* “The new flat look is horrible”
* “What’s with all these garish neon floating colours?”
* “It’s the biggest revamp in six years for iOS and Apple has pulled off a revolution”
* “Almost every ‘new’ feature is a copy of what already exists on other OSes. This is Apple in pure copycat mode”
* “Visually, cosmetically and with all the new features, Apple has delicately introduced all things new without offending the previous generation of users”
It’s Apple and when they do something as big as completely revamp the operating system for their portable devices, it’s going to be loved and hated in very loud and extremely vociferous ways. Ominous drum beats could be heard on the horizon for a while. An upgrade to iOS was a much required, much awaited and would very much be taken as a showcase of how Apple will fare in the next three years.
Even the most ardent Apple fans have been feeling that the look and feel of the OS was starting to look jaded and decidedly old school. Consumers who upgraded their iPhone and iPads would feel a tinge of disappointment when they would discover on boot-up that their spanking new gadget continued to look the same since 2007. Thus, this revamp is a critical one – one that would be a showcase of Apple’s innovation prowess for the next few years. How well did they do?
The biggest change is that visually it’s all new, nothing has been left unchanged. The lock screen, system font, icons, background, colours, wallpapers, animation and behaviour is a complete clean sweep of new over old. Icons are flat, but float over the background in a 3D state. Opening and closing apps as well as moving from screen to screen have all-new slick animations built in.
Shutting the phone screen and powering it on also has a nice little special effect. Translucent elements abound where the background seems to leak into whatever is in the front (think smoked glass) and pastel colours all around seem to give the OS a brighter, younger and happier feel.
This section has left most people a little cold. The new icons are just new graphic designs predominantly, and don’t have many abilities built in. Expectations were that the icon technology Apple would use would be a cross between Androids widgets and Windows Live tiles.
A smartphone’s screen is prime real estate and icons that exist just as launch buttons to open apps is a great waste of space. Expectations were that larger icons for some apps would be introduced (2x2 and 3x1) and that icons would have updates and information appearing in real time. Hasn’t happened and that is disappointing.
The new feature sets immediately apparent, are notifications (now segmented as All, Missed and Today; useful but a tad busy), the all-new control centre (swipe up from the bottom and it gives you access to your most-used settings like WiFi, screen brightness, Airplane Mode and a torch button; most of this is very Androidish), multitasking (now instead of static icons you’ll see your open apps as big windows, once again very Android, Windows and BB10 OS-like), Siri (full screen now, gains a few new voices and the ability to change settings like screen brightness and WiFi on and off by just asking it to do so; all good stuff and hopefully they’ll get it to understand our accent finally) and automatic updates for apps and OS (instead of notifications, apps will auto update on their own; can be switched off). Most of these new features are critical for a modern smartphone user and it’s good to see them finally appear on iOS too.
Away from visual revamps and critical utility upgrades – iOS 7 also has some big new features. They start musically with iTunes Radio, which is a free radio streaming service that you can customise with artist or ‘type of song’ preferences and also buy a song that you like, then they plunge towards AirDrop where you can see all the other people nearby with the same facility and transfer stuff to them by just touching a button.
From here they morph FaceTime into VoiceTime so that you can make voice calls minus video to people on your contact list. Up next is a lockdown on security with iCloud passwords for lost or stolen phones as well as iCloud Keychain. Also swiped in is a gesture back button that we haven’t seen before and will make a big difference; and about a dozen or so more minor to major features.
Apple has always been a disruptive company that curates and innovates in both product as well as operating systems. iOS 7 seems to be a mix of catch-up and curation and very less disruption. That is not necessarily a bad thing, and one that may bode well for future products and phones.
Do remember that this public unveiling of iOS 7 isn’t the final version and lots may get changed and added to it before you can get your hands on it. Between iOS 7 and all the other whiz bang stuff that the next generation of iPhones and iPads may well bring – Apple seems to have pulled off just about enough medium-sized rabbits from the hat! Time for Android 5.0, Windows 9 and BB 11 to show their bag of tricks up next!
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, June 23
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