iOS 7 Beta – First Impressions (WWDC 2013)

ios7_lock_screenIt’s long been rumoured that iOS 7 would bring about a shift in Apple’s design philosophy and with the keynote  of this year’s World Wide Developers conference not only did we get to see the new user interface but within hours developers were able to download the first beta version and naturally I grabbed a copy immediately on release.  The install was painless, a simple IPSW restore via iTunes though this version does feel very much like a beta having experienced more than a dozen crashes already within the first couple of hours (mainly with multitasking).

Having spent a little time with iOS7 I would say that visually it’s different enough to keep interest in the platform going, it may not be revolutionary but it certainly feels a lot more modern than iOS6 which somehow seemed old fairly soon after launch with the successive releases of Jellybean and Windows Phone 8.  Putting aside the shiny-shiny UI changes the largest and most important steps are those that improve usability, making it easier to get to controls and settings and adding to Siri’s repertoire. There are some minor bugbears that jump out at me immediately too such as Calendar’s monthly view which no longer highlights busy days and Mail still throwing an error per-mailbox at you when it can’t connect when the reality is that your internet connection is down, I’m sure there will be more over the next few weeks as I use iOS7 on a daily basis as well.  Now, on to the main features…

Death of a Thousand Flashlight Apps

Despite the inevitable focus on the UI changes iOS7 does bring about a number of new features, some might argue several are overdue however there’s a good level of innovation in there and even where Apple have ‘taken inspiration’ from others they’ve generally done it quite well.  The highlights are…

Control Centre – swipe up from the bottom on any screen (including the lock screen) to see a new ‘quick settings’ screen providing access to music controls, screen brightness, wifi, bluetooth, torch, clock, calculators and the camera.  You’ll notice that like much of iOS7 the translucent background creates quite a different feel depending on then wallpaper you’re using, in one example I’ve used a photo of myself whilst the other is the stock (animated) background.

iOS7 Control Centre    iOS7 Control Centre

Notification Centre – an updated UI matching the rest of iOS7 but with instant access from the lock screen to today’s calendar, missed calls/messages and the remainder of your notifications.

iOS7 Notifications - Calendar    iOS7 Notifications

Multitasking - a new full-screen preview (looking suspiciously like WebOS) enables you flip between apps easily and ‘flick away’ apps to terminate them (Android anyone?).

iOS7 Multitasking    iOS7 Multitasking

Camera & Photos –  a simplified interface allows users to swipe between Video, Photo, Square and Pano (yes, really – ‘square’ is now a picture type).  Additionally, photos are now automatically organised into collections and grouped by year with small thumbnails…

iOS7 Camera    iOS7 Collections    iOS7 Collections Years

Safari - possibly the largest (and most overdue) collection of improvements with the clutter and chrome gone entirely leaving substantially more space for content, the URL bar and search box are finally combined and coverflow is now being employed for changing tabs.

iOS7 Safari Page    iOS7 Safari Tab Switching

Siri - now includes Wikipedia & Twitter content and provides access to settings (e.g. brightness, Bluetooth)

iOS7 Siri - Twitter    iOS7 Siri - Wikipedia    iOS7 Siri - Settings

 

General Look and Feel – I’ve spoken of the simplicity above, here’s a few screenshots to illustrate the new design ethos…

photo 3    ios7_keypad     calculator

There are other features I’m yet to play with like iTunes Radio (not available in the UK yet), Airdrop file transfers, audio-only Facetime calls, turn-by-turn walking directions, etc.  Apple also promises to be friendlier for business (which essentially means sysadmins), including data protection, license management, Mobile Device Management, wireless app configuration, enterprise single sign-on support – it will be interesting to see how useful the features are in practice.