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iOS 7 unveiled, includes new UI and features – all you need to know

Apple unveiled iOS 7 at WWDC 2013, a completely overhauled mobile OS - we take a look at the main features of the new iOS version. Read on for more details!
By
June 10, 2013
iOS 7
iOS 7

Apple unveiled a variety of new products during its WWDC 2013 keynote, including iOS 7, the next-gen operating system for its mobile devices including the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

In what follows, we’re going to show you all you need to know about what’s new in iOS 7 – after all, when the main Android rivals get updated, we simply have to check them out.

From the start, we’re going to tell you that the iOS 7 rumors were right when they said the new OS will come with a “flat,” minimal interface, and the leaks were pretty accurate as well earlier this week when various reports detailed some of the upcoming changes.

iOS 7 has been completely redesigned under the leadership of Jony Ive, dumping Scott Forstall’s skeuomorphic effects – and Apple wasn’t at all trying to hide the appreciation of this new design directions during the event, mocking its own design skeuomorphic design choices from the past when it comes to apps.

Design

If you thought that iOS 6 looked too similar to iOS 5 and to, well, all its predecessors, then you’ll certainly appreciate the new design language – no matter what your stance towards iOS is.

iOS 7 Design

We’re looking at a lot of changes here, although the company has not removed the familiarity of the OS. If you know your way around iOS, you’ll still be able to get by in iOS 7 even though there’s a new paint job that goes easy on the eyes.

There’s a new lock screen in town that offers access to the camera, to notifications and a quick settings panel called Control Center. There’s a live wallpaper option that lets users set up their own wallpapers. There are new, simpler, app icon designs, new visual effects (with lots of translucency) and fonts.

Translucent effects in particular give the user a sense of context. The keyboard layer that comes on top of the browser, email or message is transparent so you can still see sort of where you are inside the OS, and that kind of effect applies to other UI layers that may appear be seen at one point or another during regular usage.

iOS 7 Design

Folders support more apps and there’s even a new back-button-like action has been included in iOS 7, which will be available everywhere inside the OS – a back gesture that lets you move to the previous page with a simple thumb swipe from the left edge of the screen.

All the apps you expect to see in there are still available, and will work in a similar manner, but, simply put, the UI has been completely overhauled so it all feels like a new OS.

iOS 7 Design

And in certain moments you’ll think it feels like Android, or like Windows Phone, or like webOS, but it’s certainly different than the default iOS 6 look.

Features

In addition to the new design language, as spoken by Ive and his team of designers, iOS 7 brings on new features, so let’s look at the most important ones, as shown on stage during the keynote.

Lock screen

The Lock screen, just like the Home screen, is aware of hand movements, thus giving the impression of a live 3D wallpaper. In particular, the lock screen with its bubbles is similar to a certain Android lock screen that you’ll surely remember.

Notification Center

Available “for the first time ever” in lock screen mode, Notification Center offers access to the most recent notifications, and features a tabbed interface that gives you access to all notifications, missed notifications and a to a screen that sums up what’s happening today.

iOS 7 Notification Center

In order to activate it, you just have to swipe down, no matter where you are in the OS.

Apple also mentioned a Notification Sync feature that will be available in iOS 7, which will prevent users from dealing with the same notifications on other devices, after handling them on another device.

Control Center

iOS 7 Control Center

In addition to the Notification Center, iOS 7 will offer access to a new “center” called Control Center. It’s a quick settings panel that lets you access several settings from anywhere on the phone. Swipe up in any app and you’ll get the menu below, in which you’ll be able to turn on/off Airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Do Not Distrub and modify the screen orientation, adjust brightness and volume, control music playback, use AirDrop and AirPlay and enable the flashlight, timer, calculator and camera.

Multitasking

Multitasking is an iOS 7 feature that’s completely changed compare to previous OS iterations. We’re not only talking about the appearance, which is somewhat webOS-like, but also the functionality.

iOS 7 Multitasking

iOS 7 will know what apps you use most and the OS will have those apps “ready” to offer updated content appropriately. The OS will also analyze the status of the device’s connectivity options to update content and apps in the background while the user is simply turning on the device for a particular purpose. Notifications would also trigger updates for an app – like going to that particular app after receiving a notification – according to the presentation.

The new multitasking design will show a preview screen of each of the apps opened, not only the icon as the previous iOS versions do (check out the image above).

Safari

Described as the “most popular mobile browser in the world,” Safari has also been updated in iOS 7. The browser comes with a unified smart search field that’s hidden until activated on top of the page, a new tab view that’s not limited to just eight open tabs, support for shared and reading lists but also support for iCloud Keychain and a password generator, features that are also part of the OS X Mavericks desktop update that was announced at WWDC 2013 as well.

iOS 7 Safari

With iCloud Keychain, users will be able to save login details in Safari and sync them between various OS X and iOS devices that use the same iCloud account. The service comes with 256-bit encryption, credit card support, and a password generator that can create “unique, hard-to-guess passwords.”

AirDrop

With AirDrop, iOS device users can share photos, videos, documents, contacts, “and anything else from any app” from the Share button. As long the persons you want to share stuff with are in reach (Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth), you can do that from inside the app that supports this sharing features.

iOS 7 AirDrop

Users can share the same thing with multiple people “you just tap, tap, tap, no need to wonder around the room bumping your phone with others [Craig Federighi said mimicking Samsung’s NFC-based S Beam sharing feature].” In fact, there is no NFC support in iOS 7, or at least it hasn’t been mentioned yet.

While the feature works system-wide and file transfers are encrypted, not all iOS devices will actually be able to use it.

Camera and Photos

The Camera app has also been updated, with the new UI allowing users to seamlessly move between video mode, to photo mode, to cropped camera, to panoramic camera. Instagram-like live photo filters are available when taking a picture.

iOS 7 Camera

The Photos app is even more interesting, as it can now automatically arrange pictures in their own corresponding photo album, without the need of the user’s interventions.

iOS knows when a certain photo was taken, and where the user was, and based on those characteristics it’ll be able to categorize pictures accordingly.

The Photo app categorizes photos by Collections, Moments and Years. Years hold all the pictures in a year, which are in their turn divided into Collections, which are made of Moments.

iOS 7 Photos

iCloud Photo Sharing is also present, and users can create photo streams and respond to other’s shared photos and videos with comments and/or with photo and video shares of their own.

Siri and iOS in the Car

Siri has also been updated in iOS 7, getting a new interface and better female and male voices – support for other languages in addition to English, including French and German, will be available at start.

iOS 7 Siri

In addition to answering various queries, and displaying them on the screen, Siri is getting new powers, and users will be able to issue new commands like “play last voicemail,” “increase brightness,” or “turn on Bluetooth.

Siri will feature Bing and Wikipedia support and will be able to read tweets from the people the user is following.

iOS in the Car is a new iOS 7 feature that will help users control their iOS devices while driving, via an in-dash system. Various manufacturers will start including iOS in the Car support in their 2014 models in order to let users perform various actions while driving their cars including commute summary,
Siri support for calls and messages, iTunes Radio and navigation with Apple Maps.

iOS 7 - iOS in the Car

App Store

The App Store has also bee updated to offer content for a specific age group – particular useful for parents – but also to offer “Apps Near Me,” which will show popular apps based on the user’s location.

iOS 7 App Store

More interestingly, the App Store will update apps automatically, without the user having to actually perform the tasks.

iTunes Radio

As previously rumored, Apple has introduced its own music streaming service in iOS 7. Called iTunes Radio, the service will be available for free with ads, or free of charge without ads to those people that already pay for the yearly iTunes Match subscription.

The service will be available in the U.S. at first, but it will roll out to other markets after that. The service will be available to iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, PC and Apple TV.

iOS 7 iTunes Radio

iTunes Radio will let user easily discover music from the music app. Users will be able to listen to custom-made radio channels created by Apple, or by others, and customize their own listening experience. The service will be similar to what Spotify will have to offer, and it’s clearly a rival to Google’s own Play Music All Access music streaming service which was introduced only a few weeks ago at Google I/O.

Activation lock

iOS 7 Activation Lock

Activation lock is an interesting security feature of the Find My iPhone app that will render stolen iOS devices useless when stolen. Even after a wipe performed by thieves, an iPhone won’t be activated without a proper set of credentials (iCloud login).

A few days ago we learned that various companies have been summoned to a meeting in New York to discuss way of preventing smartphone theft. Apple and Google are two of the companies invited to attend, and it looks like Apple already have a solution in place for trying to prevent thefts.

Apple Maps

Demoed during the OS X Mavericks introduction, the new Apple Maps will let users send Apple Maps turn-by-turn directions from OS X devices to iOS devices. The OS X app also offers local search support, reviews and photos of the locations the user is searching for.

The OS X Apple Maps app also integrates with the OS X Calendar app – and presumably with the iOS Calendar app – to include travel time for various Apple Maps entries in Calendar.

Other features

In addition to the iOS 7 features mentioned above, Apple has demoed other features during the event like the newly redesigned Weather app that offers visual effects matching the actual weather, the new Calendar app that’s similar to the OS X Mavericks app, the new Mail app that has new gestures support similar to some of the ones available in iOS email app Mailbox, support for Weibo, FaceTime audio calls, blocking of unwanted calls, FaceTime and messages, and lots of other features that will be discovered once iOS 7 is launched.

Release date and compatibility

Without specifically mentioning a launch date for its new mobile OS, Apple said that iOS 7 will arrive this fall, presumably with new mobile hardware in tow, including at least a new iPhone and iPad. Rumors abound about the number and kind of new iOS devices at this time, but nothing is confirmed.

In addition to the next-gen iPhone, iPad and iPod models, iOS 7 will be compatible with the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch fifth-generation, iPad 2, iPad with Retina display and iPad mini.

iOS 7 Compatibility

Not all iOS 7 features will be available on all these devices, with some of them restricted to certain products. Such features include Panorama picture support, camera filters, AirDrop and Siri.

Developers will have access to iOS 7 betas for the iPhone and iPod touch starting today.

Wrap up

The new iOS 7 is a complete OS redesign that feels like a completely new mobile OS, yet one that has familiar functionality. Like its predecessors, it will surely be popular with some buyers, and could be even more appealing to those people that criticized the latest iOS generations, considering that this is the first major redesign of the iOS UI.

Some of you will say that some of those features demoed in iOS 7 are already available in Android including lock screen notifications, quick toggles, multitasking, automatic app updates and the smarter features behind the Apple Maps. Some of you will say that the new multitasking interface looks WebOS-y, while the color palette chosen for iOS 7 is somewhat similar to some of the colors used in Windows Phone. Some of you will point out that certain design and functionality choices are similar to certain apps including Instagram, Mailbox and Clear.

But it’s too early to throw any stones – after all, the bickering about who’s copying who, who was first with what feature will never stop, and the patent-based battles will still march on.

We’re going to thoroughly compare the final iOS 7 version to Google’s upcoming next major Android update later this year when they’re both available. In fact, you can already enjoy one such comparison between Android 4.2 and iOS 6.1, the Google’s and Apple’s current OS versions.

That said, we’re certainly interested to see how Google will fight iOS 7 in the coming months, as the company is expected to release an Android update in the very near future – Android 4.3 – and a major one later this fall.

What do you think of Apple’s new mobile OS?