Apple iOS 7 operating system

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Soon millions of iPhone users around the world will be offered a new way of using their device – in Q3 or Q4 this year if reports are to be believed. Here’s a sneak peek at Apple’s new operating system

Apple has finally realised that the dull and uninspiring interface of iOS 6 was in desperate need of an invigorating update.

With iOS chief Scott Forstall being booted out of the door following the Maps disaster, Apple’s master of design Jony Ive came in and decided to completely redesign iOS from the ground up, which included steamrolling the whole interface into a much flatter design.

Gone are the real-world textures of a notepad or calendar, instead we have a more monochromatic and translucent design.

We have taken an extended look at what’s new in iOS 7 and believe us when we say that iOS 7 is a brand new start for Apple’s mobile operating system.

Lock screen

From the get-go, you’ll not even recognise that you’re using iOS. The lock screen has been completely redesigned; there is no slide to unlock bar or even a separated clock.

Instead you’ll get your wallpaper to take up the whole of the screen.

Apple says that its new lock screen will take on the personality of your wallpaper. And while we don’t exactly know what that entails, the new display does have some tricks up its sleeve.

If you set a panoramic image as your lock screen wallpaper, then you’ll find that the image will move as you tilt your phone.

This even works on the home screen. We had quite a lot of fun playing with it, although it did feel like a bit of a gimmick.

If you have a passcode then there’s even a new iOS 7 experience there, with a brand new full-screen way of inputting your PIN, with the translucent texture once again used. So you’ll still be able to see that beautiful wallpaper.

Home screen

The lock screen is not the only thing getting a much-needed lick of paint, because the home screen has also changed. It’s not quite as drastic as the lock screen, however, as there is still an array of app icons in place. Apple’s default icons have been redesigned and now look a bit more cartoonish.

We’re not entirely sure why Game Center is represented by an array of giant colourful orbs, or why the Settings icon is now what appears to be a lopsided Mercedes-Benz logo. Apparently that’s Apple’s way.

The icons have also been flattened to look two-dimensional as opposed to the current 3D effect.

Apps

Apps have been completely overhauled. They’re not all quite as drastic as the new Safari, which has taken on a rather confusing design with misleading icons, such as the share button which is just a box with an arrow through it. One thing consistent between them all though is Apple’s love of white.

The OS features white everywhere, whether it be the new iTunes Radio which is baked into the Music app, or even the camera. It’s a far cry from the black, blue and grey of the old iOS, which in fairness looked a lot duller than its Android and Windows Phone counterparts.

Siri has changed almost completely with the inclusion of a more natural voice as well as voice control over system settings and the ability to read your Timeline from Twitter.

The biggest change though is the dropping of Google search results, in favour of the less popular Bing search engine. Apple has been trying to distance itself from Google, a process that started with Google Maps and YouTube apps being removed from the OS.

AirDrop

Anyone familiar with Apple’s desktop OS will have heard of AirDrop, a method whereby you can share files. We are used to sending photos or other files using Bluetooth.

However, Bluetooth is slow. AirDrop can transfer files at a quick speed (it can sometimes be up to 10Mbps) and without hassle, as you don’t have to pair the devices using a long drawn-out process. AirDrop is now part of iOS 7.

Rather than using Bluetooth, you can connect to another phone from Control Center using its Wi-Fi signal. One restriction of AirDrop is that you can only connect to Apple devices.

Control Center

One of the worst things about iOS 7 is a new feature called Control Center.

Think of it as a kitchen sink for your phone – if you don’t know where else to put something, drop it in here.

There’s no general consensus with Control Center, as it features music controls, brightness controls, AirDrop and even a torch all in one pull-up menu.

FaceTime

Apple has upgraded FaceTime. The app which revolutionised video calling is no longer relegated to just being a part of the phone app. It now gets its own dedicated app. There’s also FaceTime Audio, essentially the same thing as making calls, but without the video.

Notification Center

No longer is this centre just a place for your notifications. Apple has realised  that it can get more functionality by showing you more than just your alerts, putting its own notifications hub far ahead of the Android version. It still keeps you updated with all the details from a third-party app, missed calls or emails and now gets a new feature called ‘Today’.

Today can give you all sorts of information such as whether it’s someone’s birthday, or whether you’ll need an umbrella on a given day. The feature is like Google Now, which is a popular Android feature that gives you updates on traffic and weather from its dedicated widget.

Notification Center also resembles real-world physics. If you pull it down at speed, it’ll bounce at the bottom. Yes it’s a pointless feature, but fun.

Today can also be accessed from the lock screen. This isn’t the most useful feature as the notifications display is on the lock screen anyway. But at least it’s another option.

A big omission from iOS 7’s new Notification Center is active notifications, which have just been introduced in Mac OS X.

These enable you to interact with the actual alert itself without launching the app. If someone sends you a Facebook message, for example, you can reply directly to the message from Notification Center.

Another omission is a quick means of posting to Facebook or Twitter. These were never truly notifications in the first place, so they had no place in the Notification Center.

Full article in Mobile News issue 546 (August 26, 2013).

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