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.
Camera App Changes
Safari Tab View Change and Unified Search Bar
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.
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:
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 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.
|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).|