At WWDC 2013, Apple has officially launched the next generation of iOS, iOS 7 operating system, featuring a radically overhauled interface, new Control Center, transparent animations and more.
According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, iOS 7 is the biggest change to the platform since the iPhone was introduced five years ago. The new design is evident in everything from sharper, flatter icons, slimmer fonts, a new slide-to-unlock function, and a new control panel that slides up from the bottom of the screen for frequently accessed settings.
The new system will be available for the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, the iPad 2, iPad 3 and iPad 4, the iPad mini and the iPod touch 5.
Although Apple didn't announce any new iOS devices, the big redesign featuring an array of new software upgrades in the iOS 7 operating system will make existing devices seem new. Let's recap the major announcements:
A greater synergy between hardware and software design is something Apple is looking to achieve as it moves towards iOS 7.
In reality, we saw a heavily-overhauled new operating system, one that bore more than a few similarities to Nokia's MeeGo in colour and layout. For instance, the icons have been given a more 'rounded' feel, as well as being given a colour overhaul.
The font has also been tweaked as well, with some fancy-looking schematics showing how some things have been changed height wise... although it does look pretty similar though.
Control Center is now a pervasive part of the whole ecosystem, allowing users to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to control everything from the Airplane Mode to the integrated Flashlight. Music is still available in this screen, while you can also control the brightness on screen without having to exit the app.
This isn't the most novel of systems, and was already in place when it comes to music and brightness control; but at least now it looks much nicer and there's a torch/flashlight to play with as well.
The notifications bar is now a full-screen affair, and will also be available on the lock screen, meaning you won't need to wander around through the redesigned number pad any more to see who wants to play some boring game with you.
Part II: New features on iOS 7
Apple decided that while there were a large number of enhancements to get excited by in the new release of the software, there were ten that it wanted to get properly excited over and tell the world about.
While the design was overhauled, the internal bits and pieces were something of a more incremental upgrade, but one that showed Apple was looking to the future in its battle against Android.
• Control Center
Control Center is the name of the new swipe-up menu that gives you quick access to commonly used functions. It lets you control your music and toggle airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, flashlight, brightness, and more. Needless to say, iOS users have been asking for this feature for a long time.
iOS 7 will bring better multitasking and background processing to all apps. It will monitor which apps you use frequently to help determine which ones need more full-functioning multitasking. When apps send push notifications, for instance, the phone will know to start to give that app background processing so that it will work more quickly and intuitively.
Apple has taken a major cue from webOS (RIP) and added full-previews of running apps for multitasking. No more tiny icons!
Apple's Safari mobile browser now features improved full-screen browsing, gesture-based navigation, and a new flipping card-tab overview that is very similar to the interface in Google's Chrome for iOS and Android. The separate search bar is gone and you can now perform searches right from the address bar. Safari for iOS also supports Apple's new iCloud Keychain, which syncs passwords and credit card information across devices.
AirDrop is a new feature in iOS 7 that lets you share content with other iOS users through the Control Center. It lets you share with other users who are close by, and tells you who you can send content to right within Control Center. This is Apple's answer to Samsung's group sharing features and the tap-based NFC sharing supported by other platforms. It works on the iPhone 5, fifth-generation iPod touch, fourth-generation iPad, and iPad mini.
• Camera and Photos
The camera has been refreshed with improved UI, square photo framing, and new filters. Also upgraded is the Photos app, which features the same flat redesign as other stock apps. Photos's new Moments feature organizes images by time and location, and can provide an overview of all of the pictures you've taken in a particular year. It also has gesture-based pop-up previews of images that you bring up by sliding your finger across the grid of images. In addition to sharing still images, Photos supports sharing video through iCloud, too.
Siri in iOS 7 features a predictably flat new interface (no more linen!), and has been upgraded with new voices, so you can choose from either a female or male voice in English, French, or German, with more languages added over time. Siri can now control functions such as toggling Bluetooth or controlling brightness and playing back voicemail messages. The service can search Twitter, Bing, and Wikipedia to provide more information for queries.
• iOS in the car
iOS 7 allows car manufacturers to integrate the operating system with built-in screens in vehicles, as well as full Siri support for eyes-free usage. This means you can finally live the dream of owning a Ferrari, using Siri but not owning a single Apple device. Truly, the future.
Cars will be able to read your iMessages to you and allow you to dictate a response, as well as use other features such as accessing Maps for directions and controlling the music player.
If you have a hankering to get hold of one of these iOS 7 enabled cars then you'll have to wait until next year when 12 manufacturers will produce compatible vehicles - but Nissan, Honda and Volvo are all there. Score.
• App Store
The App Store is getting the ability to show you apps that are popular for where you are such as in a museum, for example, and also features automatic app updates in the background.
• iTunes Radio
One of the biggest upgrades to iOS 7 is in the new music player, which features a brand-new user interface and Apple's new iTunes Radio service — the company's answer to streaming music services such as Spotify, Rdio, and Google Music All Access. iTunes Radio lets you choose songs to listen to on demand, and it has the ability to curate radio stations based on particular songs, artists, albums, or genres. It's very similar to how Pandora works. iTunes Radio works on iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and iTunes on the Mac and PC. It's provided for free with ads, but iTunes Match subscribers can listen to it ad-free. It will be available in the US to start.
Other new features for iOS 7 include notification sync across devices, FaceTime audio calls over Wi-Fi, better search in Mail, and the ability to block phone calls, FaceTime calls, and messages.
Without a doubt, iOS 7 is the biggest overhaul the platform has received since its introduction as iPhone OS way back in the heady days of 2007. Many (fair) comparisons will be made to current and existing mobile OSes, and whether or not it is enough to keep the naysayers that claim that iOS has gotten stale and boring at bay remains to be seen. But needless to say, it's going to be the platform of choice for many millions of smartphone and tablet owners.