WWDC: iOS 7

The biggest announcement to come out of Apple’s WWDC keynote address was the complete overhaul of iOS. The redesign of iOS has been highly anticipated as many users believe iOS has not aged gracefully. I agree. When it was announced Jony Ive would be taking over the design of Apple’s software design in late 2012, expectations were high. Rumors began to circulate that iOS would have a more flat design and many tried to guess how that might look. One thing that was clear is that users wanted something different. On Monday, Apple showed a very different iOS. One that has divided the tech world.

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iOS 7 is all new aesthetically. The flat UI, new color palette, transparent design, and new icons create a completely different look. This new look has been the most polarizing aspect of iOS 7. Some hail iOS 7 as a bold new look while others feel it is too flat and lacks any character. Personally, I like some of the aspects of iOS 7 and believe that the polarization caused by iOS 7 will only help Apple attract attention. It is true that most of the changes in iOS 7 appear to be cosmetic, but there are a few new noteworthy features.

Control Center

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While this feature appears to be derived from Android, it is an important part iOS 7. Users asked for quick access to certain settings such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, brightness, and music controls. Control Center delivers this and more in a new pane you access by swiping up from anywhere in the OS. I cannot argue that it is an important feature, and I like the way it looks. The transparency of the background on this pane looks great with any wallpaper.

Notification Center

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As with OS X Mavericks, Notification Center received some updates. It is smarter in that it now provides a preview of your day. iCloud has also been introduced to sync notifications across devices. One thing that is missing, however, is quickly reply. In Notification Center on Mavericks, you can reply to an iMessage from the notification. This would be great for iOS, but it is not there. iOS 7 is currently in beta and this could be coming in a later update, but it is a glaring omission.

Multitasking

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iOS 7 has a completely new multitasking interface. Well, when I say new, I mean new to Apple. The new interface is similar to what we saw on Web OS and several jailbreak apps. Nevertheless, the update is welcomed. When a user accesses multitasking, they are brought to a entirely new section in which they can see previews of all their running apps. To close a program, simply swipe up on the image to dismiss the app. It is a simple idea that works well, but one that Apple “borrowed.”

Air Drop

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Air Drop has been brought to iOS. Like on the Mac, Air Drop will recognize all your friends that are nearby and allow you to share webpages, documents, and more. Most phones currently use NFC for this, but Apple opts for data networks or Wi Fi. No word on whether this will work over Bluetooth. I could see this being important for business customers, especially on the iPad.

iTunes Radio

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iTunes Radio has been widely rumored and is now official. Like Pandora, users can stream music and create stations based on artists or songs. The system will be supported by iAds or will be ad free for iTunes Match customers. It works well, but one of the biggest complaints at this point is that the music on iTunes Radio is censored. Pandora does not censor its music, and Apple better correct this before iOS 7 launches to the public.

Other Changes

There are some other minor changes worth noting. Safari has received an overhaul and users can now have unlimited tabs open at once. Siri has been updated with a new voice and some new commands, but nothing major. The Camera app has received some filters and the ability to shoot square images. The Photos app will now organize your photos by date and location. The App Store has a new “Near Me” option where you can find apps that are popular in your area. Find My iPhone has been improved to prevent thefts. An iPhone can only be activated using one iCloud account. This means if someone steals your phone, they will need your iCloud account to activate it after it is reset.

Overall, if it were not for the complete redesign, iOS 7 would be a pretty boring update. Apple was under a lot of pressure to refresh iOS, but have they delivered? Yes and no. The new interface is great looking, but it is still a work in progress. Features are likely to be added to the OS between now and its release date in the fall. And that is a good thing because iOS 7 needs something more than just a new coat of paint for it to keep up with the competition. The new iPhone will need to do something else to keep users and the tech world interested.

For now, iOS 7 is a step in the right direction. It gives Apple something to build on for the new few years. The next few months will be critical, however, as Apple refines iOS 7 and gets it ready for release this fall. Until then, be sure to check out the gallery below comparing the apps in iOS 6 (left) to the redesigned apps in iOS 7 (right). Also be sure to check out Apple iOS 7 video (above) and watch the full WWDC keynote here.

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