As is annual tradition, the first day of this year’s WWDC event in San Francisco heralded the introduction of a brand new version of Apple’s iOS software for mobile devices. This year the company revealed iOS 7 and both the software and the occasion are unlike any other before.
Ahead of the launch we already knew that the update was big, both in terms of a big change and that it would be a big moment for Apple. The Cupertino company is no longer regarded as top dog in the mobile market, but can a major software upgrade put it right back at the top?
Are you sure this is an iPhone?
You might find yourself asking that when you encounter iOS 7 for the first time. The new design is miles away from the look of iOS we’ve become used to – blacks and blues have been replaced with whites, silvers and light greys. The black status bar at the top? Gone. That is now transparent and features completely different icons for mobile signal, Wi-Fi and so on.
Every icon has been redesigned to look different and menu screens are now so simple that they’re just a white background with light grey text. Animations have been cut back and apps switch fluidly from side to side. On the whole, iOS 7 looks like a mish-mash of Windows Phone and iOS, with a little bit of Android sprinkled in.
Apple has at long last built settings toggles in to iOS, giving one-touch shortcuts for things like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Auto Rotate and Do Not Disturb. However, these are in a new feature called Control Centre and not in the Notification Centre, which you access by swiping upwards from the bottom of the screen. There’s also a slider for brightness adjustment and shortcuts to popular apps or functions, such as flashlight, camera and calculator. It’s not yet clear whether, as is common with Jailbreak software, these icons and shortcuts are customisable.
New look Notification Centre
The Notification Centre has changed, offering three tabs for different types of notifications: All, Missed and Today. The ‘Today’ view in Notification Centre allows the user to see any appointments, birthdays and events planned for a particular day. The Notification Centre will even give you a little weather forecast whilst you’re there.
Windows Phone-style multitasking
In the past iOS multitasking wasn’t something every iPhone user knew how to do. Apple is hoping to change that with a completely different take on viewing and closing your open apps, and it looks a lot like the Windows Phone multitasking screen. Apps are now viewed as large live tiles rather than app icons in a tiny tray at the bottom of the screen, and you close them with an Android-like swipe off the screen – no more tapping, holding and then trying to tap those fiddly crosses! In the multitasking screen there are also icons for your favourite apps.
Just as we thought, Apple has finalised a music streaming service for iOS devices which it calls iTunes Radio. The service is free and features adverts, which you can be rid of by subscribing to Apple’s other service, iTunes Match.
iTunes Radio features in the Music app and offers the user access to millions of songs which can be streamed over Wi-Fi or a mobile data connection. Of course, Radio ties in with iTunes and each song streamed will feature a purchase button that links to a download in the iTunes Store.
Previously found on Macs, AirDrop is now headed to Apple’s mobile devices. Put simply, AirDrop allows you to wirelessly share files between Apple devices in close proximity. A pop-up window gives you the chance to see which of your contacts are nearby and from there files can instantly be shared. The files are shared using either a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection and are said to be very secure thanks to top encryption methods in use.
New Siri tricks
Siri has learnt new tricks and also gained new voices. It will now understand you asking it to increase the brightness and play your last voicemail, for example. New services like Twitter, Bing and Wikipedia are also now mixed in, so you’ll be able to look things up quickly with a quick voice request.
Sometimes you just want to make a phone call but there’s no mobile signal, only Wi-Fi. Apple sees that and is introducing voice-only calls with FaceTime, so now you don’t have to show off your face.
New Camera app
The camera app now features a simple slider to switch between shooting stills, videos and panoramics, with a selection of new filters and even a square image format to choose from – hi, Instagram. Your images and videos are now neatly organised in chronological order, with dates, ‘Moments’ and ‘Collections’ ready to be created by you.
When is it out?
The first beta version of iOS 7 is available now for developers to download on iPhone. An iPad beta will arrive in the coming weeks too, but if you’re not a developer or don’t know one nice enough to download you the beta, you’ll have to wait until around September time when Apple launches it publically alongside the new iPhone.
Will I be able to upgrade my device to iOS 7?
The list of devices that will receive iOS 7 later this year is as follows;
– iPhone 4
– iPhone 4S
– iPhone 5
– iPod Touch 16GB
– iPod Touch 32/64GB
– iPad 2
– iPad with Retina Display (3 and 4)
– iPad Mini