iOS 7, Apple’s brand-new take on their mobile operating system, has been released to the public and is now available as an over-the-air update or through iTunes.
Below you’ll find a full walkthrough of many of the new features and changes throughout the overhauled OS, including a look at the built-in apps that received the biggest changes.
Before you can dive into everything that iOS 7 has to offer, you’ll need to update your device. You can find full directions for updating in our how-to from yesterday. Once you’re updated, check out all of the shiny new additions to the OS:
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iOS 7 is full of changes big and small, but the most notable—and noticeable—is the all-new visual design. The long-revered design principles of Scott Forstall and Steve Jobs have been replaced with new ideas from Jony Ive. Gone are the gradients, stitched leather, and paper textures from previous versions of iOS.
In their place you’ll find plain white navigation bars and backgrounds paired with sharp-angled glyphs and borderless buttons. Transparent overlays resembling frosted glass are the closest thing you’ll find to a real-life surface in this update.
Along with the new interface comes a whole new set of icons. Unlike previous iOS icons, each of the built-in icons in this update are built on a common grid, giving the various elements consistent sizes and layouts.
We’ll discuss a few of the new built-in app designs below. Many third-party applications have also started adopting the new design language.
One of the most-requested features in iOS with each update has been the ability to quickly toggle common settings like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Airplane Mode. While jailbroken iPhone and iPad owners have had these options for a long time, Apple has finally decided to give users access to quick toggles.
To activate Control Center, just swipe up from the bottom of any screen. You’ll have immediate access to toggles for Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb mode, and the rotation lock which was previously in the multitasking tray. You can also control your screen brightness, music playback, AirPlay and AirDrop functions, and quickly launch your camera, calculator, clock, or flashlight.
Since many of the functions previously contained in the multitasking tray have been moved to Control Center, the multitasking interface was also redesigned and now includes no functionality besides switching and quitting apps.
Instead of the old “dock”-like app switcher, double-clicking the Home button instead triggers a card-style app switcher that allows you to quickly swipe through your running apps. Tap any app to switch to it, or swipe it up to quit.
Music streaming services like Spotify and Rdio have become quite popular recently. These apps allow users to legally stream music without having to purchase it from the iTunes Store. Since the iTunes Store is a large source of income for Apple, the company has built it’s own Pandora-like service that allows users to create stations based on music they enjoy. The stations then stream similar music with intermittent ads.
While you can’t select specific songs to play from iTunes Radio, you can buy songs you like directly from the iTunes Store without leaving the Music app.
Subscribers to the $25/year iTunes Match service can listen to iTunes Radio ad-free.
AirDrop on iOS functions very similarly to the feature of the same name on OS X. When you want to quickly share a file between nearby devices, you can use AirDrop to seamlessly transmit the file without having to go through email, iMessage, or other services.
AirDrop uses a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct to locate your friends, and connects to your iCloud contacts so that you can see your friends’ names and photos on the share sheet instead of random device identifiers or email addresses.
Notification Center Today view
Notification Center in iOS 7 has received a visual overhaul like the rest of the system, but now sports several new features, including a “Today” tab that shows relevant information to your day at a glance. You can get your weather, calendar events, stock ticker, and reminders all listed on one page.
Unfortunately, the page is a bit annoying to use. The weather is written out in a paragraph and doesn’t always contain the same information (some days it might list the high and low, other days it might not). The calendar no longer lists individual events, but instead contains a full-size day view of your calendar, forcing you to scroll through the whole page to tell whether you have any events. The same is true for the stocks widget, which no longer scrolls horizontally but instead lists all of your stocks vertically.
Thankfully you can toggle any of these sections off in the Settings app if you decide you don’t want to see them.
Multi-user Shared iCloud Photo Streams
Another much-requested feature that finally made it into a shipping version of iOS is the ability to have multiple contributors on a Shared Photo Stream. Previously only the creator of the Photo Stream could add anything to it, and others who were added only had the abilitiy to view the photos the creator had added.
With iOS 7, specific users can be granted the option to upload their own photos to a Photo Stream. This is especially useful for family photo albums or collaboration among a team.
Popular Nearby Apps
The App Store in iOS 7 doesn’t boast very many new features outside of the design, but it did ditch the Genius tab in favor of a new Popular Nearby feature. This feature uses your current location to determine which apps are current among other users in the same area.
Find My iPhone’s “Lost Mode” got a few tweaks in iOS 7 as well. When you add a message to the lock screen from the iCloud website or Find My iPhone app, you can also set a phone number to call. The screen displays a call button for whoever happens to have the phone, which automatically calls the number you specified so that they can return the phone to you.
Another security feature for lost devices in iOS 7 is Activation Lock. If at any point your iDevice is erased using iTunes, Activation Lock requires your iTunes password before the phone or tablet can be used again. This ensures that even if your phone is stolen or found by someone who doesn’t intend to return it, they can’t use the phone without your password. Hopefully that will lead them to return it since it’s useless to them.
New services in Siri
Siri, the built-in personal assistant that debuted with the iPhone 4S, has learned a few new tricks in iOS 7. It can now search the web using Bing without launching Safari, find users or specific content on Twitter, and look up just about any subject on Wikipedia.
All of the built-in apps in iOS 7 have been completely redesigned. Below you’ll find walkthroughs of the apps with the most changes from their iOS 6 counterparts.
Calendar didn’t get very many new features in terms of functionality, but it did get an iPad-style overview of the entire year. Most of the new changes in iOS 7’s Calendar are visual. The new style introduces a few new ways to interact with your events, though.
Specifically, where previous versions of iOS showed the list of any given day’s events at the bottom of the screen when you tapped that day, iOS 7 instead “opens” the screen to reveal a list in a separate panel. This means that rather than simply tapping another day to view different events, you’ll need to tap the “back” button to return to the month view.
Photos recieved several new features in iOS 7. The biggest is a new way to view your pictures as a “collection” sorted by time and location. You can even back out of these collections to view an entire year’s worth of photos as a single grid.
Another new feature—and perhaps the most useful addition to the app—is the ability to add multiple contributors to a Shared Photo Stream. Now you and your family members can create a common shared stream for reunions, or you and your friends can create a shared source of great iPhone wallpapers.
In iOS 7, Apple has finally jumped onboard with the photo filters trend. You can now select one of eight preset filters while taking a photo, or apply them later. If you don’t like how a filter looks on a photo, you can remove it or swap it for a different filter at any time, even after you’ve taken the photo and moved on.
Camera also has a new shooting mode called “Square” that does exactly what the name implies: it crops your photos to a square, much like Instagram has been doing for years. The method of switching shooting modes has also changed. Instead of a switch in the corner of the app, you switch modes by swiping the screen left or right.
Gone is the leather-and-paper design of the old Reminders app. It has been replaced with an interface similar to that of Passbook, using cards for separate lists. Checkmarks have been replaced with colored circles. For the most part, if you’re familiar with Passbook in iOS 7, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how to use the new Reminders app.
Game Center got one of the most dramatic facelifts in iOS 7. The green felt and wood textures have been replaced with solid white. The old casino-inspired interface has given way to colored bubbles that animate and fly around when you tap them. Most of the functionality is the same, but the substantial visual changes can make it feel like there’s a lot of new stuff to see in the app.
Like Game Center, Compass has ditched the wooden textures that previously made it resemble something you might find in a store. The new interface is black with a white dial. You can get a little more detail about your current location, and swiping to the left reveals a new level that is a bit confusing to use at first but quickly makes sense.
The new Safari update is mostly cosmetic, but there are some functional changes as well. Scrolling now hides the app’s controls like in Google Chrome on iOS. You can open an unlimited number of tabs, and scroll through them using a card-like view that looks sort of like a vertical Cover Flow.
Safari also has a new tab in the bookmarks panel that can show links shared by your friends on Twitter and other social sites.
iOS 7 is the most ambitious release of iOS to date. Where the original iPhone operating system was developed over several years and constantly improved upon in design and function for six years after its release, iOS 7 was put designed and put together in a much shorter period of time. Apple has learned a lot from the past six years, and they still have much more to learn. Rebuilding something as widely known as iOS from the ground up in a year is a big undertaking, even before you consider the fact that they added over 200 new features.
Yes, there will be bugs. At this point, there should probably be fewer bugs than there are, but take into consideration the immense amount of work that went into redesigning an entire OS. Bugs can be fixed. The more important question about iOS 7 is not whether it will have problems, but whether Apple will solve them.
Apple set out to make iOS a simple as possible with this update. Some would say that they have achieved that goal. Others would say they’ve taken that goal too far. While Apple is pushing iOS 7 as the future of their mobile platform, iOS users are divided over the controversial approaches to whitespace, color, iconography, typography, transparency, and every other aspect of the new aesthetic.
Whether Apple listens to the criticisms of disappointed users, or pushes ahead with the backing of those who support their vision, iOS has been irreversibly changed. Only time will tell if that change will gain mainstream appreciation.