Today at its Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple announced the next version of its mobile operating system, iOS 7. The entire operating system has undergone a redesign with a flat, colorful theme as well as adding tons of new interface features. Apple CEO, Tim Cook calls iOS 7 the biggest change to the operating system since the launch of the iPhone and it’s hard to disagree.
Here’s what’s new.
New, flat design
iOS used to be known for its glossy icons and linen textures in its app but they’re all gone now. iOS 7 re-invents itself with a flat, colorful design, similar to what Microsoft has done with Windows Phone 8. One cool, although gimmicky design feature of iOS 7 is the “Parallax Effect,” which shifts around your wallpaper when you tilt your phone. This gives the illusion that you’re looking at something with depth.
All of the “chrome” in the interface has been flattened and stretched out, making better use of the screen real estate. All of Apple’s first-party apps like Stocks, Calendar, Game Center, and Messages have undergone this redesign as well. The weather app looks strikingly similar to Yahoo!’s updated weather app for iOS.
Apple has even gone as far as to replace the cellular strength signal bars with a series of four dots.
One of the biggest annoyances of iOS is that it’s difficult to quickly access settings. Previously, users had to jump into the Settings app every time to change basic settings like turning Wi-Fi on or off. That changes with the new Control Center in iOS 7. Users can now swipe up to access a quick settings menu for changing brightness, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, airplane mode, and even enabling the “flashlight feature.”
Android users can be smug knowing they’ve had quick access to settings for years.
More powerful multitasking
Multitasking has been opened up somewhat to third-party developers. iOS always had its own implementation of “multitasking” but it was really just “freezing” apps in the background, without actually letting them run. That decision was made to preserve a device’s battery life and it certainly worked. With iOS 7, however, third-party apps can now actually perform tasks in the background, gathering updates so users don’t need to wait for a refresh before seeing new content.
The multitasking interface has also changed dramatically. Previously, double-tapping the Home button would bring up a row of icons at the bottom of your most recently used apps but iOS 7 improves upon this with a card interface that features live previews of each app. Want to kill an app? Simply swipe up and it’s gone. If this looks familiar, it’s because Palm featured this style of multitasking in its WebOS operating system.
Siri now sounds less robotic and creepy with new voices. Users can choose between a male and female voice. The Siri interface has also undergone reconstruction, with a translucent background and waveform animation at the bottom. Apple’s voice assistant also gains a bunch of new features, like toggling settings, playing voice messages, and providing more detailed search results.
Apple is partnering with car manufacturers to integrate iOS into the car. You will now be able to use Siri, make calls, play music, look up directions, all using voice. This should make driving a bit safer.
Updated Music app
While many anticipated Apple releasing an “iRadio” music subscription service, what we actually got was iTunes Radio. The music streaming service will go toe-to-toe with Pandora, creating personalized radio stations. While Spotify, Rdio, and Google Play Music All Access give users access to a huge catalog of music to stream and download, iTunes Radio only allows creating radio stations.
The service will be free to all iTunes Match subscribers ($24.99/year) or free with ads. iTunes Radio will be coming in the fall to all iOS devices that support iOS 7 as well as iTunes for Mac and Windows and the AppleTV. iTunes Radio will be launching in the US first.
iOS 7 will launch in the fall, most likely alongside OS X 10.9 Mavericks. Developers can get a beta of iOS 7 today.