iOS 7: Worth Upgrading?

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 iOS 7 new look

New Look

The new look is both flat and multi-dimensional. The icons, dock and keyboard are flat, but the home screen has a parallax effect. It looks like the icons are floating on top of the home screen. The icons themselves are unimpressive. Many of them, like Newsstand, look childish. Apple seems to have regressed in this respect, in order to “think different”. Flat may be in style, but some of these icons are cartoonish and ridiculous. They look like something you’d see on a Linux netbook from the mid 2000s.

Newsstand icon is ugly

I was getting a little bored of iOS, so it’s like having a new device. Unfortunately, the iPad doesn’t have the same look as the iPhone. I was looking forward to the cool new look of Safari tabs. On the iPad, there’s just tabs. Prior to iOS 7, the iPhone also handled multiple tabs differently than the iPad. This is due to the difference in screen sizes. It’s hard to manage many tabs on a 4″ screen. Traditional tabs are faster and easier, but not as aesthetically pleasing.

The new animations for icons on the home screen are impressive. Once you unlock your device, you see one icon zoom in, followed by the others, as the dock slides out from the bottom of the screen. It’s very smooth, even on an iPad 2. Zooming is a key feature of the new UI. Tapping on an icon zooms in the app or folder. Closing the app zooms out to the home screen.

Folders have been improved. Instead of carving out a linen-lined space on the home screen, tapping a folder reveals just the folder contents on an otherwise empty screen. It removes a lot of the “noise” from the UI, so you can simply focus on the folder contents. This is different from other mobile operating systems, which seem cluttered in comparison. iOS 7 is more about focusing on the immediate activity. This is sensible usability.

It’s now possible to swipe between screens on many iOS apps, such as Settings. You can also swipe back and forth between web pages with Safari. To do this, simply swipe one finger, starting at the edge of the device, moving toward the center of the screen. I find it works best if I start on the actual bezel of the device. It’s a good thing that one has to swipe from the edge. Some web sites allow users to swipe back and forth between tabs with a swipe anywhere on the page. It’s too easy to do this inadvertently.

The iPad still supports the same gestures, with a few new ones. You unlock the device by swiping toward the right anywhere on the screen. Swiping up from the bottom reveals the new Control Center. Swiping down from anywhere (except the top) on any home screen reveals Spotlight (search). Swiping from the top of any screen displays Notification Center. This is now available from the lock screen in iOS 7. Control Center is also accessible from the lock screen. These gestures also work on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Swiping four fingers upwards (or pressing the home button twice) reveals the new multi-tasking interface. Instead of multiple app icons located in a “linen tray”, the user sees preview panes of each app. One can only see three apps on the screen at a time. Swiping left and right moves between apps. If you swipe on the bottom of the screen, where the icons are located, the scrolling is faster. While this new interface makes it a little harder to switch between apps, closing an app is easier. Simply flick the app upward. You can even use two or three fingers to flick up multiple apps at the same time! On the iPad, one can still move between apps by swiping four fingers horizontally.  The four finger swipes only work on the iPad. (continue…)

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