iOS 7 hands-on first impressions

Apple’s iOS 7 mobile operating system (OS) has divided opinions ahead of it’s launch next week. Some heralded Jony Ive’s user interface changes as much needed, while other Apple fans have threatened to switch to Android.

iOS 7 is a departure from iOS 6 and previous versions of the mobile OS, as Apple has given its mobile operating system the first real makeover since it announced the first iPhone.

Apple’s iOS 7 interface has been described as ‘flat’, but it’s not what we would call a flat design. Sure, the lack of texture in the app icons and the simplistic new menus mean it looks flatter than iOS 6, but it has much more life to it than Apple’s previous mobile software.

Once past the simplified setup menus, the first thing users will notice is the revamped lock screen. The new iOS lock screen lets you swipe anywhere on the screen to unlock your iPhone or iPad, and also features dynamic wallpapers, which appear to move with you as you move your iPhone thanks to Apple’s new parallax effect feature. Thankfully the camera button remains intact, so it’s just as quick to fire up the app.

There’s also support for the notifications centre from the lock screen, as well as Apple’s new control centre, which can be accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. This has proven to be one of our favourite features of iOS 7 so far, as the bluetooth and WiFi toggle switches have saved us from trawling through the settings menu.

Once the handset is unlocked, everything looks completely different at first, although users will soon realise that it’s not really different. Safari’s icon, for example, is now a basic compass icon while the weather icon features a simpler, gradient background and a stripped back picture. While app icons have been completely reworked by Ive and his team, everything still works in a similar way to previous versions of the operating system.

Apple has reworked folders too. In addition to the option to have multiple pages, so you no longer have to have two games folders, the look and feel has changed, with folders now opening to fill the screen. Another difference users will notice is the status bar across the top, while the drastic font changes across the board add to the seemingly pervasive iOS user interface changes.

Multitasking has also been given an overhaul, and is now reminiscent of HP’s WebOS with its card-based interface. Double tap on the home button now and it will display windows showcasing all of your open apps, which can be closed by swiping away.

App Design

As well as redesigning its app icons, Apple has reworked inside and out many of the built-in apps that come with iOS.

Among the most notable is the camera app, which has been completely refreshed in iOS 7. Although the new interface is pretty stripped back, the changes Apple has made are mostly positive. Users can now swipe across the image viewer to select whether to record video or take a normal, square or panoramic photo, while capturing images is much speedier than on previous iterations of Apple’s iOS. The firm has also added a number of Instagram style filters to the camera interface as it looks to win over the hipster crowd.

The only real gripe with the camera application is that if you select a filter for a photo, it will still be set the next time you open the application, although this might change in the final version of iOS 7.

The photos app has also been reworked. The new interface, which orders images in years and collections, looks good, but isn’t as functional as the previous pictures app, often making it difficult to spot the photo that you’re looking for. What’s more, if you’ve saved a picture from the internet to your camera roll it will date that image from when it was uploaded rather than when you saved it.

One feature that looks impressive is the ability to share images via Airdrop. It’s easy to pair with another handset running iOS 7 and shared an image within seconds. In fact, the whole sharing interface has been reworked, which makes it much easier to share multiple photos and to post snaps to social networks.

Another app that’s been given a lick of paint is safari, which seems to be a bit nippier for it. Users can finally have more than eight tabs open at once, and can flick through open windows using safari’s new card-based interface. There’s also the addition of a bookmarks window, making it easy to get to frequently visited websites quickly.

Along with safari, the weather app has been given a much-needed revamp, and it no longer fools you into thinking that it’s constantly 23 degrees celsius. Instead, when you open the app you are greeted with an animated overview of the day’s weather along with an hour-by-hour breakdown, a huge improvement over the previous app.

The calendar app has also been altered. It no longer offers an overview of the day’s events. However, these can be accessed via the reworked notifications menu, which offers today, all and missed views.

There are plenty of other apps that have been reworked too. Messages have been given a refined new look, there’s now a separate facetime app and settings look completely different, offering a barebones, stripped-back look.

Overall Impressions

Apple might have provoked divergent opinions when it unveiled iOS 7 earlier this year, those who were quick to slam the mobile operating system will probably grow to like it, while those who already like the look of it won’t be disappointed once it’s released.

There’s no denying that iOS 7 is a major step forward for Apple, and without a redesign like this, the firm likely would have faced more criticism than it has for doing so.

The user interface changes, while not as drastic as initial impressions might suggest, breathe new life into the otherwise ageing mobile OS, and although some were quick to comment on the ‘ugly’ app icons, they certainly grow on you.

There’s a lot to be excited about in terms of new features. Things such as the revamped safari app and control centre panel will make life easier for many iPhone users. While android users might point out that this feature has been available on Google’s mobile operating system for some time, that doesn’t make it any less of a step forward for Apple, which rarely makes such large changes.

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