iOS 7 has launched all over the world, so iPhone, iPad (both Mini and otherwise), and iPod Touch users of sufficient recency are busy getting their hands on the new 64-bit mobile operating system. After a long time of relative sameness, those who pay homage to the church of Mac are faced with some pretty stark changes to the beloved ecosystem. If you live anywhere but under a rock or ‘netless limbo, you should have a pretty good idea what those changes are. Funky colors that are both somehow muted and vivid, a strangely familiar pull-up menu, strange new notifications and an overall new flavor are all there for everyone to experience, enjoy, and fumble through, at least at first.
Apart from all the usual iOS-download-rush hour complaints and hiccups, people all over are giving the new iteration of the mobile operating system mixed reactions. Lots of people, (this writer included) had a lot of space to free up before we could even think about downloading the rather large (well over 3GB, if memory serves right) update.
I semi-waited up for the update, falling asleep shortly before the 0100 arrival and then waking up shortly after for a mad scramble to try to download the update, then realize I had some deleting to do, then downloading the update again, only to see it bork out before succeeding on the third attempt. I woke up a few hours after with a fresh-looking iPad mini interface with all the iOS 7 goodness for which I had been waiting so long.
The first, and probably most fun thing I liked about the redesigned OS was the parallax effect that gave the device a very convincing 3D feel. I’m a little ashamed as to how long and often I just sat there, tilting my iPad, just admiring the effect at work. For the most part, it has been smooth, though there is a little stuttery bug that resizes my wallpaper only to snap it back to the original state, which i was able to reproduce by holding the tablet in landscape and tilting it left and right rather quickly.
While that was a nice bit of eye-candy I have been enjoying a lot, perhaps the single most functional aspect of iOS 7 I am enjoying is the quick menu I can get to with a quick upward swipe from the bottom of the screen. Dual-classing in iOS and Android can get pretty frustrating when you start trying to activate features that aren’t there, particularly when the act makes you look like an angry, underdeveloped baby upon whose face the frustration slowly becomes visible. I have used it many more times that I can be thankful for, and all I can say to Mr. Ive et. al, is “It’s about flipping time.” The AirDrop button also makes its home here, enabling you to quickly enable or disable it as the situation requires.
The downward swipe from the top edge of the device still brings down the Notification Center, though there was a little more going on. A nice weather report (less useful here in perpetually humid, hot and possibly rainy Manila) and a run-through of all the day’s events, plus notifications from the enabled apps are all still there, but somehow neater. This is better than the action I got at the lock screen, which seemed to have displayed every single Facebook message I had received since the last time my device was online.
The multitasking menu is also very pretty, and quite a bit more functional than before. A quick four-fingered swipe upwards reveals a gallery of the open apps. A quick tap brings it to the fore, and an upwards flick gets rid of it. More than a cosmetic thing, this kind of interaction is so much more intuitive, or at the very least, natural. I actually found myself doing it before I even realized that I could.
A little quibble I had with both swipe menus was that it actually requires two swipes, as far as I can tell. The first one brings up an arrow that means a second swipe can call the relevant menu. I have a nagging feeling this will get on my nerves before long.
Update: The issue seems to have sorted itself out, and a single swipe seems to do the job just fine now.
Siri also seemed a little smarter than before, or perhaps just a we bit more accurate, but her continued usefulness will likely only appear after much more time than I have had so far.
For the average user, though, it will most likely be appreciated as a nice little cosmetic update to an operating system that has started to show its age. That and the inevitable feeling that a lot of the controls you are used to aren’t where you expect them to be anymore.
Most notable of the new table-flingingest annoyances is the apparent disappearance of Spotlight Search. It’s one of those things that just has to be there, but isn’t. I actually had to look it up myself to be honest. At the home screen, swipe down from the center. This should launch the search bar and let you find just what you are looking for.
Safari also has increased fucntionality, such as the ability to search from the URL bar, ala Chrome’s Omnibox, and the ability to go into private mode right from the app, which I can’t help but feel are at least influenced by Google. I will likely stick to Chrome, myself.
There are a lot of other hidden and not so hidden tips, tricks and tweaks here, and there’s so much time with which to get to them. The new OS isn’t a day old yet, so have un playing around. It doesn’t matter much whether you love or hate it. It’s what we’re stuck with, at least for the time being.