If you’ve been eyeing Apple’s creaking mobile operating system askance and thinking that the venerable old workhorse needs a total overhaul, you’re in luck.
Cupertino’s resident design guru Jony Ive has taken the wraps off a totally redesigned vision for iOS, calling it “unintrusive and deferential.” Tim Cook describes it as “the biggest change to iOS since iPhone.” Here’s what’s new.
New icons and fonts
As expected, the icons have taken on a cleaner appearance, swapping out textured designs and drop shadows for a translucence that reacts to your movements to create the illusion of depth and three-dimensionality. The fonts too have been rejigged, with finer, larger lettering that’s reminiscent of a lighter-footed Windows 7.
Control Centre and true multitasking
Apple’s taken Android’s pull-down settings shortcuts for network and screen controls and reinvented it… by moving it to the bottom of the screen. It does look pretty nifty, but it’s definitely “borrowed”. iOS 7 also hands a freer rein to third-party devs, with greater access to Apple’s core functionality and data. It might take them a while to catch up to some of Apple’s own reworked apps – Safari’s got a gorgeous new Rolodex tab browser, while Weather has had a serious graphical injection. Even Calendar is starting to look hot. And everything previews in full screen when you’re flipping through your open apps.
Poor old Instagram – one minute everyone’s using you on their iPhones, the next Apple introduces its new iOS 7 camera app and the future looks less sepia toned. Yup, iOS 7 brings filtering and the ability to group your pictures automagically into collections based on date and your location at the time. Sharing to the cloud is a cinch, naturally.
Other benefits include a neatly simplified new interface that allows you to simply flick between camera modes and video capture.
Apple’s given its virtual assistant a lick of paint, plus you can now choose male or female voices. It’s also become smarter, with the ability to adjust your settings, and there’s integration with Wikipedia (so long, Wolfram) and Twitter, among others. That’s all part of a drive (sorry) to integrate Siri into your new car from next year. A dozen or so companies have signed up for Apple’s car kit – we’re expecting more to follow.
Boom! That’s what Steve Jobs would have said. The App Store now auto downloads updates, meaning you can kiss goodbye to those annoying notifications. It’s also had a bit of a nip and tuck and Apple’s promising to make it easier than ever to discover the apps you’re looking for. It will, for instance, suggest apps relevant to your current location.
Apple’s added file-sharing to iOS in the form of AirDrop – a peer-to-peer system that’s very reminiscent of NFC sharing on Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 – albeit without the NFC. You tell the world that you're discoverable, or can be discovered only to people in your contacts list, and then anything you want to share, you just punt out there.
Built into the overhauled Music app is iTunes Radio (yes, we know we’ve been calling it iRadio – sorry). You can browse by currently popular tunes on social media or by mood, feel or genre. There are stations to discover or you can set up your own station, tweaking your playlist on the fly to make sure it never plays Justin Bieber. Oh, and it’ll work with your Apple TV, too.
Sadly, right now iTunes Radio is US-only, but we'll bring you our thoughts as soon as we get a proper go.
When’s it ready, and what iThings will get it?
iOS 7 is available to devs now, but us ordinary mortals will have to wait until 18th September to get our hands on Apple’s new juice.
It'll work on iPhone 4 or newer, iPad 2 or newer, iPad mini and iPod Touch 5th-gen or newer.
That's seven things. Is there anything else I should know?
Indeed there is. iOS 7 will be compatible with proper gamepads with analogue controls, which could give rise to some very interesting new iOS games (and further strengthen Apple as a gaming force to be reckoned with). We have a full story on Apple's big gaming future here.
Then there's the mysterious iBeacons tech, which could provide iOS 7 with anything from a means of making contactless payments to turning iPhones into the best damn museum tour guides the world has ever seen. Click here for more details on iBeacons.