As the war of Mobile OS’s rages on, Android and iOS are widely regarded as the trend setters. However, in the past couple of years, it has been clear that Android has undergone a massive metamorphosis with the release of Android Ice Cream Sandwich and JellyBean, while iOS has stayed loyal to its simplified box like layout of iOS with high emphasis on superficial gloss and skeumorphism. The cries insisting on iOS needing a visual re-haul to remain competent against ever innovating Android are getting louder and stronger.
The WWDC or World Wide Developer’s Conference kicked off today in San Francisco, with many regarding it to be the most important WWDC in terms of announcements in a while. So, what new did the Cupertino based giant, Apple have in store for it’s loyalists? Let’s find out as we bring to you details of the iOS 7, one of the several major announcements at WWDC.
What’s new in iOS 7?
To quickly quote Tim Cook:
‘iOS 7 is the biggest change to iOS since the iPhone’.
iOS 7 brings with it a brand new UI which looks incredibly easy and soothing to the eye. The icons are all redesigned from the ground and plenty has actually changed. The new UI is more edge to edge, making sure the apps use every single pixel available on screen. So let’s look at everything that is new one by one.
The icons on iOS had been largely unchanged apart from a few iterations here and there since the launch of the first iPhone. Although the icons on the iOS 7 look a lot more lifelike and real and probably ‘flat’ than the ones on iOS 6, but that may not be necessarily a good thing. Few icons did look a little cartoonish, dare we say MIUI like for those Android enthusiasts amongst us. Despite few odd choices, the icon set is largely well done, and since nobody has seen iOS 7 in real life, it is difficult to comment how they will look on an actual device when it is released out of beta.
Folders with Multiple Pages Support
One of the major complains we had with iOS and how it handled folders. You were limited to a single page of apps and a total of maximum 4×4 apps in a folder. So in case I have 17 games, I had to make a new folder for my games. But that limitation is gone now, as iOS 7 supports multiple pages, so you can now have unlimited apps within a folder.
All new Weather Application
We had alluded to in the review of Yahoo! Weather app here that iPhone weather app needed a massive UI refresh, and that is exactly what iOS 7 has brought with it. The new weather app is very similar to the Yahoo Weather app, and gives you a real time feel of the weather. You can also overview the weather of several places by a simple pinch in gesture which is extremely handy. The animations looked crisp and lifelike. There was also a cool thunder animation during the demo.
Sharing pictures or information from your iPhone to a fellow iOS device user has been made even easier thanks to Air Drop. It uses Wi-Fi to send across the information you wish to your friend’s device in a matter of seconds.
New Photos App and Camera UI
Just like the weather application, the photos app has gone a radical set of changes. There are now filters inbuilt, so you do not really have to go to Instagram everytime you want cool new effects to the images within the Camera App. You can not just add your images to your photo stream, but also to your friends photostream, thanks to shared photostream. You can also make use of the new Air Drop feature to share images with other iOS users. The images can now be grouped based on time periods too such as years, very similar to the feature found in Android.
Not just photos, you can now share videos too, using Air Drop
An All new improved and polished Siri
Siri has a new voice which is a lot less robotic. And for those who wanted a male assistant, now Siri allows you to have a male voice speak to you as well. Siri can also do a lot more now, things like changing the brightness of your screen to toggling settings, Siri has you covered. Siri is also now integrated with Micro Blogging site Twitter and Wikipedia. You also have Bing integration to Siri for your web searches, and the whole UI looks refreshing, translucent and just so much better. There is also a very neat wave like animation that plays every time Siri is being used.
A Card like Multitasking
We haven’t been fans of how multitasking is handled on until now on iOS. But starting iOS 7, all apps will have a full multitasking support with power saving. This means, the apps you use more frequently will only have a higher percentage of background refreshes keeping your device running smooth and consuming less system resources. The UI too has changed, and now you have a more card like UI in multitasking, very similar to Windows Phone 8.
All new Messages and Mail App
The messages and mails app have also been updated in iOS 7. The apps have the same edge to edge display like other apps. Both mail and messaging app have a cool sliding gesture that lets you look at all your mails and messages in the inbox. The images are displayed right across the app, and even the conversation bubbles have a new color scheme.
One of the biggest drawbacks of iOS in the past was the fact that you needed to perform too many steps to do a simple thing such as toggling your Wi-Fi or switching the bluetooth off or on. This has been taken care by Control center. A swipe up from the bottom of the screen allows you access to Control Center. You can changes settings such as toggling DND, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or even adding apps you may use frequently there. You also have a resident flashlight button in Control Center as well as a brightness slider. Control Center can be accessed from no matter whichever screen you are on, including the lockscreen. It is indeed one of the features we had been craving for on iOS forever.
An all new designed App Store
Keeping in line with the UI of iOS 7, the App store is set to be overhauled too. You now have applications now grouped according to the age group and also a feature to let you peek at the most popular applications in your own local region.
An All new Music App
The Music app received a huge update in iOS 7. The app is tightly integrated with iCloud, so that not just your onboard music, but all the purchased music, TV shows or Movies are available right on your device. The UI looks really clean and the now playing screen too has seen a few changes. You can tilt your device to landscape mode now to quickly see your Albums and picking one would play the album of your choice.
Although, a part of the all new music app, iTunes Radio was a significantly big announcement for us to include it as a new heading. iTunes Radio lets you discover new music and play stations of your choice based on the genre of music you might like. You can create your own station as well, and features such as ‘Star’ allow you to play more songs like the one playing or never play similar songs again. You can also directly purchase the song you are listening to from iTunes Store. iRadio would be free with Ads and also will be making way to Macs as well as Windows PC.
iTunes would be a US only service to begin with, and more countries will be subsequently added
Perhaps one of the biggest new features of iOS 7 is the Activation Lock. It pretty much makes your device safe from thieves. If you lose your device and someone tries to wipe the data off or tries to turn off ‘Find my iPhone’ then the device will simply shut itself down. Only you can then activate it again.
And you thought this was all?
There were plenty of features of iOS 7 that Apple did not really talk much about given the constraints of time. Some of these services include Facetime Audio, Sync notifications across devices, blocking on iMessage and Mails and a new Camera UI. Not just this, Safari now has a full screen support as well as a new tab controlled browsing. There are also radical changes to the Calculator app, Phone app and a lot more.
When can I get iOS 7 and which devices will it support?
iOS 7 will be available to users this fall, so it is a long wait for those who are not very patient. Apple has been lauded for supporting as many generations of devices as they can and iOS 7 wil be no different. It will support iPhone 4 and above, iPad 2 and above as well as iPod Touch 5th Generation and above.
While iOS 7 does bring in a number of much needed feature to one of the most successful mobile platforms, it definitely seems incomplete and can be easily seen as a mashup of nifty elements from Windows Phone (“flatness”)/ WebOS (card multitasking), Android (some inspiration definitely drawn for control center,timeline). While we could go on about the minor similarities , this is definitely a monumental change under Tim Cook’s Apple. Clearly Apple will create some disgruntled voices in it’s very loyal customer base especially among those who are not very fond of changes and have adjusted to the classic textured, skeuomorphic appeal of iOS for far too long to adjust to the new iOS 7 design.
But despite all this, Apple has definitely displayed shrewdness and the will to embrace change for it’s own good. Also remember while many Android fans would be nitpicking on the features, it’s still in beta and the final could be much more polished ( Safari icon Apple, please) than in current state. It will be clearly interesting to watch loyalists and evangelist response to iOS 7. Let’s wait and watch.
(Images Courtesy: Apple)