Here’s a look at my trials, tribulations, plus the good, the bad, and the ugly of upgrading and a walkthrough of Apple’s latest iOS version.
iOS 7: More Good Than Not
iOS 7 is an odd beast. At first glance it’s radically different– it’s the icons and fonts. Then, it becomes quickly familiar. App icons are still app icons, despite the new paint.
Allow me to ding Apple a bit because downloads were slow to arrive Wednesday morning, at least here in New York.
The iOS 7 update never did show up on my iPhone 5, so I plugged it into my Mac, which immediately found the upgrade and proceeded to download before the install.
Uh oh. Errors kept popping up in iTunes telling me I could not proceed. So, I tried to install version iTunes 11.1. That, too gave me error messages.
Then I simply downloaded iTunes from Apple, installed it, and proceeded with the iOS 7 update on my iPhone 5. That went without a problem.
Ditto for the update to my iPad, but updating my parents’ iPad was a boatload of problems that needed to be tracked down.
iTunes kept popping up more error messages about permissions. When I removed the password lock on the iPad the download and update proceeded as expected.
iOS On A Visual Diet
Without question, iOS 7 is visually thin and light when compared to iOS 6. Fonts are light. Colors are light. Yet, the initial feel is familiar, and navigating iOS makes it feel as if Apple has done something vibrant and full of energy, even though it’s still just icons and window panes.
The first view is strikingly different, yet it settles into familiarity rather quickly. The Enter Passcode window is notably different, as are Apple’s own app icons. Say goodbye to bevels and shadows, goodbye to those textured themes in Newstand, Compass, and Game Center.
It almost appears as if each icon floats on the screen as if in space. Safari tabs look more like a mashup of Time Machine and Passbook passes. My most used apps beyond Mail, iMessage, and Safari are Calendars, Reminders, and Notes, all of which look positively stark naked.
Buttons don’t look like buttons so I found myself pausing here and there to figure out what’s what. Backgrounds are blurred over settings and popups, a bit disconcerting at first, but you get used to it quickly.
Buttons vs. Moving Objects
In previous versions of iOS, navigation was a button thing. In iOS 7, Apple seems to have created another mashup, this time of Windows Phone’s flipping tiles and objects that are moved around, but in a friendly way.
Buttons and their associated chrome pieces are gone, replaced by a playful set of animations and movements but with understandable and recognizable context. Sometimes I’m not sure a button is a button because they don’t look like traditional buttons.
The default system font in iOS 7 is Hevetica Neue, which at first seemed too thin. iOS 7 allows for on-the-fly scaling so the font can be thickened as needed. Every visual component has a light and airy look and feel– as if there’s more space on the screen than before.
My Friend Siri And Settings
Guess what? Siri has a new voice. Actually, more voices; female and male. The voice is so human it’s almost scary. As you query or direct Siri, the iOS screen has an audio wave across the bottom, signifying that you’re being listened to. I think of it as digital eye contact.
You can still swipe from the top of the screen down in iOS 7 and view the Notification Center, but you can also swipe up to see frequently used settings in Control Center (also available in the lock screen). Oh, and Notification Center has a new visible cues– Today, All, and, my favorite– Missed.
Control Center displays frequently used settings for Airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and toggles for Do Not Disturb mode, and the all important portrait-landscape orientation lock. On the right iOS device, there’s also AirDrop and AirPlay settings, and at the bottom, other frequently used apps– Clock, Calculator, Camera, and a Flashlight. It’s too bad those are not customizable.
More Good, Some Bad
Photos is great. Now you can have hierarchies in photo albums, calendar days within months, but I was challenged to figure out Apple’s new gestures. Sideways doesn’t always work as expected so you need to know which app does what with which gesture. Mail is different than Photos, for example.
If your iPhone is your main camera then you’ll love the new Camera app, but you’ll need some quality time because it looks and feels, well, different. It’s more spacial, and basic buttons are where they always were (Flash, Shutter, Camera Switch, Thumbnail), but there’s a dedicated HDR button and Panorama was moved. Swipes now replace the dedicated button to switch between photo and video modes.
The built-in filters are decent, but nothing special because a thousand photo enhancement apps have similar features. Apple gives you the option to use a filter on a live photo or video, and preview is built-in. That’s nice.
AirDrop means there’s no need to use the Bump app anymore– unless you need to share files or photos with a friend who has an older iPhone or iPad. AirDrop automatically discovers nearby iOS 7 devices, and can even grab a contact photo. When someone else tries to send you an item you get a popup with options to decline or accept.
There’s much more going on in Apple’s new baby, and detailed reviews and responses are pouring in. Overall, iOS 7 is fresh, clean, almost spartan at times, but more playful, less dark and serious, and more inviting. You’ll want to explore new features. Just make sure to backup before you upgrade.