First Look at Apple's iOS 7

Apple iOS software designed for improved usability.

apple ios7

There’s still a lot that we don’t know about iOS 7 unveiled this week at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. But the redesign of the visible UI has been linked with a redesign of multi-tasking, of some task integration, and of some of Apple’s Internet services. The beta release and SDK are available now for developers. It ships in the Fall for iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 and later, iPad min, and iPod touch fifth-generation. Here’s a first look at what’s new.

Check out Apple’s webpage on its approach to iOS 7 design.

ALSO: Apple's most important WWDC milestones

ios 7

New home screen: changing the visual language

The iOS 7 home screen retains the familiar “grid” of apps. But the icons have been dramatically simplified, the typeface streamlined, colors lightened. The overall effect is lighter and brighter, crisper and cleaner.

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Control Center: smarter control

Swiping up from the bottom, in any app including the Lock Screen, brings up the new Control Center, with a compact, streamlined task flow for things like adjusting display brightness or turning on Wi-Fi. Apps like flashlight, timer, calculator, and camera are just a touch away.

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Notifications: more info, more flow

Notification Center now can be accessed by swiping down from any app, including Lock Screen, so you can see new mail, missed calls, pending tasks and the like. The new Today feature collects and summarizes info related to your day: calendar items, weather, traffic.

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Safari: a simpler, bigger Web

Apple’s mobile Safari browser has been a redefined UI: “de-chromed” and simplified, offering full-screen browsing. There’s a new smart search field to make searching simpler and easier. Tabs have been redesigned in a cascade for fast shuffling and better visibility.

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Multitasking: extending what apps can do

For users, iOS 7 lets you do a left-right scroll of active apps, almost as if you are thumbing through a set of playing cards. An upward swipe removes and deactivates any app. iOS 7 now “notices” what apps you use most and, in background, keeps them up-to-date. Other behind-the-scenes techniques take steps to minimize multi-tasking demand on battery life. For developers, finally, a new API lets you enable any app to work in the background.

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AirDrop: simple, wireless peer-to-peer sharing

Previously only for Macs, AirDrop uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to create fast, simple peer-to-peer connections, to share pictures, contacts, videos, or whatever, from any app with a “Share” button. You tap the button, see the nearby contacts, select the ones you want to share with, over an encrypted link. No setup and no network are needed. Sharers do need an iCloud account; and the receiver has to have Control Center open and opt to receive your transfer.

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Photos, part 1: re-organized, easier sharing

The UI for Photos has been streamlined, so you can access the camera function you want from one screen: still photos, video, panorama, etc. iCloud Photo Sharing lets family and friends add their own to your shared photo streams.

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Photos, part 2: new organizing scheme

Now, iOS 7 automatically organizes all photos based on location and time, creating what Apple calls “Moments” (a day trip to New York City, for example), “Collections of Moments” and “Years.”

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Siri: gender specific, and smarter

You can now chose male or female Siri voices. Twitter search is now embedded: just ask to find out what’s trending. Also embedded: Wikipedia and Microsoft Bing searching.

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Password management: iCloud Keychain

Keychain combines a new iCloud service to remember your account names and passwords, and even credit card numbers (but you have to remember the card’s security code), with Safari’s new ability to enter them automatically when needed. It’s encrypted with 256-bit AES, the gold standard to date for data protection. Plus, you can tell Safari to create for you, and remember, a unique, hard-to-guess password each time you create a new account.

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Find My Phone: stronger security

Apple added new security features in iOS 7 to Find My Phone. If someone else finds, or steals, your iPhone, they have to enter your Apple ID and password to either turn off Find my Phone or erase your phone. They’ll also need them to reactivate your device. Find My Phone now can display a custom message you create even if the rest of the phone is erased.

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iTunes Radio

The redesigned Music apps includes Apple’s new streaming music service, iTune Radio. You get Featured Stations, and over 200 “genre-focused” stations. Plus iTunes Radio learns about your likes from what you pick and your iTunes music downloads, and personalizes your “music experience.” It’s integrated with Siri, and you can buy anything you hear with just one tap.

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Mail: “bringing order to complexity”

Existing iOS apps like Mail, Messages, and others have been simplified – not only by removing ornamentation but by rethinking the steps, and information, users need to do these most common tasks. It’s an idea that Apple says it’s carried through the entirety of iOS 7.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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