At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, Apple unveiled the newest version of iOS, its mobile operating system. Apple is touting this as the biggest change to iOS since the iPhone. It doesn’t roll out for consumers until the fall and will be available on the iPhone 4 and newer, iPad 2 and newer, iPad Mini, and the fifth-generation of iPod Touch. Here are seven of the key features to be improved upon in iOS 7.
Control Center is an all-new way to access some of the most used features and preferences previously buried in the Settings app. By swiping across the bottom of the screen, you can get to Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, and more. You can also adjust the screen brightness, play songs, stream music with AirPlay; as well as access Clock, Camera, and the all new Flashlight app.
AirDrop has been a feature on lap- and desktops, but is new for mobile users in iOS 7. It allows for peer-to-peer transfers with nearby friends. Using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, you can share photos, videos, contacts, and more. The content will also be added to the appropriate app; for example, a shared photo will show up in the Photos app. AirDrop will only work for newer products, such as iPhone 5, the fourth-generation of iPad and the iPad Mini.
Multitasking has been enhanced and apps will now keep information updated even while running in the background. Double tapping the home screen button will show an actual preview icon of the running apps, as opposed to the app’s normal icon. The iOS will also learn which apps are often used and keep them updated, even before the app itself is opened. For example, if you check Twitter not long after waking up, iOS 7 will learn that and update it with new content before you open the app. Along with new content and notifications being gathered, apps will be automatically updated with the latest bug fixes through the App Store. Smarter Multitasking means improved battery life.
The Camera app has filters added so you can add effects in real time and now includes a square camera option, along with the regular video, still, and panorama options. Photos introduces Moments, a way to automatically organize photos and videos by time and location. In addition, iCloud Photo Sharing will allow people to share photos with only the people they want to. Family and friends can add photos to your shared photo streams and a new display called Activity displays updated from all of your shared streams in one place.
Safari is redesigned to make use of full-screen browsing and introduces iCloud Keychain, which will store (encrypted and secure, of course) passwords and credit card information. This will make it easier to browse shopping sites and password protected forums. Safari previously had an eight open-tab limit; that has been eliminated. It also includes parental controls that will allow parents to give access to only specific websites.
Siri has added a male voice and Twitter integration. Bing is now the search engine of choice for Siri. The virtual assistant can also play back voicemail and change settings on the device. Web search results from Bing, Wikipedia, and Twitter are now integrated with Siri.
The Music app now features iTunes Radio. It is a free Internet radio service that offers over 200 stations. Coupled with iTunes on your computer, the radio will become more intuitive the more you use it, allowing for more personalized stations and song recommendations. The free service is ad-supported, unless you’re an iTunes Match subscriber; then there are no ads.
All these features, plus a new “flat” design make this update one of the biggest for the mobile operating system. Initial reviews seem mostly positive; but Apple really won’t know what people think of all the changes until the fall, when iOS 7 gets into the hands of consumers.