Six years. It had been six years since Apple’s industry-rocking mobile platform saw any real visual overhaul, but now the wait is over. Just as BlackBerry OS went from mobile powerhouse to stale and boring in that period of time, iOS had certainly lost its luster in recent years. Apple had so much momentum over that period of time that iOS’s shortcomings had a minimal impact on Apple’s bottom line, but as we discussed in a recent feature, there’s no question that the platform has fallen behind rivals in recent years where features and innovation are concerned. Does iOS 7 finally put Apple back in the driver’s seat?
Let’s take a look at just a small sampling of the key new features in the latest version of Apple’s mobile platform.
Overhauled user interface: First and foremost, iOS finally gets a fresh new look in iOS 7. In line with reports and led by Apple’s SVP of industrial design Jonathan I’ve, iOS has done away with much of the texture that defined its design identity in the past. Now, iOS 7 is far more flat and minimalistic.
The new look uses a fresh interface combined with a new, brighter color palette that completely changes the feel of the platform. What’s more, iOS 7 features a nifty effect that allows the UI to respond to the movement of the phone and shift shadows and other elements, creating a great 3D look.
All of Apple’s in-built apps have been overhauled with the new look, and we plan to take a much deeper look at Apple’s new OS once the first beta becomes available.
Control Center: This is a feature that will have many iOS users breathing a sigh of relief. Gone are the days of digging through pages of settings to switch things on and off. Instead, users can simply swipe up from the bottom of any screen and toggle settings, adjust screen brightness, control media or flip through open apps.
Enhanced multitasking: Apple’s new multitasking features in iOS 7 are a big deal. Instead of restricting third-party apps to a handful of background APIs, iOS will now allow any apps to perform a variety of functions in the background. To ensure battery life doesn’t take a hit, Apple only allows apps to perform background functions when they need to.
Unfortunately, Apple still hasn’t offered developers a solution that will allow third-party apps to integrate and communicate with each other.
Camera: Apple’s new camera software looks terrific, taking everything that was great about Apple’s old camera software and adding new features like integrated photo filters and a revamped Photos app that automatically arranges images by date and location.
iTunes Radio: It’s finally here… iTunes Radio is Apple’s answer to the increasing popularity of various streaming music services. Instead of sitting back while other services rake in the cash with their iOS radio apps, Apple has now integrated a Pandora-like radio service into the iOS Music app. The service is free with ads or just $24.99 per year (included in iTunes Match subscriptions) for ad-free listening.
So where does all this leave Apple and its mobile platform in the end? From the initial reaction on social networks, it looks like users are quite impressed. Looking at Apple’s stock, investors are clearly not impressed — Apple shares closed down two-thirds of a point after spending most of the day before the WWDC keynote started up about 2%.
It’s clear that iOS 7 is polarizing. While the new software includes a number of exciting new features, it also fails to address a number of common pain points such as widgets. It also doesn’t include any knockout features that really show Apple is still innovating.
But iOS 7 is exciting.
The new look is exciting, and many of the new features are exciting. Apple’s new multitasking solution, for example, opens the door for a tidal wave of functionality that had previously been off-limits.
The launch of a completely redesigned iPad this fall will help make the iOS 7 experience even more novel, though a fresh new iPhone would have pushed things to the next level. Instead, it still looks like Apple will launch an “iPhone 5S” this fall that is an incremental update compared to the iPhone 5.
IOS 7 is still exciting, though, and it shows that Apple isn’t afraid to take some big risks. While the layout of Apple’s mobile UI is the same, the look is a drastic departure from earlier versions of iOS. The new software certainly doesn’t have everything we were looking for — it also doesn’t have anything truly novel that screams innovation — but so far it definitely looks like a step in the right direction as Apple looks to reverse soured sentiment among investors and the media.
And the new iOS 7 UI would probably look great on a new HDTV or smart watch, too. Just saying.