The big news from Monday's Worldwide Developer Conference keynote was the introduction of iOS 7, which is "the biggest change to iOS since the iPhone," Apple CEO Tim Cook boasted.
The redesign which was architected by chief designer Jony Ive embraces a more "flat" design; say goodbye to bubbled text messages, for example. But it's still colourful, and moves with you, letting you "look" behind apps, according to Apple. The font, meanwhile, is much slimmer than in previous versions of iOS.
"Installing iOS 7 on your phone is like getting an entirely new phone, but one that you already know how to use [and that is] beautiful and more functional," said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering.
However, it's not all about design with iOS 7. There are security updates, shortcuts for easier access to frequently used functions, more fully featured multitasking, and a boost to Siri, among other things. After months of rumours, Apple also took the wraps off iTunes Radio, which is more like US service Pandora than the on-demand listening available via Spotify.
Apple made iOS 7 available to developers yesterday, but it won't be officially released until the autumn – likely around the same time Apple reveals its newest iPhone. But iOS 7 will also work on the iPhone 4, 4S, and iPhone 5, as well as the fifth-gen iPod touch, and iPad 2, fourth-gen iPad, and iPad mini.
Read on for a closer look at what iOS 7 has to offer…
One of the things the we requested in our iOS 7 wish-list was easy access to functions like airplane mode. We got our wish thanks to Control Centre, which provides quick access to airplane mode, flashlight, screen brightness, and more. Just swipe up from the bottom.
Swipe from the top, meanwhile, for a revamped Notification Centre, which will be accessible from the lock screen in iOS 7. A new feature called Today provides an overview of your day at a glance – from the weather report to birthday reminders.
It might not be as fully featured as people had hoped, but iTunes Radio embraces the Pandora model – providing users with ad-supported Internet radio. There's music from the big three labels, and iTunes Match subscribers can listen without ads. You can create your own stations, purchase songs via iTunes, and peruse songs you listened to in the past via the history section. It'll be available on iOS devices via the music app in iOS 7, via iTunes on the PC and Mac, and via Apple TV. At first, iTunes Radio will only roll out in the US this autumn, but Apple promised it’ll be coming to other markets in the future.
iOS 7 revamps multi-tasking, providing a more fully featured look at the apps you have open when you double tap the home button. Scroll through active apps, and – similar to webOS – you can dismiss with a swipe up. Apple also promised "smarter" multitasking, like making sure frequently used apps are open and ready to go when you normally log in (like Facebook at 9am on weekdays). Updates will also happen automatically during convenient times, like when you're connected to Wi-Fi or plugged in.
Siri is getting a voice makeover in iOS 7. The female version of Siri will sound a bit less robotic, while users can opt for a male Siri. Apple also promised an improved experience on Siri for French and German speakers, with more language improvements coming soon. Meanwhile, Siri on iOS 7 will tap into Bing search rather than Google.
iOS 7 security
With "Apple picking" robberies making headlines and the theft of iPhones a definite concern, Apple is bringing forth a security boost in iOS 7. Now, if someone steals your device and turns off "Find My iPhone" or wipes your handset, it will not reactivate unless your Apple ID is entered.
Meanwhile, with iCloud Keychain, iCloud will remember your passwords and credit card numbers. Safari can also enter them automatically when you make a purchase in iOS 7 or OS X Mavericks. "Every time you create an account, you can have Safari generate a unique, hard-to-guess password. And remember it for you," according to Apple, which insisted that 256-bit encryption will make iCloud Keychain "highly secure."
The main update with Messages is the look and feel of things. In iOS 7, Messages embraces the "flat" design; gone are the familiar bubbled messages. You can also swipe right to view all messages.
Apple said browsing will be "bigger, better, and more beautiful" on iOS 7. That includes full screen browsing and a new tab view, which you can use to scroll through open tabs – and dismiss with a swipe. There's also a unified search/URL bar, which will auto-suggest websites and search terms. The "Shared Links" view shows a list of shared URLs from your Twitter timeline, while the Reading List section lets you scroll through saved items.
To help you organise your photos, iOS 7 will group photos that were taken around the same time into separate folders, or Collections, for easier access. Using iCloud, iOS 7 will also allow for shared photo streams, so you can add one of your photos to a friend's collection. Apple has also added filters.
You might want to hold off on using Apple Maps for your in-car driving directions just yet, but other iOS features – like Siri – will be coming to a number of cars in 2014, like BMW. In-car dashboards will adopt the iOS interface so you can safely make phone calls, access your music, send and receive messages, get directions, and more.
With Yahoo releasing a Flickr-enhanced iOS app that recently won an Apple Design Award, Apple really needed to step up its game with the pre-loaded weather app on iOS. In iOS 7, the weather app will include more animation and easier access to the various cities on which you want to keep tabs.
As Apple noted with the above slide during its WWDC keynote, there are far too many iOS 7 enhancements to highlight in just one speech. The new OS, for example, will allow for high quality audio calls over Wi-Fi on any iOS device via FaceTime Audio and notification sync across devices. There’s plenty to look forward to.
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