If you have not been following the tech events of the past couple of days closely, you could be forgiven for thinking that a new iPhone or a mega new device has been released. It is pretty unusual for a software update to gain the sort traction that iOS 7 has already gained, even though it has been available in Beta version so far, after being announced at WWDC held in San Francisco.
A lot has changed in iOS 7 and not necessarily everything for the good. Everybody who has used it, has had very strong opinions about it, most people are sitting on the fence because these things take a lot of time to wear on given how accustomed all the iPhone users have become to the old interface. Given, we at TechSplurge have played around with an iOS device right from the days of an iPhone 2, this update was a bit like sudden sunshine after years and years of rains.
Do we like it? Or would we rather stay on iOS 6 and not upgrade given the option? Here are our views and impressions of the iOS 7 after using it in the first Beta.
Curious to try out iOS 7 but do not have a dev account? Follow our guide here
Everything Here Looks Different
If you still havent looked at what’s new in iOS 7, we suggest you look at out this post on the features of iOS 7 before going further
On seeing iOS 7 for the first time, a friend remarked that, it is like my car just got an overhaul in the interior, and everything is so bling-y and shiny, not necessarily in a good or a bad way, but it makes me believe my car is brand new.
That is pretty much the most accurate description of iOS 7 one could make. It gives your device a new life and makes it look radically different. Everything, from the lock screen to the icons, to the resident apps is different. iOS 7 has refreshingly new animations and has bought with it plenty of features that some of the other big players in the Mobile OS World such as Android and even Windows Phone to an extent have had. Pretty fair to say, responding to the cries of innovation, Apple has merely put itself on the same intermediate marker where the likes of Android have already reached. The race has well and truly begun.
Apple took several digs at Android throughout the keynote which is very unlike them, they are usually the sorts who never have cared about competition but it does look like the Cupertino giant is feeling the heat from it’s big competitor. iOS 7 does come close to answering most questions posed at Apple, with most of the people of the opinion that as long as it works, which most Apple things do, they have no qualms if it was copied or original. With this in mind, let’s swiftly move on and see what the new Lock Screen looks like.
It is very clear from the screenshots above that the lock screen looks entirely new. No more do you have a particular rectangular bar where you have to swipe across to unlock the device. You can literally swipe from any where on the lockscreen from left to right to unlock the device. If you have a passcode lock set, the device will open a numeric pad where you can enter your four digit code and unlock the device.
The lockscreen also does not have a solid background now when you receive a notification or are interacting with it. It becomes a bit blurry giving a very translucent background which does look kind of neat. You can see there are two arrows indicating pulling them up or dragging them down will trigger some action when you just touch the lockscreen. Pulling the arrow down from the top brings the all revamped Notification center while pulling the arrow in the lower half brings the Control Center forth.
Unlocking the device now has a unique animation. The icons seem to fly into the device giving it a very neat 3D experience. The animation is very stutter-y in Beta, but you would hope things would be a lot more smoother in subsequent final release. We tried hard to capture the animation on screen shot and the closest we got to was the image above. You can clearly see icons kind of fly into the screen. The blue and white you see are the app icons.
It is evident that the icons in iOS 7 have distinctively different look as compared to the icons in iOS 6 and other older versions of iOS. The icons are no doubt flat, but they look a little too colourful. Like we mentioned in the features post too, they look very similar to MIUI and actually hurt the eye when used again a light background. The greens especially are pungent and just a little too glossy, one feels. The dock is now translucent with a rectangular solid background, ditching the more glamorous and 3D look it had in earlier iOS releases. It is also clear that the network bars are gone and replaced by dots and there is a new battery icon which is actually green in color but changes to white when you open folders. The charging indicator too is now outside the battery icon.
The Folders finally Allow unlimited apps and have a new look
We were not big fans of how Apple handled folders in its previous releases of iOS. You were stuck with a 4×4 grid and you could just have 16 apps within a folder. That policy is now gone with the new iOS 7. The folders now support unlimited apps addition and have a new 3×3 grid with a translucent background. This is a good move because it makes sure the folder does not occupy the whole screen estate. We also like the way folder name is clearly visible.
Live icons and 3D effect to wallpaper are neat
Apple introduced a concept of live icons with iOS 7 on a larger scare. We say larger scale because we did have a live Calendar icon on previous iOS versions too. But with iOS 7, even the clock icon shows the exact time with the second needle actually moving. For those who are concerned about battery drain due to the continuous motion of clock, we found that putting the icon in a folder restricts the clock movement when the folder is closed.
Another nifty little add on is that background is no more still, you can add dynamic background from settings. Android has had them for ages, but it is nice to see Apple finally bringing it to iOS. Even the solid picture background now has a 3D effect now as the gyroscope of the iPhone picks if you move the device around and the image moves with it so that you are always looking at the background image head on.
The Calendar App has a new UI but looks odd
The Calendar app has received a massive facelift, and you can see when you fire it, it allows you to add an event corresponding to the exact time. The all white background did hurt the eye a lot especially when the device was set on full brightness. Probably, Apple want us to use the device on lower brightness and this is simply a ploy to force our hands. Kidding, but you get the point. The orange on white, does not appeal personally to me, would much rather have seen a more subtle blue or even black on white.
The keyboard also has a translucent background instead of solid color. The response from the keyboard though was not great in Beta version and there were more than one occasions when it did not register the input
It is also possible to now look at the yearly calendar and monthly calendar from within the app
The New Weather App is a big step up from the current app
The new weather app on iOS 7 brings some neat real time weather animations to the table. In fact, it is very similar to the sort of animations we have seen on some of the newer Sense running Android devices from HTC. The feature to look at the weather in all your cities in one go is very helpful, especially if you are out on a vacation. The animations were smooth and we were largely impressed with the app.
Messaging and Mailing App have been revamped too
A simple swipe gesture from right to left lets you delete the message right from the inbox
The apps look similar but had a lot cleaner interface. Again, the solid white background is a matter of choice for everyone, we personally would have preferred a little textured background. There is also a very neat feature where if you are reading a message, we can swipe from left to right to see the entire inbox. This was a very hit and miss feature and we sometimes had to perform the gesture more than twice to get it to work. The conversation bubbles also have a different colour scheme now, gone are the greens and replaced by a more subtle greys.
Control Center is a useful addition, but looks cluttered
Control Center allows you quick access to some of the most commonly used toggles such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and DND. If you are from the world of Cydia, then this is pretty much like Apple’s own version of SBSettings. You can access Control Center with a simple swipe up gesture anywhere on your device. However, if you do not want anyone to access settings when the device is locked, you can disable Control Center from the settings menu. Not just toggles, you also have options to fire up flash light, calculator and camera from Control Center. It just looks though Apple tried to put too many things here, looks very cluttered and maybe we could have done without the option for Air Drop and Air Play from the menu.
Finally Apple Gets Multi-tasking right
Multitasking has been one of the most talked about achilles heel of iOS. True multi tasking was absent for most apps, meaning if you did come out of them, instead of staying alive, they would shut down in the background. This concern has been addressed in iOS 7 along with a brand new interface for multitasking. Firing up multi tasking requires the same two taps of the home button like previously. However, you now have a very neat card like interface to look at your apps and their live states. You flip them away simply to close them. Very very Web OS like.
The new Safari is Quicker and the tabs are very well done
One of the first apps we downloaded on our new sparkling iPhone 5 was the Chrome browser, simply because default Safari was light years behind. However, with iOS 7, Safari has seen loads of impressive changes. For one, we found it a lot faster than Safari on iOS 6. It also has a neat full screen version where as you scroll down the page, the top and bottom bar become invisible, giving you that little bit extra screen space to read your articles. The interface is very clean, and we love how the new tabs are done. The animations are slick and fluid while there is little to no clutter and things work just well. In the new tabs layout, you can simply hold one tab and re-arrange it’s position. Safari has in a way retained the best features from the previous build and has added plenty more. You can still easily look at your bookmarks, reading list or even open private tabs.
The Calling Screen Allows Full Size Contact Images and Facetime app has a neat layout
The Dial pad on the iOS 7 is also different from iOS 6. The box like numbers have been replaced by circles which bear the numbers. It is worth observing that outline of these circles are indeed transparent giving it a very neat appearance. It is these little things Apple do very well. The incoming call screen is more transparent and looks good. Call quality on iOS 7 was just as good as on iOS 6 so no complains there.
When you are in the call, iOS 7 brings the same translucent background we have seen across folders and Control Center. It definitely looks different from the solid screen we had in the past, and not in a bad way.
The facetime app has a neat feature where underneath the contacts you actually have the live image feed of yours from the front facing camera. Another neat add on is the ability to now display images in the favourites, so no more are you left with just plain text.
Camera App, Pictures App and Notification Center also have a new design
The Camera app has a new layout too without too much new. You have a neat square feature which basically allows you to take images for Instagram use. You also have the ability to apply filters now right within the Camera app when you take images, so you know if you need to take the shot again if the filter of your choice doesn’t look good enough. It is all super easy to use, but for camera we still prefer the app on some of the newer Android devices like the HTC One which give some really nifty features like removing subject from the image. None of that is here. The Camera produce, the same results like that on iOS 6, so nothing new there.
The Photos app looks similar to how it was initially, but a lot more white in there. But you do have the option of segregating your images now based on yearly period
The Notification center now has a three tab layout, with tabs for All, Missed and Today. All basically keeps all your notifications you have not attended to while today keeps stocks and other information. The stocks layout is neater now, and you do not have the float like interface we had on iOS 6 anymore. It is not very clear what Missed tab keeps, because the one call we did miss on iOS 7, it showed in All instead of Missed, so maybe it is one of those things Apple needs to look at.
Look!!! Siri got a Makeover
The world’s most popular assistant got a massive update. Although Siri did not really work great on Beta, we definitely could make out the difference in voice. It sounds so much less mechanical now. The interface is neat too with the same translucent effect in the background. The male and the female voice is interesting too, though we did not really feel the need to change the voice. features like navigation still did not work for us in India.
Some Miscellaneous Things
iOS 7 does let you change the text fonts for apps that support dynamic text. The Settings app also has been overhauled and the blue on white looks very pleasing on the eye. You also have the option now to turn off background updates off in the settings, so you could preserve that little bit of battery.
Things we could not really put to test
2500 words down, and there are still features of iOS 7 that we have not covered. And that is because they were simply not available. We are talking about iTunes Radio. It is a US only feature right now and we could not really put it to test. We could not try a VPN because again it simply refused to work. So it was one of the main features that escaped us.
Another point to note is that since there are no apps that are optimised for iOS 7, all the apps we restored from the backup ran the old version keyboard, so we could not see how third party apps would behave in the new iOS 7. Another thing we could not really test was Airdrop, due to lack of another device running iOS 7.
What did we learn?
After playing with iOS 7 for hours, we are, just like everyone, undecided if we like it or not. Yes, there are places Apple has really goofed up big time, but largely iOS 7 hits the right mark. It is a big change, and one that will need time adapting, and that is understandable, given how much at home all the iOS users had been with the old interface.
It would be very unfair to judge iOS 7 based on just one beta build, but overall our impressions are positive. We fully expect Apple to iron out these little glitches here and there, and perhaps then, we could really openly say how good or bad iOS 7 in reality is.
If you want to know anything about iOS 7 that we have not covered here, please feel free to write it in the comments section below.