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iOS 7 review: A major triumph for Apple

September 15, 2013
By

When I first saw iOS 7, I didn’t like the design changes in it at all. I’ve been spending a lot of time with the final release version of Apple’s new mobile operating system, and my perspective has changed quite a bit. In this review, I’ll tell you why I’ve warmed up to iOS 7, and why you should definitely consider upgrading to it if you are still running iOS 6.

Please note that I have almost entirely skipped including screenshots in this review to cut down on scrolling. You can see screenshots of all of the new features and changes on Apple’s iOS 7 site. After reading the review, I recommend you do just that as there are also some great videos there that explore some of the new stuff.

What’s New in iOS 7
iOS 7 has quite a lot of new features, as well as design changes. I’ll cover each new feature or change in its own section below, but here’s a brief list so you have an idea of what’s in iOS 7. It’s a pretty big update to iOS, and it has quite a lot to offer.

New Design
Control Center
Notification Center
Better Multitasking
Camera App Changes
Photos Changes
AirDrop Sharing
Safari Tab View Change and Unified Search Bar
iTunes Radio
Siri
Free iWork Apps for New Users
Automatic App Updates
New Security and Privacy Features

The Design of iOS 7
When you first see iOS 7, you’ll notice that it looks totally different than iOS 6. The design focus of iOS 7 is simply…simplicity. Apple’s idea was to “strip away…unnecessary bars and buttons” and to put the focus on the content.

For the most part they’ve succeeded in these goals, though I know that there will be some people out there who will disagree, and who will stick with iOS 6. I think they are making a big mistake though because the design of iOS 7 grows on you as you use it.

Icons, Folders and Fonts
The first time you see the home screen, you realize that the old days of heavy skeumorphism are over for iOS (and I strongly suspect we’ll see that happen in OS X soon as well). The home screen icons look very different from the old ones in iOS 6.

Initially, I did not like the icons at all. The colors were too bright and reeked of My Little Pony. However, some of this can be mitigated easily by changing the background from the default one that comes with iOS 7. You can also simply put some of the less attractive icons into folders. Over time I have gotten more used to the changes in the icons, so they aren’t an issue for me at this point when using iOS 7.

I must admit that the Game Center icon still perplexes me. I still don’t know what bubbles have to do with gaming. However, I have to say that the bubbles do look cool. They shimmer and seem to be floating. If I were a stoned hippy, I’d probably stare at them in Game Center for hours.

iOS 7 Review: A Major Triumph for Apple

Apple took a huge risk with iOS 7, and it paid off in a big way.

The folders have a very attractive translucency effect in iOS 7. Gone is the dark linen from iOS 6. And you know what? I don’t miss it at all. In iOS 7 the folders still have a structure, but they blend into overall design in a much better way than in iOS 6. You can also have tons of apps in folders, you are not limited to 12 like in iOS 6. I’m not sure what the limit is for iOS 7, but I doubt I’ll hit it anytime soon.

The fonts in iOS 7 have also changed to match the new design. I know that some have complained that they are not as legible as in iOS 6, but I haven’t found this to be the case at all. The new font seems quite readable for me, but your mileage may vary depending on your eyesight.

If you find that the default font is bothering you, go to Settings then General then Accessibility to make the type larger or to use bolded text. That might help alleviate any problems you experience.

The Coolness of the Parallax Effect
The icons and fonts aren’t the only things you’ll notice that have changed on the home screen. Apple has added a very cool parallax effect to the iOS 7 home screen. It makes the icons seem like they are floating in 3D. While some people probably won’t like or care about this, I actually enjoyed it and still do.

The parallax effect gives your home screen a sense of depth that it never had before. This stands in contrast to the claims that iOS 7 has made everything flat. It really hasn’t, instead it’s added more depth to the overall experience. And I think this is what Apple was really aiming for when they designed iOS 7.

Doubters: Give iOS 7′s Design a Chance
Overall, I think the design changes in iOS 7 work very well. I know, however, that there some who haven’t used it who might be balking at the idea of upgrading. My suggestion is that you give it a chance. As I said earlier, it grows on you as you use it.

You might initially be put off by this or that change. Fine, no problem. Move on and continue using iOS 7. Later, you may find that the thing that initially annoyed you doesn’t any more or that it simply isn’t important enough to worry about.

If you give it a chance, you might just find yourself really liking the design changes in iOS 7. That’s what happened to me, and now I don’t miss iOS 6 at all. When I look at screenshots of it, it seems rather drab and dreary looking compared to the design of iOS 7.

Control Center: Easily Accessible Settings
One of the best new features is the Control Center. You can access this by simply swiping up from the bottom of any screen. It contains many of the most used settings such as brightness, volume, orientation screen lock, wifi, do not disturb, and the music controls.

The Control Center also offers buttons at the bottom for flashlight functionality, a timer, the calculator, and the camera. I didn’t initially notice these since I use the volume and brightness settings much more often, but they’ve become quite handy as I’ve gotten more used to iOS 7.

The Control Center looks great too, since it has a translucency to it that fits right in with the rest of iOS 7′s design. The convenience factor here is terrific, it makes it so fast to change some of these settings.

Still, I think it can be improved by adding some customization options to it. It would be nice if the user could decide exactly what he or she wants on the Control Center. I’m hopeful that Apple might add this in a future update to iOS 7 or perhaps in iOS 8.

New Notification Center Views
The Notification Center has changed, and now offers three views: Today, All and Missed. You can very easily see what’s going on that day in the Today view. It also includes weather information and a section for your calendar events.

This makes it very handy if you are trying to plan your day when you first get up in the morning.

Much Better Multitasking
One thing I will not miss about iOS 6 is the multitasking. iOS 7 offers a much more attractive and elegant multitasking function. Just double press the Home button and you’ll see all of your running apps with the icons on the bottom and a larger shot of the screen for that app right above them. You can scroll right or left, and then tap on the one you want to switch to on your iOS device.

If you want to close an app, all you have to do is tap it, swipe up and release it. It will vanish from the multitasking screen. This is much more elegant than tapping on the ugly “x” in iOS 6, although I suspect it will befuddle some users when they try to close an app for the first time.

But if you’re reading this review, you won’t be one of the befuddled ones. See, aren’t you glad you dropped by to read this? :)

Siri Becomes Truly Useful
I never bothered with Siri for the longest time. But there have been some changes in iOS 7 that have made it more worthwhile to use than in iOS 6.

Siri now has a male voice, which I found refreshing. I never cared for the female voice, so it’s nice to have a more masculine alternative.

The interface has changed, Siri now appears on top of your screen with a slight translucent effect. It also searches Bing, Wikipedia and Twitter. You can now control iTunes Radio, voice mail, and you can return phone calls in Siri.

If you’re a Siri doubter like I was, give it another try. I suspect you’ll like it a lot more than you previously did.

The Camera App: Filters, Controls and Burst Mode
The camera app has changed in iOS 7. Now it’s much easier and faster to switch between Video, Photo, Square or Panorama options. Just slide your finger along the features bar above the button. You can also use Instagram-like filters by tapping on the filters circles in the bottom right corner of the screen.

Here’s a list of the filters:

Mono
Tonal
Noir
Fade
None
Chrome
Process
Transfer
Instant

You have the option of picking a filter before taking the photo, or simply applying it later. You can also remove filters if you decide you don’t want them later on.

There’s also a burst mode that worked on my iPhone 5. Just press the button and hold it, your iPhone will take a burst of photos. You can then choose the one you want from the camera roll, and delete the ones you don’t like.

The Photos App: Moments and the Year in Full
The photo app has also changed, it now includes Moments and a Year view. Moments are organized by date and location, and the Year view lets you see every photo and video you’ve taken for the year on the screen at the same time (blended into one almost mural-like image).

Moments seems like a good way to break things up, making it easier to see what was going on in the photos at that time. The Year view really gives you a nice overview of what you did for that year, though it’s also somewhat impractical as everything is very tiny. Still, it’s nice to have the option and there’s no denying its sheer coolness.

AirDrop: Sharing Made Easy
You can easily share photos, videos, or contacts via AirDrop in iOS 7. Just tap the Share button then select the person you want to share with, there’s nothing for you to set up. Your transfer is also encrypted, so security shouldn’t be a problem.

You can share with one person or multiple people. Your visibility in AirDrop can be changed in the Control Center, if you prefer not to be available for sharing at all, or if you prefer just to be available for your contacts.

Your recipient will have your shared item placed into the appropriate app after transfer. Photos will be saved in Photos, contacts in Contacts, etc. This eliminates the headache of your recipient having to locate the item somewhere else later on.

I really like how AirDrop has been implemented by Apple in iOS 7. They’ve made it easy and simple to share, but they’ve also provided tools for users to customize their sharing or to simply opt out of sharing altogether.

Safari: Tabs, a Better Interface and a Unified Search Bar
You’ll notice on the Home screen that the Safari icon is very different indeed. But that’s not all that’s changed, Safari has gotten a big makeover in iOS 7. There’s now a unified search field at the top, a new tab view, and a Shared Links tab in the Bookmarks screen. Also gone are the buttons from iOS 6, now Safari has the iOS 7 look and feel. There’s more space on the screen for viewing content.

Oddly enough, the button changes in Safari remind me of the Kindle Paperwhite interface. I really like them, they are much simpler and cleaner to look at when using Safari. The unified search field is very welcome indeed, I’ve waited for it for a long time and I’m thankful it’s finally here.

One neat thing I noticed was how pages that are open on my Mac appeared below the open pages in Safari in the pages view. They also have a translucent background, so they feel very light to look at (if that makes any sense). You’ll see what I mean if you use it on your iOs device. This feature in Safari blends my iMac and my iOS device together in a way, and it makes it very fast to access pages on the desktop computer.

iTunes Radio: Watch Out Pandora! 
I have to confess that I’ve never been one to use streaming radio much. I don’t know why, I tried Pandora a while back but didn’t really care for it. So I viewed Apple’s iTunes Radio with a dubious eye. However, I was surprised to find out how much I liked it.

It’s very easy to find music that you like in iTunes Radio. Just tap the Music icon on your home screen, then tap the iTunes Radio tab. You can add a station by tapping the + sign then tapping on a category. Or just tap on one of the Featured stations that appear at the top of iTunes Radio.

After you start listening you also have the option to buy the song right from within the iTunes Radio interface. This makes it very easy to snag a song you hear for the first time for later listening. I think this is a terrific way to build up your iTunes song library since you never know what cool song might turn up on iTunes Radio that you weren’t aware of before.

You can tap the “i” button to create a new station from the current artist or create one from the current song. You can also tune the station with the following choices: Hits, Variety, Discovery. You also have the option of enabling or disabling explicit music tracks (the default is off for that setting). And, of course, you can share the station by tapping the Share button in the information screen.

Given my experience with iTunes Radio, I think Pandora is in for a very tough time. Apple did a great job on iTunes Radio. It’s very easy to use, and I found myself tapping the Music icon more often than I used to once I got started using iTunes Radio. I think it’s going to be a very big feature in iOS 7.

Free iWork Apps
Apple surprised a lot of people by making its iWork apps free for purchasers of new iOS 7 devices. This means that Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie and iPhoto will all be free downloads if you buy a new iOS device.

That’s a great deal by any measure. I have almost all of those apps, and they are excellent on iOS.

Automatic App Updates
One of my favorite features in iOS 7 is part of the App Store. You no longer have to manually update your iOS device’s apps. Thank goodness for that! I always hated having to update apps. I can’t remember a single instance where I didn’t do an update if one was available for an app. So it’s much more convenient to just have them all update automatically.

If you want to turn on automatic app updates, go to Settings then iTunes & App Store. Under the Automatic Downloads section, toggle the App Store Updates switch to the green position (just look for the App Store icon). Trust me when I say that you definitely want to do this if you’re somebody that can’t be bothered manually updating apps.

When an app is updated that day, you’ll see it listed in the Updates tab of the App Store.

New Security and Privacy Features
Apple hasn’t forgotten about security and privacy in iOS 7 either. This release features a number of security enhancements that should help protect your iOS device from unauthorized use, and it offers some buffed up privacy controls as well.

Find My iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch
To turn off Find My iPhone, you’ll need to enter your Apple ID and password. This makes it harder for someone who has stolen an iOS device to disable it, and easier for the theft victim to find their device and get it back.

There’s also a lock screen message feature that can says the device has been lost, along with your phone number so the device can be returned to you. So this might help if you lose your iOS device.

If you get your iOS device back after it has been remotely erased after a loss or theft, just type in your Apple ID and password to reactivate it. No one can reactivate your device without your Apple ID and password, another way of deterring thefts or at least annoying thieves.

iCloud Keychain
iCloud Keychain should be available when OS X Mavericks launches toward the end of October. iCloud will now remember your account names and passwords, and credit card numbers. It promises to work across all iOS 7 devices, as well as computes that run OS X Mavericks. Your data will be encrypted using 256-bit AES encryption.

App Permissions and Advertising
I was glad to see that Apple has buffed up app privacy controls by letting users set permissions on an app by app basis. This gives the user more control over their own device and the apps that run on it.

To access the privacy controls, go to Settings then Privacy. Then tap on the category (Photos, Microphone, etc). You’ll see a list of apps listed that have requested access to that category. You can toggle the access switch to whichever setting you prefer.

You can also tap on Advertising (at the bottom of the Privacy page) to change privacy settings for ads.

The Advertising Identifier is a non-permanent device ID for advertisers. You can tap on Reset Advertising Identifier anytime you want, as many times as you want.

Toggle the Limit Ad Tracking switch to allow or disallow ad tracking. If you turn off Ad Tracking then apps will not be allowed to use the Advertising Identifier to serve you targeted ads. You’ll still see ads, but they won’t be based on your interests.

Apple has done a good job putting more control over advertising into the hands of iOS 7 users.

iOS 7 Performance on iPhone 5 and iPad 3
I installed iOS 7 on my iPhone 5, and my iPad 3. So I’m not running it on top of the line mobile hardware. However, I have no complaints about its performance on either device. For the most part, it’s quite zippy running apps and doing all of the screen animations.

The only slowdown I noticed is when I change the wallpaper on my iPad 3. It will take 5 – 10 seconds for the change to happen. This is quite odd, I didn’t see any slowdown on my iPhone 5 at all. Nor did I ever notice slowdown when changing the wallpaper in iOS 6 on my iPad 3.

I hope this is a bug or something, since my iPad 3 runs iOS 7 flawlessly otherwise. If you notice any slowness, please post what you saw in the comments below, and please include which device you were using when you noticed it. I’m very curious to know if this is some sort of bug that can be fixed in an update, or if it just has to do with the iPad 3 hardware. I hope it’s the former and not the latter.

The wallpaper app aside, I haven’t seen any problems running games like Monopoly, Sonic Dash, etc. All of the games I tried worked without any noticeable slowdown on either device. iOS 7 seems to perform well, even with older hardware.

Final Thoughts: I Was Wrong About iOS 7 and I Admit It
I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong, and I was wrong about iOS 7. Yes, some of the color and icon choices (the pinkish color of some text in iTunes Radio or the bubbles in Game Center) wouldn’t be my first picks and I’d still like to have a choice in theme colors. But the overall experience of iOS 7 dwarfs any nitpicking about such things.

Some of you may still be skeptical about leaving iOS 6 behind. Don’t fret, you’ll get over it once you dig into what iOS 7 has to offer. My guess is that you’ll quickly forget any loyalty you once had to iOS 6. In fact, it would be very difficult to go back to iOS 6 after using iOS 7. Once you start using the Control Center and some of the other new features, you’ll wonder how you got by without them.

Apple took a big risk by changing iOS so much in a single release. What could have blown up in their faces has instead turned into a major triumph.

Summary Table:

Product: iOS 7
Web Site: http://www.apple.com/ios/ 
Price: Free
Pros: Automatic app updates. Enhanced privacy and security features. Folders can hold more apps. Parallax effect on home screens.Control Center makes settings easily accessible. New Notification Center views. Improved multitasking. Better camera controls and new filters (plus there’s a burst mode now). Photo app adds Moments and Year view. AirDrop makes sharing easy. Safari tabs and interface changes. iTunes Radio. Free iWork apps for those who buy a new iOS device with iOS 7.
Cons: Default font may be hard for some users to read. Icon and color changes may not please some users. Noticeable slowness when changing wallpaper on the iPad 3 (this may be a temporary bug).
Rating: 4/5

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19 Responses to iOS 7 review: A major triumph for Apple

  1. Jim Lynch on January 15, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    For those of you who want iOS 7 but prefer the iOS 6 icons, be sure to check out this article:

    iOS 6 Theme for iOS 7 switches out your flat iOS 7 logos for the old-school iOS design
    http://www.todaysiphone.com/2013/12/ios-6-theme-ios-7-switches-flat-ios-7-logos-old-school-ios-design/

    “Ever since the Evasi0n7 tool was launched to jailbreak iOS 7 devices, the number of tweaks, apps and themes being released has been pretty incredible. You only have to follow the official Cydia updates Twitter account to figure that one out. Perhaps one of the most useful themes to have been released over the past week or so is the “iOS 6 Theme for iOS 7?. As you can probably imagine, it does exactly what the name suggests it should. It swaps out your iOS 7 icons for the older, iOS 6 and earlier designs.”

  2. heinrich6666 on October 6, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    I was going to upgrade from iOS5 to 6 until I heard about all the WiFi issues. I also saw no compelling reason to upgrade, especially after I’d jailbroken my iPad3. Now with this My Little Pony on DMT aesthetic, it’s again more trouble than it’s worth.

  3. TonyLA on October 1, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Ummm, telling people to just try it and see is akin to telling people to cut off their feet because of how much money they’ll save on socks and shoes.

    People can’t “just try it” because once it’s on their device, they can NEVER revert to the iOS they’re going to prefer in the end, and you advising people to do just that without warning them its a one-way trip reeks of journalistic irresponsibility. One thread alone about this on the Apple forums runs 70 pages and over a thousand responses so far, with over 40,000 views.

    And no mention of Apple’s forced-download policy which loads it onto a users drive without permission, taking up 2-3GB of storage that cannot be reclaimed until you break down and install the damn “update?”

    No thank you. I’ll stick with something that I know works and looks good.

  4. Stewart on October 1, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Quite the about face, alas, everyone’s allowed to change there mind.

    Form over function was the point of Steve Jobs Apple ! If it doesn’t look good then I don’t care if its better and neither would he. Looks is everything. Personally I think IOS 7 looks terrible and I will not be installing it on my ipad 4 nor iPhone 5 anytime soon. Heck, windows flat look on there phones and pads are so much better looking than the pale impersonation done by IOS 7.

    John Ivey ( or whatever his name is) has lost all his “design” senses on this one. The Apple sheep are so all believing even when its crap they still follow en mass. Sad.

  5. Jakey6260 on October 1, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Apple is trying to recycle an old idea – from back when they released fruity, neon colored imacs. They are trying to catch lightning in a bottle once again by releasing fruity, plastic, neon-colored iphones. Hey, it worked once, right? As soon as I saw the 5c, I said their target market must be kids and young girls. I have also been told Apple struggles in China, and these phones were supposed to help get them into the Chinese market.

    To go along with the new fruity neon phones, they redesigned the iOS to have fruity and neon colored color palettes and icons. And they angered alot of loyal customers in the process – those of us who don’t have and don’t want fruity, neon colored phones.

    I am disappointed you backed off the original article – and I wonder who or what the pressures were. Because you were correct. iOS7 is an estrogen addled mess. I am a 50 year old man. I do not want a fruity, neon colored phone with fruity color palettes. I want a phone that looks as though it might actually belong to a 50 year old man – not a 12 or 13 year old girl.

    I am about to get rid of my iphone because they have taken it from something I liked and used to enjoy using to something I can’t even stand to turn on now. Apple – stop making all your phones for 13 year old girls and try making something a man might not be ashamed to use.

  6. mee on September 22, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I agree with his first article from a business perspective. I feel like all the angry comments from the first article pressured him to rewrite his review to gain favor. I’d have more respect if he would have stood his ground. I know it may have sounded a little harsh, but the facts are psychologically this is the way men and women are wired and most women would be unconsciously attracted to the new update if it were presented to her in an influenced environment. This was a strategic business move to mainly attract the women demographic.

  7. later on September 19, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    So far ios7 is pretty much the “Vista” of phone operating systems. It pretty bad! The day Apple told me downgrading to ios6 was not possible – I walk into the MS store and bought a ugly PC phone – ya it’s ugly but not as bad as all the adolescent art

  8. Giovanni1970 on September 19, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Sorry, but the Fisher Price app design is a little too much for me. Mr Ive has actually made the products look cheaper.

  9. sirmo on September 16, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Maybe some critical thinking is in order:

    “Noticeable slowness when changing wallpaper on the iPad 3 (this may be a temporary bug).”

    Surely IOS7 has more to do when it’s changing wallpaper, since you’re not only changing the wallpaper, the wallpaper affects the look of the rest of the UI , this can explain why it’s taking longer than in previous OS? iOS does this when you change the wallpaper instead of doing it on the fly, saving the processing time/battery life.

    Think of the OS having to go in every control and change the color of the “brushed glass”. Doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to guess why it takes longer.

    • Jim Lynch on September 16, 2013 at 8:37 pm

      Good points sirmo, but I don’t see the slowness on the iPhone 5. Yes, it’s newer than the iPad 3, but that sort of slowness really shouldn’t be there for the iPad 3 either. Hopefully it will be fixed in an update if it’s a software problem. I can live with it for now though.

  10. Jim Lynch on September 16, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Fixed. Thanks for the heads up, Scott. :)

  11. Darrell Johansen on September 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Same here on my iPad 3 with respect to the slow wallpaper changes. Also, something I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere; the limit of only 9 icons in folder view on the iPad 3. I sincerely hope the GM is going to be updated on the 18th to allow for more. In IOS 6 I think there was 20 icons on the screen in folder view. A step backwards IMO if this is not going to be addressed.

    • Jim Lynch on September 16, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      I did not notice that, I’ll check it out later. Thanks, Darrell.

    • allenbina on September 16, 2013 at 4:36 pm

      I believe you can swipe between pages of apps within folders. I do agree that its a less useful usage, but it does allow some flexibility.

  12. Scott Reimert on September 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Nicely written review. Slight typo: “It also searches Big, Wikipedia and Twitter.” should be “It also searches Bing, Wikipedia and Twitter.”

  13. Alex on September 16, 2013 at 11:43 am

    “Default font may be hard for some users to read. Icon and color changes may not please some users.” – I can’t even consider this a con because in the accessibility settings in iOS7 you can change the style of the font to make it easier to read. Yes, by default, it might be hard to read. But it’s not like you can’t change it…

    • Jim Lynch on September 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      A minor drawback, thus I didn’t take off much for it on the final score. I included some info for the folks that might want to make some changes.

  14. Matt on September 16, 2013 at 8:56 am

    I’ve experienced exactly the same slow down on my iPad 3 when changing wallpaper. A few times when I’ve done it the home screen then seems to freeze and will not respond to any touches until I press the home button. Very strange, I too hope this is just a temporary glich.

    • Jim Lynch on September 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks for the heads up, Matt. Good to know it’s not just on my end.



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