Recently I became part of the Apple Developers network through work which is odd since I do not really develop for any Apple product. I do, however, use Apple products everyday and I like to be ahead of the curve with software and hardware. So, being the daredevil that I am I decided to put the iOS 7 beta on my daily-use iPhone 5.
Look and Feel
One work comes to mind when looking at iOS 7, clean. It’s a lot cleaner than previous version of iOS and because of that it feels more like an Apple product. The soft colors, thin lines, and animations, all make it feel like a more grown-up operating system. Gone are the skeuomorphic buttons and application skins, they’ve all been replaced by what Apple is calling “flat” designs. It looks like it’s borrowed a lot from Android 4.0, Windows Phone 8, and even WebOS…and that isn’t a bad thing!
Android 4.0 was a really nice update for Android, the look and feel was more refined, modern, more consistent, easier to use on the hardware, it really felt better. Windows Phone 8 uses very simple shapes and buttons in their design, the smooth transitions it has make it more pleasurable to use than the old WinMo. I don’t think Apple created anything really NEW here, but they certainly showed that iOS has definitely come a long way. I still think that a company that focuses so much on design should have changed the look a long time ago but I suppose they didn’t want to mess with what “worked” or wanted to “get it right the first time.” They were right to wait.
As for the feel of iOS 7, right now in it’s beta form it actually feels a bit sluggish, not all of the time, just here and there it drags itself along. I feel as if I am running an older Android phone sometimes. However, when it’s not hanging it’s really fast. Apps load quickly, the camera snaps right up, the movements are fluid, it runs nicely on the hardware. I won’t complain too much about this yet because it is still a beta after all.
New Features (Control Center, AirDrop, UI Changes, etc.)
There are a few “new” features in iOS 7 that are worth discussing. This update seems to have focused not only on the look and feel but also on adding features to make everyday use of the device easier and faster. There are many small improvements to the UI that were needed very badly and I am thrilled to see them finally in iOS. One of my favorite examples of “small” UI updates is the ability to call a person while in the messages app without having to scroll all the way to the top of the messages (just press the word “Contact” in the corner). Something so simple helps so much with everyday use.
But of course the biggest change to ease of use is the Control Center. This is the sliding “drawer” that comes from the bottom of the screen and allows you to change device settings on the fly as well as a few other things. Now, a lot of Android phone and jail-broken iPhones have had this for a long time, so it’s not revolutionary in any way. It definitely looks like an Apple designed menu, and the functionality is limited to what Apple puts in there (for now), but it is really a nice step forward for iOS.
I can toggle phone functions off and on, change my screen brightness, volume, control music, turn on the flashlight, use a calculator or camera, and use AirDrop between other iOS devices. Again, very limited at the moment, hopefully Apple will open it up a little, but past experiences usually show that they probably will leave it locked.
The Control Center can be used on the lock screen, a feature that can be disabled, but it comes in handy when you just want to use a flashlight or turn off wireless. Where the Control Center falls short is that you cannot do anything else but toggle things off and on. What I mean by that is if you hold down the wifi button on an Android phone for example, you will be brought to wifi settings and you can join a network. I would love the ability to customize buttons or apps to put in the Control Center, or even remove parts that I may not use.
The addition of AirDrop to iOS 7 is really helpful. Currently it seems to only work with other iOS devices running 7 (which of course, aren’t many) but I was able to use it and it’s really handy when you want to send pictures to other phones. You can limit sending to people listed in your contacts, or to everyone on your local network. With Mac OS 10.9 in the works, it looks like you will be able to transfer using AirDrop to computers as well without bluetooth or USB or Dropbox. I’m hoping that they really expand the AirDrop feature to older versions of Mac OS, but I doubt they will.
The search function in iOS 7 is also different from previous versions. In older versions you swipe your screen to the right to get to the search screen, in iOS 7 you simply swipe down from anywhere on the screen (not the very top of course that brings up the notification center still). It’s built into the icon screen better and it feels more natural to me.
Speaking of icons and the “desktop” of the phone, you can now have more than 12 icons inside of your folders. There are only 9 shown at a time instead of 12, but you can keep adding icons to them and at the moment i don’t see a limit.
The Photos and Camera apps both got a much needed and welcome face-lift. The Camera app has no more “toggle” button for video and photo mote, and now incorporates swiping the screen left or right to change between modes (video, picture, box, and pano). To enable HDR you simply press the “HDR button” on the screen, no more menus. The app seems to take pictures quicker than older versions; press the capture button and it just captures without any animations. You can add filters right from the camera app and it previews all 9 modes in real-time!
The Photos app now breaks photos up into sections. You can view them like you did in older versions but now you can see them in terms of location, “event”, and even year. You can add albums or events and organize them yourself as well. One of my favorite additions to the Photos app is the addition of a panorama album that allows you to see all of your panoramic pictures in wide mode on one screen, really neat!
Every beta has it’s bugs, and iOS 7 is not special in that sense. I have come across more than a handful of bugs that have made the testing of iOS 7 on my daily phone a bit frustrating. The main issue I’ve found was with Siri. Siri was changed to have a better voice, a nicer look, and to be more responsive but I’ve found it to be dreadfully slow to perform tasks and in fact I’ve had it stop working completely for the entire day for no reason. The only remedy for that was to restart the phone completely.
The audio controls on the home screen and Control Center have not worked well for me at all. During my first day of testing I wasn’t able to use them at all, I would push the buttons and it would show tat I was pushing them, but I would get no control of my music whatsoever. After restarting I did regain control.
Several apps I use do not work or crash when I do things. A few troublesome apps I’ve found are the Watch ABC app, it crashes when you try to watch live TV and it crashes so badly that you have to hard restart the phone; Wikipanion fails to load at all; and the Podcast app fails to load.
Of course these are all beta issues and will most likely be worked out as the beta progresses and as developers update for iOS 7, but it’s interesting to see which apps do not work well with the new system.