6 handy tips for Apple’s iOS 7

iOS 7 launched earlier this week, and we’ve been testing it heavily since. We have a wide variety of iOS devices, and we’ve seen performance vary widely between the different models. New devices certainly benefit the most from the new update, but if you look a little deeper, you’ll find that even older devices like the iPad 2 get a nice upgrade as well.

Only the last generation of iOS devices (iPhone 5, 5S, 5C, iPad 4, and fifth-gen iPod touch) can use features like AirDrop – see our article on compatibility with iOS 7 for the detailed lowdown on exactly which features are missing on older Apple devices. However, even non-Retina iPads will receive a noticeable improvement going forward.

To get you started with the new iOS, here are six handy tips and tricks – covering features from AirDrop through to search – that will make your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch experience more enjoyable.

AirDrop

AirDrop, now built into iOS 7, allows you to quickly send media to other devices using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. If you want to share a picture or video, just tap the “share” button, and AirDrop will appear in the share sheet. Unfortunately, you’ll need at least an iPhone 5, fifth-gen iPod touch, fourth-gen iPad, or an iPad mini to take advantage of this ad-hoc sharing system.

Privacy in Safari

Privacy settings in Safari have significantly expanded with iOS 7. You can still block cookies and detect phishing sites, but now iOS also allows you to enable the Do Not Track flag. While this relies on websites respecting the setting, it does offer extended privacy for your mobile browsing. Bear in mind that this feature is off by default. To enable it, you’ll need to go to the Safari settings page.

Just like Safari on the desktop, mobile Safari has dropped the dedicated search field. Now, Apple is pushing the “smart search” field that combines the URL bar with the search box – much like Chrome’s Omnibox. It’s implemented well, and you can configure its behaviour. In the Safari settings menu, you can toggle on and off the search engine suggestions and auto-population of the best result.

Toggling background updating

Multitasking has improved dramatically, and now some applications can automatically refresh their content in the background. The unfortunate ramification of this new feature is that it can negatively impact battery life. Thankfully, Apple had the good sense to include a toggle for background refreshing. You can turn it off completely, or you can go through a list, and only allow specific apps to update in the background.

Configuring Spotlight

This isn’t unique to iOS 7, but it’s still incredibly useful. In the Settings app, you can quickly configure what kind of content you want Spotlight to search on your device. Tired of email clogging up your search results? Turn it off! Also worth noting is the fact that the less indexing Spotlight has to do, the less of a drain it will be on your battery.

Retina iPhone assets

Perhaps the best new feature for iPad 2 and iPad mini users is the sharper appearance of iPhone apps. In iOS 7, Apple now uses the Retina-quality assets of iPhone apps on non-Retina iPads.

When you run an iPhone app at 2X, the visuals will look substantially better compared to 2X mode under iOS 6. Of course, Retina iPads have been able to take advantage of this feature since the third-gen iPads launched, so newer devices won’t see any change.

For more, see our full review of iOS 7, and you might also want to check out our article on whether it’s worth upgrading your iPhone or iPad to iOS 7. And if you want to grab the OS now, we’ve got step-by-step instructions on downloading iOS 7.