Apple's iOS 7: Seventh samurai

The folks who go on and on about change being the only constant in today’s ever-changing world clearly had not made too much of an impact on the team at Apple which developed iOS, the operating system that ran on its bestselling iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, and iPod touch devices. For, right from 2007 until last week, the OS looked very similar to the form in which it started out, with large, shiny icons arrayed in rows and columns across different screens. Note that we said ‘until last week,’ for it was on September 18 that iOS finally got the makeoever a lot of people were crying out for -- iOS 7 came with a whole new set of functions and features, and most importantly to many people, a totally different look.

A fresh new look
It might retain the ‘app icons in rows and columns’ interface of its predecessors, but you would need to be blindfolded to confuse iOS 7 with any of the operating systems that came before it. The icons have a ‘flatter’ look to them and the colours are if anything, a trifle muted in comparison to the glittering, rounded ones seen in earlier versions. Yes, you still can go from one app icon laden screen to another with just a flick of your finger, but that’s where the similarity with iOS 6 ends. For many of the icons look very different -- for instance, a cluster of bubbles represents the new Game Center, a row of magazines the new Newsstand, and a set of gear-like wheels the new Settings. Even the onscreen keyboard has changed, with thinner fonts that go well with a newlook of the OS.

There are also a number of new features lurking beneath. Swiping down the top reveals a much more detailed notifications area than before, with details of appointments, missed calls and the like. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen reveals Control Center, something akin to a settings area where you can tweak the likes of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth airplane mode, lock orientation and so on. And double pressing the home button reveals an entirely new multi-tasking mode, with app icons beneath their open windows arranged like a pack of cards.

To close an app that’s running, simply put your finger on its window and flick upwards. Functionality of apps has been improved across the board with better viewing options in e-mail, gesture support in Safari, a larger screen and faster performance from Siri (the voice controlled assistant) and a totally revamped camera app that comes with its own filters and editing options, a la Instagram. A lot of users will also applaud the inclusion of the Automatic Update feature which lets you update apps the moment newversions come up.

A worthy update?
We have been using iOS 7 on an iPhone 4S and the iPad (3rd generation) for about a week now, and well, while we are not exactly thrilled with the new look of the OS and are a bit concerned at the increased battery drain (battery life seems to have gone down by about 20 per cent), it does seem to operate very smoothly, a few bugs aside (touch sensitivity seems to decrease dramatically, necessitating multiple taps on a link or icon, and sometimes calls just refuse to disconnect).

We do think that what the OS has lost in terms of simplicity -- you do have to give it some time to get used to -- it has gained in terms of sleek performance. And no matter how much the Android crowd might scream about stolen features from their own OS, the fact is that iOS 7 still looks very distinct from its competitors -- Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. Many users will be irritated at having to download new versions of apps as almost all have been re-tailored to fit in with the new OS’ look, but in the long run, we think iOS 7 is very much a step in the right direction.

It adds more to an already formidable platform, which, coupled with its app treasury (which keeps growing), makes the iPhone and iPad the forces they are. If you have a compatible iOS device, go right ahead and upgrade. iOS 7 may not look as bright as its predecessors, but in performance, it certainly is the way ahead. 

>> Functionality of apps has improved
>> Camera app comes with editing options

>> Battery life has decreased
>> Touch sensitivity has decreased

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