Any Other Business
There's actually a huge amount more that has changed. Often it is to add subtle animations, or brighter colours, or to make something more sensible. The big change, the one that rings through the entire operating system, is the end of skeuomorphism - building software which mimics real-life objects. "Photos" doesn't show a photo; Game Center doesn't have green felt; when you delete something in Passbook (for holding tickets) it doesn't animate putting the ticket through a shredder. (My heart sank at Scott Forstall's evident glee when he demonstrated that at last year's iPhone launch.)
There is animation and movement throughout iOS 7: when you return to a home screen, the icons zoom in from the sides. When you open an app from one of those screens, the icons zoom back out towards the centre; it's a bit Star Trek. In the weather app, it rains, or pours, and clouds drift by. Necessary? No. Enjoyable? Yes.
Got someone annoying you in phone calls? You can block their number permanently. This also works for FaceTime Audio, which is Apple's voice-over-internet play. It has come at this from either end - iMessage for over-the-top messaging, FaceTime for video calling. FaceTime Audio is very promising (especially for 4G).
Overall? The colours are brighter, and lighter. It's as though someone went and did a big spring clean and got rid of all the cobwebs. The usability improvements - through gestures - make a lot of difference.
And one tiny thing: you want animated live tiles? The clock icon shows the correct, updating time. You can golf clap now.
Yes, yes, but how does iOS 7 stack up against its rivals? Looking again at Android (I studied HTC Sense on the One, and Android 4.3 on the Nexus 4) I'm struck by how much wasted space they have, and how dark it seems - giant strips top and bottom, huge gaps between the icons. Of course iOS 7 has to put things closer together; its screens are smaller. Even so, it feels like there's wasted space. As to Android's configurability - yes, it's great. Also, potentially confusing as hell. And iOS 7 trumps it now for rapid access to functions such as turning functions on or off. And that flashlight. Trust me, you'll use it.
Windows Phone - well, the same problem of technology/blog/2010/oct/24/windows-phone-7-review-htc-hd7">information density remains there (it's all elaborate fonts, not enough information, even on big screens), added to unintuitive navigation. BB10? If you give it time, it makes sense, and its use of gestures is (was, now) smart. But there are other UI foibles (for example, why do your Twitter direct messages live in the BlackBerry Hub, but you Twitter-DMs-via-the-hub/td-p/2150043">can't reply to them there?). BB10 has some nice ideas, but it's incoherent.
There are places where iOS 7 shows its hurried origins. When you're in the Pictures app, you can't pull back from "Moments" to "Collections", or "Collections" to "Years", even though both are hierarchical changes just like that in email (from message to listing to mailbox). At the time of testing, the Find My Friends app still has the awful "stitched leather" effect (I hope that changes, and soon).
It can also be hard to read if your eyes aren't pin-sharp, though there is an "Increase Contrast" setting (in Settings -> General -> Accessibility). Use it - there's nothing to lose.
And while mentioning Settings: although the search on the phone has improved hugely from iOS 6 (pull down in any home screen to get the search bar), the Settings app is now so big that it needs its own separate search system. Finding the mobile data usage setting (will it be in "Mobile" or "Usage"?), for example, is just a typical problem.
So many things haven't changed in iOS 7. In particular, you still can't change default apps (though as usual apps can have their own browser). But so much has: it's a very different experience, and once app developers have optimised their apps for it (as you'll soon see; a number already have), you'll be unable to go back without making futile left-to-right swipes.
But it's the features that have had the least public visibility - especially AirDrop - which could have the biggest impact. The idea of mobile payments is always waved around, but even just being able to pass photos or URLs to a large group rapidly, and wirelessly, is attractive.
And the use of gestures (which to me indicates the potential for - or even planning of - bigger phones) really does speed up work; using iOS 7 in testing, I was repeatedly disappointed when an app didn't allow the "slide back" gesture to retreat one screen. Android has the back button, which its devotees swear by; iOS 7 introduces the back swipe, which may become as beloved. And potentially more important: with Android so dominant, and large screens so popular in
iOS 7 will be a free download on Wednesday evening from Apple for the iPhone 4, 4S, and 5, and iPad 2, 3, 4 and iPad mini.
Original headline: iOS 7 review: Apple swipes away its past and looks at bigger things
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