Of all the announcements today at WWDC, the most important and well received was iOS 7. This fall’s update represents a total top-down re-imagining of the user interface based around a flat, but multi-layered, design from Apple design guru Jony Ive. The new OS seemed to incorporate elements that will no doubt be familiar to Windows Phone 8, Android, and BlackBerry users while staying very much familiar to iOS users.
The last couple years, Apple has taken some flak for iOS maybe evolving a little too conservatively. It may have been somewhat deserved as the style of the OS had changed very little since OS 2.0 when apps were introduced. That can’t be said of iOS 7, there will be no mistaking it for iOS 6 or older. iOS 7 is much flatter in many respects, but also much more vibrant with a much larger color pallet. The design supports multiple layers, for a unique flat, but not look. While the traditional grid is still there for the home screen, App icons are almost all completely redesigned. Even the battery icon has been reworked, with four dots in place of the battery shaped indicator. Skeuomorphism seems to have left the building with Scott Forstall. For those who use folders, iOS 7 supports them in multi-page form. For those like myself, who obsessively group apps into folders, this will eliminate the need for “game 4” and “utilities 2”
While being simpler, iOS 7 also has a lot of flash. It leverages the OS’s innate OpenGL ES capabilities for a lot of animation and translucent layers. For example, clouds in the weather app move and lighting bolts flash. It looks beautiful and reminds you a lot of big brother OS X, but as John P. said during our live coverage, one has to wonder what it does to battery life. Apps now auto-update in the background. Personally, this is something I’ve been looking forward to. For others, like Cali, this may be an issue.
The one feature almost every iOS user I know have asked for is an easy way to get to hardware settings. This is something Android users have enjoyed for some time. In iOS 7, it finally arrives on your iDevice. Swipe up from the bottom (opposite gesture to notification center) and you have access to Bluetooth, WiFi, Airplane Mode, Airplay, Air Drop, and screen brightness, as well as some app controls. It also has flashlight access.
The new multi-tasking interface is very reminiscent of Mission Control on OS X. You get both the app icon and a preview of the app. Quitting an app is as simple as swiping up. Those looking for a “quit all” button, there doesn’t seem to be one. The multi-tasking feature also intelligently schedules tasks for when your devices are plugged in and on a wifi network. This will help so the aforementioned auto updating of apps doesn’t destroy your battery and cellular data allotment.
Camera and Photos
For mobile photographers, the iOS camera app adds filters that would be familiar to users of Instagram. It also adds the option to format the picture as a profile square, a regular photo, or a panorama. The one interesting omission is that I found no way in the new interface to turn on HDR. I’m not saying it’s not there, but I didn’t see it.
What happens after the photo is taken has maybe the biggest change. The Photos app now uses metadata like time and location to automatically group your photos in events. You can also group the photos by year. For those who want to share, you can set up shared photo streams.
Everyone’s favorite personal assistant has gotten a makeover and an upgrade. Siri has new, more natural, voices in both male and female form. It’ll show you when you’re speaking so you can make sure Siri is actually listening. The natural speech pattern has been enhanced. More importantly it does more. Siri now has integration with Bing search, wikipedia, and Twitter. More importantly, Siri now does hardware control, you can turn off bluetooth by voice.
iOS in the Car
For a while now, automotive makers have had iPod/Iphone connections. Apple’s taking it one step further with iOS in the car. It fully integrates your stock touchscreen navigation with your docked iPhone. You’ll have native access to your messages, phone, maps, iTunes, and of course Siri. iTunes in the car will be be available next model year from a lot of car makers. It doesn’t seem like something you can buy aftermarket.
From the WWDC preview, iOS 7 looks to bring new life into a mature OS. It might be the change in the leadership, but Apple seems more willing to incorporate user requests. I can’t wait to get my hands on this new iOS when it launches this fall.