iOS 7's new design is its least exciting feature

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that iOS 7's changes are only skin deep

The iOS 7 preview that Apple showed off at its Worldwide Developers Conference sports a massively overhauled look. You've read all about it already--the parallax animation, the flatness, the 3D effects: iOS 7 looks sort of like a brand new phone, albeit one you already know how to use. But make no mistake: Based on what Apple's shown so far, even if iOS 7 looked pixel-for-pixel exactly like iOS 6, it would still be a very significant update.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that iOS 7's changes are only skin (or screen) deep. Though the visual changes are dramatic, they may well rank, in practice, as the least exciting update to the operating system, once it ships later this year.

The new look

The previews Apple provided during its WWDC keynote and on its website make it clear that though iOS 7 looks very different, it's still basically the same operating system we've become familiar with since the original iPhone. But the buttons look less like buttons, and there's a lot more whitespace and a lot less skeuomorphism to go around.

I'm in the camp that thinks iOS 7's new look seems cool, if in need of some polish before the fall release date rolls around.

And the visual changes include niceties like animated backgrounds, a new keyboard, new icons, and a new visual take on most of the visual elements that iOS comprises. But, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, so what?

Annoyances eliminated

Control Center will offer quick access to systemwide settings and common apps.

When I think of the most annoying limitations of iOS, several persistent ones spring to mind. Chief among them are issues like a lack of quick access to settings, mediocre multitasking, and unsatisfactory battery life. iOS 7 purports to address all three. Control Center, a panel that you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen, will offer omnipresent access to toggles for Bluetooth, AirDrop, AirPlay, Wi-Fi, Airplane Mode, Do Not Disturb, orientation lock; apps like Clock, Calculator, and Camera; and even a built-in flashlight.

Honestly, if Control Center were the sole new feature in iOS 7, I'd still be eager to install it on my iPhone.

The announced updates for multitasking have me similarly excited. Apps will now be able to pull down fresh data even when they're not running, giving seemingly magical powers to the apps that you rely on: You'll launch your podcasts app, or your Twitter app, or your read-it-later app, or anything else and, rather than wait for the latest content to download while you stare at a spinner or stale data, you should see the latest information already available. That's awesome.

Now, Android owners have had such multitasking features for a while, and may mock my enthusiasm for that feature's impending arrival. The key, however, is Apple's claim that iOS 7's multitasking will rely on intelligent algorithms: For example, apps that you use frequently will get more time to work in the background than apps you don't use often, and apps that you turn to first thing in the morning will pull down data before then, but perhaps not throughout the rest of the day.

While we can't know for sure until Apple releases iOS 7 later this year, all those multitasking smarts should mean that iOS battery life isn't ruined by the multitasking improvements. That's a big deal.

But wait, there's more ...

Notification Center's Today view seems reminiscent of Google Now.

What's really exciting about iOS 7 is that features like Control Center and improved multitasking sound awesome, but are really just the tip of the iOS-berg. Apple could build an entire iOS release around several other promised features, too: AirDrop will let you send files wirelessly to others nearby without requiring any special configuration--and it's likely that such hassle-free, ad-hoc connections will prove a boon to local, wireless gameplay, too.

Apple showed off a new tab in Notification Center that looks downright Google Now-ish, mixing weather conditions with your next appointment, travel times, and such. And the new Missed tab in Notification Center will offer a feature I've wanted since Notification Center's launch: a view seemingly sorted just like notifications on the lock screen, with most recent alerts first, instead of grouped unnecessarily by app.

Couple all those updates with improvements like the faster camera with filters and other options, lots of enhancements to photo sharing and organization, and new capabilities in my favorite iOS feature, Siri, and you get the sense that iOS 7 will be overwhelming. In a good way.

More than screen deep

So yes, iOS 7 will immediately and obviously look different to anyone who spots it. I appreciate the design efforts behind such a change, and I don't doubt that countless iOS app designers will work to update their own apps to fit in better.

To me, though, the fresh coat of paint and special effects just pale in comparison to the other, meatier features that Apple announced. Beauty is only screen deep; when I describe iOS 7's delightful features, I won't be referring to its looks.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Appleiosoperating systemssoftwareWD

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lex Friedman

Macworld.com
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?