Apple unveils iOS 7

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After talking about its new hardware, teasing its Mac Pro, and showing off Mac OS X Mavericks, Apple took the wraps off of its mobile baby, iOS 7.

The mobile operating system, subject of much rumours and speculation over the last few weeks, was introduced in a promo video where some of its features were teased, but its visual style was most noticeable.

Apple introduced iOS 7 as the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of the original iPhone – pretty evident, looking at the interface in action. Flat graphics are brought to life with transparency layers, a modern colour palette, and app icons that zoom in when you tap on them. A new lock screen lets you slide the wallpaper upwards to unlock, unveiling a new, flatter keypad for the lock code. The home screen wall paper moves around using a parallax effect, making it look like the icons are floating centimetres above an actual flat surface. As with Mac OS X Mavericks, the skinned apps are gone, and the new versions have been optimised to look even better in full screen mode.

Functionally, iOS has also been improved in a big way. Folders can now hold hundreds of apps. Instead of having multiple game folders with 12 apps in each, you can have all your games in a single folder, swiping between screens to browse them. The notifications bar has also been revamped, allowing you to separate notifications for just one day, for all time, or just missed notifications.

The ten features highlighted on stage at WWDC include:

  • Control Centre – Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to show a new bar with controls for Wi-Fi, Airplane mode, Bluetooth, brightness, music controls, and more.
  • Multitasking – All apps now have access to multitasking hooks. The OS will intelligently learn when you use apps, and let them update in the background – without affecting battery life – so that they’re ready for when you want to use them. There’s also a new interface for switching between apps.
  • Safari – Apple’s got a new version of mobile Safari for iOS 7. It brings integration with iCloud Keychain, so you don’t have to remember passwords stored on your Mac. Search has been optimised , and you can have unlimited tabs open – also with a new interface for browsing between tabs.
  • AirDrop – The file sharing feature for sharing files between Macs comes to iOS. Apple took a dig at NFC devices, saying that AirDrop doesn’t require you to go around bumping phones together. Simply select the sharing sheet in an app, and select AirDrop. It shows nearby devices to send files to, and hey presto.
  • Imaging – New Camera and Photos apps play to Apple’s strengths. The camera now lets you take video, panoramic shots, regular stills, or square stills a-la-Instagram. It’s also possible to apply filters to your shots, in real time. Photos now makes it easier to browse your snaps. Instead of having a single roll, it arranges them into moments using location or time data. You can browse a moment from a specific day, or moments from a specific place. Or zoom out and look at months, or even years.
  • Siri – The voice assistant is now even more powerful. It can be used to issue commands to system-level services, such as turning on Bluetooth or turning up the brightness of the display. Voice search can be used to search Twitter, Bing, or Wikipedia. There are also far more natural-sounding voices – yes, plural: male and female.
  • iOS in the Car – A very specialised feature, since it requires an expensive accessory: a new car. Selected manufacturers will support iOS in the Car from next year. It will replicate the iOS interface on the car’s screen, and transfer Siri voice commands to the car. It lets you keep your eyes on the road and control your phone experience.
  • App Store – You can now browse apps by age rating, and see which apps are popular in your area. All of which pales in comparison to the big news: apps will automatically update in the background.
  • Music – Apple’s not forgotten that it got its big break with music, and the new Music app is sexier than ever. The highlight here is the inclusion of iTunes Radio – a streaming music service that is free, but supported by ads. Or it can be ad-free if you subscribe to iTunes Match. It’ll only be available in the US region, at first, though.

iOS 7 will be available for release later this year, in the American autumn – or our spring.

Apple iOS 7

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Christo van Gemert

Christo van Gemert

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.