure that Apple Maps is virtually perfect.
Interestingly, the iOS 7 beta 1 operating system doesn’t have too many glitches. For me, it’s only crashed my phone once and rebooted an app only a handful of times. Similarly, it saved all of my photos, videos, texts, emails, phone calls, and apps. It seems like a relatively stable release from Apple, even though it’s only the first iOS 7 version available to the masses.
iOS 7 is Very Flat
But, it does seem that Apple “borrowed” a few pages from its competitors. Apple’s stock Mail program stole the “slide to sort” feature Mailbox has; to easily archive an email, just swipe left and click archive. Similarly, the new Weather app looks a lot like Yahoo Weather, which received a huge update a few months ago to much praise from critics for its beauty and functionality. The new icons definitely remind users of the Windows Phone — before iOS 7 was announced, there were already rumblings that iOS 7 could resemble Microsoft’s Windows mobile UI.
The “flatness” of iOS 7 certainly comes from Microsoft. But what do I mean when I say iOS 7 is “flat?” It’s hard to explain, so here’s what TechRadar says:
“Flat,” 9to5Mac pointed out, could be a two-fold description, one that points to a simplicity of design that does away with the icons-imitating-life markings of skeumorphism (the yellow notepad of iOS Notes, the leather-bound trim in the Calendar app) as well as a more streamlined interface flowing through the entire system.
Flatness is the opposite of skeumorphism, where technology resembles real-life products, like notebooks with spiral binding or a leather-bound calendar. The Jony Ive era has offiically started in Apple; with iOS 7 ditching skeumorphism, Apple is leaving the Steve Jobs-Scott Forstall era behind — both of whom were champions of skeumophism. But, as competitors continue to innovate their own mobile operating systems, adding more and more incredible changes that iOS didn’t have, Apple knew that they needed to come up with something innovative. Remember, this is just a beta version — and the first beta version at that — but Apple definitely has a hit on their hands with iOS 7.
iOS 7 will be available for the public “sometime in the Fall,” according to Apple.
New user interface, update Apps like Safari and Calendar, Control Center
Copying competitors like Google and Microsoft, Siri still isn’t that good, iOS 7 has a slight learning curve
Important to note: You need to be a developer licensed with Apple to download iOS 7 beta. It costs $100 a year. Betas are usually pretty unstable. Unless you’re a hardcore Apple fan, it may make sense for you to wait. If you don’t want to wait or pay, you can find some leaked versions online on your favorite torrent sharing site, but proceed carefully: Downloading copies of iOS 7 may be considered illegal and could brick your phone. Do so at your own risk.
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