New in iOS 7: What Developers Need to Know
The revamped UI, dynamic type, new multitasking modes, and 64-bit support point to new classes of apps -- and devices.
Tue, October 01, 2013
This article is your guided tour of what has changed in iOS 7. Since there are so many changes, I have limited my coverage to those features that I think are most significant over the long term.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Review: Xcode 5 makes better, faster, stronger iOS and OS X apps | How iOS 7's new APIs change the game for business | Keep up with key Apple technologies with the Technology: Apple newsletter. ]
Content is king
Let's start with that UI. Simply put, in iOS 7 a lot of the chrome that made up the interface elements in iOS 6 -- such as borders on buttons and glossy hues that rendered navigation bars and tabs opaque -- is gone. In iOS 7, most UI controls lack borders and are translucent. Alerts and dialogs now display panels that present the choices as strings rather than as a gleaming array of buttons or controls. The new interface seems barren at first, but its simple, stark look grows on you. Instead of a dark screen that presents a clot of UI elements, now you have a bright, wide-open space that's clean and uncluttered.
Apple struck a delicate balance here. Although the appearance of the UI elements has changed, their behavior and the gestures you use with them have not. For example, a swipe to the left in a table cell still presents a delete or choice panel. After the initial jolt of the UI's different appearance wears off, you quickly get your bearings and resume work because things behave as before. If you think this was a simple thing to achieve, ask any Windows user who migrated to Windows 8 what it means to attempt a UI makeover without considering the consequences of eliminating or moving key controls.
Why risk an overhaul of the UI? The purpose was to give more screen real estate to the app developer. Buttons, tabs, navigation bars, and other controls are translucent, which allows the screen to display more content. Even the status bar at the top of the screen, which displays the signal strength and battery level, is translucent. That change alone gives you an extra 64 pixels (portrait mode) to 52 pixels (landscape mode) to work with.