The new Apple iOS 7, the operating system for iPhone and iPad, has been on my devices now for about a week. Time for some reflection. Let’s shake this down in a short list of pluses and minuses, followed by a few suggestions.
Download. Starting from the get-go, the whole iOS download process was easy breezy with no hiccups (also liked that Apple didn’t force the update on you, you could do it when you were ready). Here’s a helpful how-to on preparing for and downloading the new iOS (not the useful display of compatible devices). Remember though, once you’ve upgraded, you can’t go back.
Automatic updates. Thank goodness! All of your apps now update automatically and, another plus, by default your phone will wait until you’re on wireless to do this work to avoid chewing up your cellular data.
Switching or Closing Apps. When you double tap the home button, you get miniatures of all your open apps (which you can horizontally flick through). Flicking up on any one of them, closes the app. I really appreciate this feature as a way to easily switch between applications. Say, for instance, you’re composing an email, and you want to include a link. You can now easily switch to your browser, grab the link, and come back to email. Much less monkey-pooping around.
Fat Folders. No limit to the number of apps you can put in a folder (used to be a limit of 16). Yay.
Search. Easy to get to quickly. Just swipe down in the middle, on any screen, and there it is. Much better.
Control Center. If you swipe up from the bottom of the screen, you get your control center which allows you to change all kinds of things (one stop shopping). Wireless and blue tooth settings, airplane mode, orientation lock, contrast, volume, playback controls – all in one convenient panel. In the Control Panel you can also get to those apps that you might need in a hurry: your camera, calculator, timer or flashlight. As much as I like this new Control Center, I sure wish I could customize it. And it’s a little tricky to get to (takes some practice) – try swiping up from off the screen (like next to the home button)
iTunes Radio. I’ve been playing around with it and, so far, I like it. You can set up a radio station based on artist, genre or song and, like Pandora, hear new music that you’re likely to enjoy. To teach it what you like, tap the star icon while a song is playing and tell it so. You can purchase music from directly inside iTunes radio from the iTunes store. There are ads, but Pandora has ads too.
Camera. Some terrific improvements here. From the camera screen you can easily swipe to change from video to photo, to square (that’s new!) to pano (as in panorama) which is so much easier to do when you are holding up your phone, trying to take a picture. There are also filters available for you, right there on the screen (the little overlapping circles in the upper righthand corner which give you 9 tiny live-filter options) as well as the HDR option. HDR = high dynamic range (odd that Apple doesn’t explain that…). It takes three pictures in succession with varying exposures and combines them to get the best possible photo. Be aware though that HDR photos take up a lot of space, so use sparingly. Nice aside – just figured out that you can use the volume control buttons on the side of your phone as a shutter button (is that a new feature?). Here’s a handy how to on using your phone’s camera.
The Level. Ok, I used to have an app for this, but now it’s just there. You go to the compass, swipe to the left, and there’s the level! Handy-like.
AirDrop. You can drop digital items (links, documents, photos, whatever) on your Mac or on other nearby iPhone folks (iPhone 5 or later, iPad 4th generation). AirDrop uses bluetooth to create a peer-to-peer wifi network between devices. That wifi connection makes this sort of transfer very fast. Here’s the way it works: you have to be on the item you want to share (it’s not a file management sort of thing, it’s designed to share the thing you’re looking at right now), you must be near to the person you’re sharing with (not sitting on their lap, but nearby) and they must have their compatible device turned on. But it does work. Here’s a helpful how-to on using AirDrop.
Text Message Time Stamp. Ok, this is handy. If you swipe any of the texted speech bubbles to the left, you can see when it was sent.
Safari Improvements. I had buried the old Safari app in a folder and put Chrome in the task bar as my preferred browser, but I’m rethinking that decision now that Safari’s been improved. First off, you can type your search item right into the URL bar now (just like you can do with Chrome) and you can easily dismiss open tabs by just swiping to the left when you’re in the spiffy 3D-looking pages view. Also check out the “@” symbol under Safari book marks and you’ll find your Twitter timeline.
Hard to See. The look of the new iOS takes some getting used to. It’s very white, flat, and the fonts are quite thin. I’m guessing that people with vision problems might have difficulty and I certainly have had to strain to see, particularly in outdoor lighting. But see below, in my suggestions, for a few things that can help take the strain off.
Podcasts. Yikes, where did my podcasts go? I used to be able to manage and listen to them right out of iTunes, but no longer. Took me some sniffing around to figure out what to do. You have two options – either download the (free) podcast app through which you can manage your podcasts or you can change your podcasts to “audiobooks” (using Get Info) in your iTunes library. Update from Terry Austin: PocketCasts app works well.
Notification Center. Swiping up from the bottom gives you the Control Center (see Pluses above) and swiping down from the top gives you Notification Center. You get a today (calendar) view, which is nice and then an “All” category, that accumulates everything. This one feels less useful to me, mostly because it’s stuff that I would prefer to organize myself. You can customize it (sort of) in your settings (Notification Center), but not as much control here as I’d like to have.
iCloud. Still not working for me. Not clear how it all works, too little space and you have to pony up to buy more space. This could be better. I know it could.
Camera. Yup I know I had this one under Pluses (above) but there is a minus – the camera doesn’t focus quickly enough. You will end up taking lots of blurry photos if you press your shutter with old camera-function expectations.
Apple Maps. Still not as good as Google maps, not even close. And now I’m finding that my you-are-here blue dot isn’t even as responsive as it was in iOS 6. Wah.
Siri. Supposed to be improved. I dunno, I couldn’t pick up on any huge improvements and I still find that Siri misses (often comically) more than it hits. You get to Siri by holding the home button for 3-5 minutes and then speak to her. I do like the new little sound wave at the bottom that lets you know she’s “listening”. Oh, and one cool thing is that you can change Siri to a male voice now.
AND A FEW SUGGESTIONS…
The new interface is impacted by your choice of wallpaper. You can choose dynamic wallpaper (that shifts around and looks fuzzy), which gives you a very different “feel” to the interface. If you choose a colored still (say, yellow), all of the interface items will take on a yellow-ish hue (see photos above). This is nice because it allows the individual iPhone owner to really personalize the look of their phone, but it’s something you have to experiment with. Tastes being personal, you’ll want to try a few different wallpapers to settle on the ones that work best for you and your vision. I found the dynamic wallpapers got in my way, occasionally, and while I liked using my old photos as wallpaper in the old iOS, they don’t work as well here.
For those having problems seeing clearly with the new interface, you can make adjustments. Go to Settings>General>Accessibility and you can make the type bold or larger, reduce the motion (if you don’t like the new parallax effect), invert color, and make hearing adjustments too.
Keep your expectations low. Functionally, this iOS really is pretty close to its parent. Improvements, for sure, but it’s not a mind-blowing leap ahead.
What have I missed?