iOS was introduced back in 2007 with the original iPhone and has been expanded, refined, and improved ever since. Part of knowing where we’re going is knowing where we’ve been. Here are our reviews of past versions of iOS for iPhone and iPod touch, and since 2010, iOS for iPad as well.
Everything is slower in iOS 7, usually by one to one-half second or so but sometimes by more. These tiny delays can add up—if you unlock your phone, check your mail or messages quickly, and then put your phone away in the course of 10 or 15 seconds, that lag can become a significant percentage of the time you spend.
One thing to note about iOS 7 on the iPhone 4 is that it looks slightly different than it does on every other supported device. The iPhone 4 is the last device standing that uses Apple’s A4 SoC (the original iPad was dropped in iOS 6, and iOS 7 drops the fourth-generation iPod touch), and as such it’s working with a slower CPU and GPU than the A5, A6, and A7-equipped phones and tablets that make up the rest of Apple’s lineup. To take some of the load off of its weaker hardware, Apple has turned off translucency and other graphical effects throughout the OS in favor of simpler and less taxing transparency. It’s worth noting that you can also disable these visual effects on newer iPhones and iPads in the accessibility settings by enabling “Increase Contrast.”
Tap on Settings, then General > Accessibility, and tap the slider next to Bold Text. Your iOS device will have to restart (but it’s a quick restart). Here’s how it will look. On the left, the original font weights on my iPod touch, and on the right, bold fonts on my iPhone. If you want to be able to read your iOS device more easily, you’ll make this change.
Unsurprisingly, you’ll notice your non-Retina screen the most when you’re looking at those light fonts and lines. Take, for example, the passcode entry keypad, where the small letters underneath the numbers look very jagged on the iPad mini, where they’re small-but-smooth on the fourth-generation iPad. The same goes for icons with fine detail, a design element used liberally throughout the operating system. It’s obvious that things like the battery life indicator and the new Safari icon were designed with Retina in mind and then downscaled, where iOS 6 and previous versions were designed for the earlier, lower-resolution iPhones and iPads and then sharpened for Retina screens later.
A new feature is dynamic type (through the new Text Kit set of UIKit classes), which essentially is an accessibility feature that enables users to change the font size bias system wide and in applications that use the UIFont method to get a font size. This automatically adjusts weight, character spacing (kerning) and line height, and seems like an awesome change for users who need larger font sizes for elements to be readable.
I was hoping they would create either some different means of conveying cellular signal strength than just changing the tired old bars metaphor to circles which also no longer even convey magnitude. The bars at least previously each had different amplitudes, is 4 dots 4 times as good as 1 dot? Is each dot the same amount of relative change? I just find the entire metaphor tiring across the entire industry and was hoping Apple would do something other than change the bars to dots and take up more horizontal space in the the already crowded status bar.
For starters, there were some (rather timid, but quite effective) enhancements in terms of external keyboard support.
What’s new is that, once Find My iPhone is turned on, you must enter the Apple ID password for that iCloud account to disable the service. Up to this point, savvy thieves knew to disable Find My iPhone on an unlocked iOS device immediately to prevent tracking — that will no longer be possible.
The second — and most important — strike is that the device cannot be erased without entering the owner’s Apple ID password, preventing a thief from resetting a stolen iPhone to factory defaults before reselling it.
And although it’s very convenient to be able to tweak settings without having to unlock your phone, disabling Control Center on the lock screen will enhance security, as a would-be thief won’t be able to put your phone or tablet in Airplane Mode—thus rendering the tracking features of Find My iPhone, iPad, or iPod useless.
For example, buttons are by and large gone in iOS 7, replaced in many places by text. At first, this struck me as counterproductive, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much we’re all used to tapping or clicking on text now. We click on hyperlinks every day on the Web. We tap on the name of the song we want to hear on our iPhone.
That said, it can be confusing when you want to use a toggle, like the Shuffle button in iOS 7’s Music app—I still have trouble figuring out the difference between it saying Shuffle, meaning the command, and Shuffle All, which refers to “the current status of your music playback.”
But my biggest question is, “Why doesn’t AirDrop work with the Mac?” In case you don’t believe me, I’ve tested it—oh, I’ve tested it. It seems darned peculiar to release two operating systems with identically named features that work the same way yet are not compatible with one another.
Give iOS 7 some time. It takes about two weeks to adapt and it will grow on you.
Everyone keeps talking about how “flat” iOS 7 is but it doesn’t feel that way to me. Zipping up and down through folders and apps makes this operating system feel like there truly is a third axis.
The new Control Center in iOS 7 is a better solution to a similar problem, if a bit of a cluttered eyesore. No matter where you are on your device, a swipe up from the bottom bezel brings up another semi-translucent menu. This one contains quick toggles for Wi-Fi, Airplane Mode, and others; sliders for volume and screen brightness; audio controls; and for some reason, shortcuts to the calculator, flashlight, and timer. I love the idea — turning on Airplane Mode used to take far too long — but there are too many options and too many icons, and there’s absolutely no reason this shouldn’t be customizable. Even still, Control Center is great. (It took awhile to re-train my finger to swipe instead of double-tap every time I wanted to switch songs, though.)
Spotlight doesn’t have a dedicated Home screen page anymore. It’s now accessible from any page — just swipe down on any screen to reveal it and swipe up to hide it.
There is a new system-wide gesture to “go back” to a previous screen inside an app: just swipe from the left edge of the screen.
You can quit more than one app at a time from multitasking just by using multiple fingers simultaneously and swiping up on the apps you want to close.
You can now see alt text for images in Safari (useful for websites like xkcd). Just tap & hold an image to read the text.
Some people will love this “opening up” of the Lock Screen, which increases the space that can be used to display a photo or art of your choice. Others will note a wide variety of problems Apple’s new approach has created. Far too often, text blends into self-supplied Lock Screen wallpaper, forcing an aggravating search for imagery that works or a hunt for Accessibility Settings to fix the text. Additionally, non-intuitive bracket and bar icons have replaced some of the ingenious sliders Apple originally came up with to unlock the device’s features.
Apple’s redesign of Safari is nearly a mess, particularly on the iPhone and iPod touch. Also used in other apps, the company’s new ultra-thin icons are most significantly annoying here, replacing thick, highly visible triangular arrows with scant bracket icons, a bookpage-themed bookmark icon with what now looks like an abstract butterfly, and the clearly-labeled “Reader” button with a set of four bars in a paragraph-like fashion. Safari feels like someone was trying to design a futuristic web browser without taking core things such as icon legibility and user experience into account.
Another good example that gives you an idea of how much iOS 7 values context are the new translucent bars. Again, in an app like Safari (but also the App Store and Mail) the status bar and toolbar are translucent, showing a portion of blurred content with a subtle transparency effect. This isn’t just good-looking (I personally love the effect), it’s also useful in that, if there’s, say, a photo below the text you’re reading, you’ll know before scrolling to it. iOS 7’s graphics layout engine is smart in this regard as it treats photos and text differently: photos will be blurred with their primary colors, but, in order to avoid confusion with overlapping icons and letters, if text is behind a bar, iOS 7 will automatically increase the opacity of its UI to not show blurred text. This is the reason why, in apps like Mail and Safari, photos that underlap navigation bars and toolbars will be blurred, but text won’t show through the UI, cluttering it.
Apple has applied parallax to various iOS elements like alert dialogs, icons, badges, and it has provided developers with APIs to add parallax and other motion effects to their apps. While parallax contributes to iOS 7’s feeling of depth and layering, I think it’s mostly a gimmick, and not as effective in communicating certain aspects of the user experience as translucency, color, precise typography, or animations.
That new interface is the most visible indication of the new multitasking system’s presence. Instead of relying on a bar of app icons, you double-click your device’s Home button to zoom out into a card-based interface, which shows you the app screens themselves (as they were when you last viewed them); tap any screen or the app icon below it to go to that app. You can quickly scroll over either the icons or the app screens to view your recent apps.
Not only does this make it easy to pick out which app you’re looking for, but it means you can quickly refer to a piece of information in one app without actually bringing that app to the foreground.
The web filtering in iOS 7 is a feature of the low-level networking system in iOS 7 (known as NSURLConnection). It filters all web traffic that comes through that channel. This means that all web views built into apps, as well as third-party browsers such as Chrome, iCab and Dolphin, get filtered.
It introduces a lot of new features and frameworks. One of them is UIKit Dynamics that allow you to add real-world inspired interactions to your UI. You can add to your views behaviors as gravity, forces, elasticity and you can also combine them to create your own behaviors. This type of behaviors is usually used in gaming to provide a better UI interaction. UIKit Dynamics are designed for UI instead. If you want to build video games, please, refer to the SpriteKit framework that includes the same type of interactions. UIKit Dynamics do not replace Core Animation, UIView animations or motion effects. UIKit Dynamics are part of the UIKit framework.
Apple's iOS 7 is the first large-scale use of a newly-minted Internet protocol, called multipath TCP. It lets computers send and receive data across different network paths and interfaces at the same time, such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi and 3G.
Dan Frakes on the improvements to Mail:
iOS 7 goes a big step beyond that by letting you customize the special views that appear here. Tap Edit when viewing the Mailboxes screen, and not only can you rearrange your current mailboxes, you can hide ones you don’t use, and you can add a number of new special views. Tap each item to enable or disable it, and drag the horizontal-lines icon on the right to rearrange the order of items.
Yes, VIP haters, this means you can finally disable the VIP view. But even more useful are the various special views you can enable here: Unread (all unread messages), To or CC (messages specifically addressed to you), Attachments (messages with attachments), All Drafts (all draft messages across all your accounts), All Sent (the same for sent messages), and All Trash (the same for deleted messages).
Apple heeded my complaints with iOS 7. There's now an option to make Do Not Disturb do what it should—completely silence your iOS device.
Head over to Settings, tap on Do Not Disturb, scroll down to the bottom, and set Silence to Always, instead of Only While iPhone Is Locked.
While this button won’t be coming back soon, there’s a way to type .com with one-and-a-half keypresses. When you’re in a web browser, and want to type .com, just tap and hold the . button to the right of the space bar, and you’ll see a popup menu which lets you choose from a number of top-level domains: as you can see below, I can choose from .us, .org, .edu, .net and .com.
Update (2013-09-23): Ask Different:
iOS 7 brings with it the option to place audio-only FaceTime calls (for the times when you are in no state to make a video call). Go to a contact’s info page, and hit the receiver icon in the FaceTime section. It is possible to turn on video later in an ongoing call.
Update (2013-09-25): equinux:
In our opinion, the passcode in iOS 7 has a visual security gap: when you enter your passcode, the larger buttons light up a lot longer than with iOS 6. It’s always been possible to watch a person entering their passcode, but the new extended illumination, and increased button sizes make it much easier for the “viewers” to see exactly what has been entered.
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