Apple announced iOS 7 on Monday, and with it, the company's plans to dominate the world. iOS 7 features a stunning new look and feel, great new features, and much enhanced usability. The OS will work with iPhone 4 and up, iPad 2 and up, and iPod touch (5th generation) and up, and it will be released later this year.
Apple highlighted some specific new features, including "Control Center, Notification Center, improved Multitasking, AirDrop, enhanced Photos, Safari, Siri and introduces iTunes Radio, a free Internet radio service based on the music you listen to on iTunes."
Craig Federighi Demos iOS 7 at WWDC Keynote
So Long Stitching
One of the most noticeable changes is the edge-to-edge design that maximizes screen usability. From Apple's preview page:
It has a new structure, applied across the whole system, that brings clarity to the entire experience. The interface is purposely unobtrusive. Conspicuous ornamentation has been stripped away. Unnecessary bars and buttons have been removed. And in taking away design elements that don’t add value, suddenly there’s greater focus on what matters most: your content.
This has been a long-rumored feature of the new iOS starting when Scot Forstall was ousted from the company and Jony Ive was put in charge of the look and feel of the mobile OS. Along with the late Steve Jobs, Mr. Forstall was the champion of skeuomorphism in iOS, and senior vice president Craig Federighi took many digs at Apple's old way of doing things throughout his presentation.
Notifications have been greatly enhanced, and they will now be available from the lock screen of your iOS device. Notifications provide local data, such as weather and time, access to Calendar data, access to missed notifications, and other breakdowns designed to make the information more useful to the user.
Notifications in iOS 7
Apple has borrowed a page from Android and the iOS jailbreak community by adding a "Control Center" to iOS 7. This is a set of some of the most-used controls for your iPhone or iPad, including access to Airplane Mode, network settings, Bluetooth, screenlock, music playback, AirDrop, AirPlay, volume, a camera, a calculator, your clock, and a flashlight.
Apple has had some of these controls buried in the app manager screen, but the new Control Center is accessible by swiping up from the bottom of your screen, an idea popularized on Android.
iOS 7 Control Center
Apple has added the ability for apps to run in the background, but the company did so in a way that prioritizes battery life. Apple made a new API available to developers to allow this ability. If they incorporate it, their apps will quietly perform tasks while running in the background, and users will be able to flip between running apps with a gesture.
In the screenshot below, Craig Federighi swipes between running apps, which are represented by a live screen from the app. The center screen is the highlighted app, while to either side are the previous and next apps. Below are the icons of all the running apps so you know what you're looking at.
Multitasking in iOS 7
We should note that this is not the ability to run two apps on the same screen. Apple has long taken the view that battery life is important, and apps running in the background can be a significant drain on power. Apple's new approach enhances usability for the user, but does so in a very controlled way that keeps battery life high on the list of priorities.
Apple has completely revamped Photos in iOS 7. First and foremost is organization. Apple is using metadata embedded in each photo, like time and place, and using that information to presort photos into usable groups. In the image below, you'll see two "Collections" based on this metadata.
iOS 7 Photos
The image below shows your photos organized by year for a holistic look. One of the very cool things Apple demonstrated was the ability to "tap and scrub" in this view. Tap to bring up a specific thumbnail, hold the tap, and then scrub in any direction to view other thumbnails. It looked very useful.
The Big Picture
Apple also added filters for your photographs, which could be bad news from some of the third party apps out there. That said, the filters Apple unveiled on Monday were not exhaustive, leaving room for the best apps to differentiate themselves.
iOS 7 Photos Filters
Apple has completely rethought mobile browsing with safari, including a unified search/URL field, a new tab view, shared links, and a reading list that allows you to read saved articles as one continuously scrolling page. In addition, the main control bar disappears when it scrolls off the screen, leaving more screen real estate for the actual content.
iOS 7 Safari - Browsing on the left, tabbed view on the right
Siri got a facelift, as well as a little work on her vocal chords. Apple changed the interface for Siri to show a soundwave pattern when she is listening to you. The soundwaves map to your voice, and this should make it more clear when she is in listening mode compared to iOS 6.
iOS 7 Siri
Apple also added hooks into Twitter for Siri, allowing you to ask what people are saying on the service. She can also look up things in Wikipedia, and will now performs searches in Bing. Apple didn't make it a big deal about that in the keynote, but did list it in the press release. It's unclear as of this writing if that's instead of Google, optional, or simply the default search option in Siri from now on.
iOS 7 Searches & Twitter
Siri will be able to change settings on your iOS device (yay!) and playback voicemail (yay again!). Apple did not, however, announce that Siri would be open to third party developers, something we were hoping for.
Siri has new male and female voices. In the demonstrations we heard in the keynote, they sound great. Real world testing awaits.
Additional new iOS 7 features include (from Apple's press release):
- a new Find My iPhone Activation Lock feature that requires your Apple ID and password before you can turn off Find My iPhone, erase data or re-activate a device after it’s been remotely erased;
- Night Mode in Maps that responds to ambient light when you use it in the dark;
- FaceTime audio for high quality calls over a data network;
- Notification sync, so when you dismiss a notification on one device it is dismissed on all of your devices;
- Phone, FaceTime and Messages blocking to prevent specific people from being able to contact you;
- Tencent Weibo support for users in China, a Chinese-English bilingual dictionary, and improved Chinese input including handwriting recognition for multiple Chinese characters;
- the ability for businesses to more efficiently deploy and manage iPhones and iPads;
- enhanced in-car integration, bringing an Apple designed experience into the car for the first time.
There are a ton of screenshots and information on Apple's iOS 7 preview page. Check it out, because this OS is super sexy.