SHARING AMERICA'S TECH NEWS FROM THE VALLEY TO THE ALLEY
by Matt Honan (courtesy wired)
Happy Nerd Christmas! Apple CEO Tim Cook got you a new operating system for the iPhone and iPad. It looks different. It works differently. It has a host of new features and design elements–from full multitasking to the Pandora-like iTunes Radio. It organizes your pictures, has remarkable new AirDrop sharing features, automatically updates your apps, and overall lets you do just about everything more quickly and efficiently.
Cook noted that iOS powers 600 million devices, and has been ranked number one in customer satisfaction by JD Power nine times in a row. What those stats mean is that it’s actually quite hard for Apple to make changes. If nobody loved iOS, it would be easy to rip it up and start over again. But as it is, changes affect hundreds of millions of users, and Cook called this update “the biggest change to iOS since the iPhone.” This is hard stuff, and here’s what’s inside.
The look and feel of iOS 7 is perhaps the most noticeable change. Apple’s longtime hardware design lead Jony Ive now runs the company’s software design too. The new iOS 7 design looks fundamentally different throughout, although it remains familiar.
Gone are many of the elements that mimicked real-world counterparts and in their place are simpler, often more colorful elements. All the icons have been redesigned–the envelope on the Mail icon no longer floats in the sky, Safari is a simple round compass, the Game Center icon is now just a series of abstract colors, with no chess pieces or rocket ships or hints of corkboard and wood.
Open the apps and you’ll find them redesigned inside as well. Translucency, parallax, animation and motion (like a weather app showing falling show) give the system a dive-in quality that it didn’t have before. It appears three-dimensional in some ways. Calendar no longer has that faux-desktop calendar look. Game Center has lost its felt. The typography is entirely new.
Apple was free to do this largely because, as John Gruber points out, we don’t need the hand-holding that we did in earlier iterations of iOS. We know how a touchscreen works. After all these years, the “training wheels” aren’t as necessary. Yet design is, as Ive notes in a new ad, “so much more than the way something looks.” And iOS 7 represents a complete rethink of the operating system itself.
Lots of these changes are meant to help you quickly navigate the system. Some are at the app level, like a deep scrolling calendar that lets you zoom out to see the year or tilt it sideways to view your week at a glance. Others are system-wide, like a side-swiping gesture that lets you, for example, move between an overview of all and individual messages in Mail, or go to your history when you side swipe in Safari. The notification center works from the lock screen. You can just swipe up now to quickly get to your settings.
There are a bevy of other enhancements as well.
One of the most significant getting-things-done features is full multitasking for all apps. Apple says it can do this without killing the battery life because the operating system can detect how often you use various apps, and smartly lets them use cycles as needed. It responds to push notifications as triggers to update in the background.
iTunes Radio is a streaming music service that builds stations for you. You can choose from a more generic channel–like country, radio, or rock–or build stations based on an artist or song. It’s built not only into iOS, but also iTunes on the Mac and PC, and on Apple TV. It tracks the songs you play across all your devices, and you can buy them later via your history. It’s free with ads, and if you’re an iTunes Match subscriber you get an ad-free experience.
Apple’s new camera app has built-in filters and settings that let you choose video, panorama, photo or square (i.e., Instagram). Even better, the app smartly organizes your photos for you. It uses location and date to label and organize images into Moments, and Moments can be further gathered into collections–from a weekend in San Francisco to an entire year. Apple notes that it surfaces interesting moments–the places you go outside the ordinary. Sharing sends to Mail, iCloud, AirDrop, Twitter, and Facebook. You can share into other people’s photo streams, and even comment on them. To browse photos, you just tilt the phone into landscape.
Siri got a new interface too, as well as a new voice (two actually, one male and one female). It can adjust settings, like turning on Bluetooth. It’s integrated with Twitter, Wikipedia and Bing search results. Siri also works with iOS in the Car to let you display iOS right on the screen in your car’s dashboard. (Or it will, once several automakers roll it out by 2014.) It lets you access your maps, messages and more without taking your eyes off the road.
The App Store got a much-needed overhaul as well–most notably it (finally) updates your apps automatically. It also has improved suggestions, including age-appropriate ones.
Safari has a full-screen interface, a reading list with continual scrolling between articles and Twitter integration, and seriously beefed up tabs. You’re no longer limited to eight tabs, and each running tab has a preview of the page itself.
The new settings app–Control Center–is awesome-looking. It lets you swipe up from the bottom to adjust settings–like brightness and airplane mode. This means no more heading to a program that is probably buried in a folder. Just a simple swipe up, even when running apps. AirDrop lets you share files between devices with other users just by tapping.
A new security feature called Activation Lock lets users lock a lost device where it cannot be activated with new service if it is lost or stolen. (That is, without an iCloud username and password.)
There are a host of other new features as well. It’s a massive update, that developers have access to on the iPhone today. For the rest of us, Apple notes that iOS 7 will be available as a free software update for iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 and later, iPad mini and iPod touch (fifth generation) this fall. Not all devices will have all features, however.
Thank you. TiA.