Apple’s iOS 7 is here, and with it, a whole lot of new features.
While Apple’s new iPhones have hogged the spotlight in recent days, a seemingly more mundane software update may be far more crucial to the tech giant. Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook described the radically redesigned iOS 7 mobile operating system as the biggest change to the iPhone since the device’s introduction in 2007.
Indeed, some analysts say the iOS 7 represents a bigger departure for users and developers in terms of the experience than the new iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c that went on sale late last week.
The question now is whether iOS 7 will reinvigorate the gadget that launched the smartphone revolution – but has seen growth slow this year – or will frustrate users and developers as they try to learn the software’s interface.
“I think people aren’t anticipating how big of a deal the new iOS 7 will be,” said Carl Howe, a Yankee Group analyst. “The software is very different than where they’ve been. And the thing that is going to blow people’s mind is that it’s going to make it feel like they’re getting a new phone.”
Here are some of the most useful features.
The free download is available for the iPhone 4, 4S and 5 and the iPad 2, as well as the third-and-fourth generation iPad and the iPad Mini. The latest generation iPod Touch can also be updated with the iOS 7.
Control Center: With iOS 7, users can swipe up on the touch screen to bring up the Control Center, with which users can adjust their screen brightness, go into airplane mode and even turn on their iPhone’s flash so the device can be used like a flashlight.
Automatic application updating: In iOS 7, users don’t have to worry about updating their apps constantly. The software does this automatically, saving users the hassle. Interestingly, this feature was requested by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was on a committee grilling Apple’s CEO Tim Cook over the company’s questionable tax practices.
AirDrop: A feature in iOS 7 that may prove to be very popular is AirDrop. It allows users who are near each other to quickly send one another pictures, videos and other items using either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. It’s Apple’s answer to Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones, which have a similar feature. On top of that, transfers through AirDrop are encrypted.
Photo filters: Photo junkies will be happy to learn that they can now apply filters to their pictures within the iOS 7 Camera app. You don’t have to rely on Instagram. In total, there are nine filters to choose from, and users can apply them before or after they take a picture.
Dynamic wallpapers: On iOS 7, users can select dynamic wallpapers for their device’s background. If you aren’t sure what those are, they’re simply wallpapers that are animated. IOS 7 comes with a few, which have little bubbles that move around depending on how you tilt the device.
Safari’s Unified Smart Search Field: The top bar in Safari no longer includes separate address and search fields. Apple has combined the two into the Unified Smart Search Field, where you can either type a website address or simply do a search query.
ITunes Radio: Apple is beefing up the Music app in iOS 7 with the addition of iTunes Radio, which lets users stream music for free with ads mixed in between. The new feature works very similarly to Internet radio service Pandora.
Swipe to go back: Navigating around iOS 7 should be quicker than on other versions of the mobile platform because now users can simply swipe on their screen to go back to the previous page they were on. This gesture works on certain apps, including Safari, Messages and Mail.
FaceTime Audio: If you don’t like wasting your call minutes, you can use FaceTime Audio to talk to other iOS users for free. Just like FaceTime video calling and Skype, FaceTime Audio uses the Internet to connect the call. Theoretically, the feature should allow for free international calls with other iOS users. Whether this feature works on your data network will depend on your wireless carrier. It should work over Wi-Fi networks.