Today, Apple unveiled their newest iteration of iOS (appropriately called iOS 7) at WWDC. It features a complete redesign that re-envisions what is possible with an iPhone and iPad while adding a ton of great new features that make it even better for Apple’s power users. Let’s check out what iOS 7 brings to the table.
A Whole New Look
Everything has been redesigned from the top down, starting with the lock screen. For the first time, pulling down from the top of the lock screen reveals a brand new Notification Center. Pulling up from the bottom of the screen on the lock screen (and anywhere else in iOS) brings up Control Center, which puts important controls like Brightness settings, music playback, and even a Flashlight right at your fingertips at all times. There’s no word on how this is going to look on an iPad yet, but users have been begging for this in iOS for years.
The look extends everywhere else as well. Every icon has been reimagined. A lot of journalists are going to be throwing around the word “flat” for this, but what Apple has really done is rethought how everything should look on a Retina device. They’ve shedded a lot of the details that made it easier to visually understand iOS on smaller and less pixel-packed screens like the iPhone 3GS.
The entire OS reacts to its environment. Controls are translucent and everything comes to life in your hands in ways that we’ve never seen before on an Apple device. From a design perspective, a lot of this is riffing from some of Android’s best ideas. Skeuomorphism is gone. Wooden shelves and green felt have been completely removed from the OS. Within any stock app, you can move back one layer just by swiping from the left side of the screen. But it’s not just about the surface level of visuals. Every app has been redesigned from the ground up, and not just visually, but also functionally.
Music, Videos, iCloud and iTunes Radio
Let’s be honest: A lot of us started using iPhones and iPads because they came with iTunes built right into them. That was the selling feature: a touch-screen phone with Internet access that also played your iTunes library with a gorgeous interface. That same gorgeous interface has now undergone a huge surgery. The music app looks a lot more like the Rdio app. By the way, Rdio is a beautiful app that really outshines anything Apple’s done with the Music app recently, so that’s a good thing.
Apple has also more closely integrated iTunes in the Cloud and your iTunes purchases. They’re all visible directly from within the Music app. You know what’s been downloaded and what’s not on your iPhone or iPad yet, but you can still browse your entire collection with ease (again, very much like Rdio). In fact, the Videos app is now the same way. Anything sitting in your iTunes account is available right on your iPhone or iPad. (All of a sudden, all those Digital Copies I’ve been downloading that came in my Blu-ray combo packs are actually useful.)
Apple also unveiled iTunes Radio today, a Pandora-like streaming service that lets you create radio stations based off songs or artists that you want to hear. You can skip certain tracks and tell iTunes Radio not to play certain songs in the future, or even add music to your iTunes Wish List, all in a beautiful interface. iTunes Radio is built into the Music app, but for now, it’s US-exclusive.
Your Camera’s Role, Re-envisioned
A lot of us also use our iOS devices for pictures. I find I take a ton of pictures on my iPhone when I’m out and about, and view them on my iPad when I get back. I also find that a my Camera Roll gets pretty cluttered pretty quick, and I have to rely on third-party apps for filters and easy photo sharing to different social networks.
Today, all of that changes. With iOS 7, the Camera app is redesigned to allow easier ways to choose between shooting videos, taking pictures (including a square photo preset), or taking a panoramic shot. The app includes live filter previews as well, much like Analog Camera but a touch more advanced as a result.
Your Camera Roll has gone through a huge re-imagining as well. Apple is now organizing your shots into Moments and Collections, all without user input. If you go for a vacation, because the iPhone and iPad are aware of where you are and how long you were there, they automatically create sets of photos based on that. These are Moments. So your vacation has an automatic photo album. Collections function similarly, but on a larger scale, so you’re looking at sets from multiple vacations in a certain year. If you look at 2011 in photos, now you’ll be able to see the different places you took pictures that year. Geotagging is key here.
Visually, the Camera and Photos apps are also getting huge overhauls that place more emphasis on the photos and less emphasis on the app itself. The design here really gets out of the way, and it’s my overall favourite visual improvement to iOS.
Browse the Web in Style
Safari also gets a huge visual overhaul today, starting with a full-screen mode and a Chrome-like tabs feature that organizes your now-unlimited tabs into a card-like metaphor. You can scroll through your tabs to find your iCloud Tabs on other devices, Bookmarks, and Read Later list. Everything is super smooth, and you can swipe tabs away with a swipe.
Safari also brings iCloud Keychain into the mix. Essentially, this is a replacement for 1Password across all your devices. Punch in a password on your iPhone and your iPad knows it. Your Mac becomes aware of all your password information as well. The same thing applies to credit cards (but you do have to remember your security code, because otherwise, how is it secure?).
Safari on iOS now has the same Smart Search Bar that it has on the Mac, and supports a Shared Links section as well with Twitter and LinkedIn integration. You an also reorder your tabs just by tapping on them and holding. This is one of the biggest visual overhauls in the OS and it loks almost completely different from before. Some people are going to have a hard time adjusting.
The Other Redesigns
Literally every other app has been redesigned from the ground up. Phone, Mail, Messages — they all look completely different. And a lot of them offer new functionality. Facetime now allows voice-only calls, which leads me to wonder if the days of expensive cell phone plans for calling are coming to an end. (Imagine how useful that feature is going to be for international calling.)
Making it easier to communicate has been a big priority for Apple this time around, but maybe the best feature they annoucned in this regard is making it easier to keep people from reaching you. You can now block certain people from phoning, messaging and Facetiming you with ease.
Calendar also has a huge upgrade that kills off all the leather and, as they put it in the keynote, saves the lives of many digital cows. It’s as flat as can be from a design perspective. On the Mac, Calendar now integrates with upcoming weather and location data for events. No word on whether or not that feature is making it to iOS.
Of course, Reminders, Notes and Game Center aren’t being ignored. Even Passbook has seen a visual overhaul. New features for these apps weren’t shown, but they all drop much of the visual metaphors we’ve become accustomed to and look positively futuristic.
Useful Features for Everybody
Finally, to round this up, there are some great features across all devices that are going to make everybody’s lives a lot easier. Notification Sync is possibly the biggest one: React to a notification on your iPad and it disappears from your iPhone. You can also get notifications from iOS delivered straight to your Mac, so even if your device isn’t in your pocket or on your desk, you know what’s happening.
The App Store now has updates apps automatically so you don’t have to worry about it every day. Maps have a Near Me function so you can find popular things more easily. Siri has a new voice (and the option to listen to a man’s voice as well!) and a redesign. It integrates with Wikipedia and immediate Bing search results now too (once again getting Apple further away from Google’s reach). Not only that, but Siri also integrates with Twitter, so you can ask “What’s Johnny Appleseed saying?” and find out what’s going on with his Twitter feed without unlocking your iPad.
Multitasking is now more like real multitasking than it ever was, and features a dramatically new cards-like feature that’s very similar to some of the leaked ideas we’ve been seeing in the past few months. You can swipe apps up to force close them, and apps are actually working in realtime in the background.
Check It Out
I could go on forever about this. My notes at one point say the following in chicken scratch italics: Literally EverYthinG iS New (you don’t want to see my handwriting in real life; it’s bad). I’ve tried to round up the most important features, but if you really want to get a good look at all the visual overhauls, you can head over to Apple’s iOS 7 tour on their website and get a good look at it yourself. It’ll be worth it. If you need a rundown point-by-point of all the new features, our colleagues at iPhone.AppStorm have you covered. iOS 7 is coming this fall to the general public and is available for iPhone developers today.
Please note that all of our photos from the live stream have come straight from Wired under the Creative Commons license.