Hands-on with iOS 7 – Five pointless things I love about the new OS

Sections: Features, iPhone OS, SDK and hacks, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Opinions and Editorials

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Yesterday at the virtual downtown TechTell Towers, one of my coworkers came to my office and said, “Okay, tell me why I need to upgrade to iOS 7.” Once I was done making sure my waiver claim for the Vikings defense went through, I replied, “Because it’s out there?” iOS is not like Android, after all; you don’t wait until you upgrade your phone before you upgrade your OS.

But I get that this is a major overhaul. iOS 7 looks quite a bit different from the previous version, and it feels a bit different, too. Change scares people, and if there’s not enough instant good to counter the instantly unfamiliar, people are going to be disappointed. Indeed, one of my first impressions of iOS 7 was that hate the sterile look of Apple’s apps: Calendar, Game Center, Address Book and such. If I want that much white, I’ll go see Wang Chung again.

As with most things in life, it’s often the little things that can help us grow comfortable; things other people may not care about or even notice. And so, here are my five favorite things (so far) about iOS 7 that I’ll never use to answer, “Why do I need to upgrade?” because who really cares?

  • iOS 7 WeatherThe Weather App – Everything Apple got wrong with the minimal approach to Calendar and such, it got right with Weather. It’s clear and easy to read. The icons are actually kind of fun, and the background provides an instant visual indication of the information you wanted when you opened the app. Also, the subtle animations are quite mesmerizing.
  • The Triple Finger Close – The first technical question I received on iOS 7 was in regards to closing apps. You no longer double tap the home button then hold down an app icon to enter shut down mode. Now, double tapping the home button takes you a navigation list of sorts with screen thumbnails to more easily find the app you want. To close the apps, you swipe up on the thumbnail. The best news here is that if you want to close more than one app, you can swipe up with two or three fingers. Not a huge deal, but if you want to close down a couple dozen apps at a time, as I often do, you no longer have to do so one by one.
  • Pointless Animations – Everything’s on the move in iOS 7. Not only to do apps and app folders zoom around with that parallax effect that I’ve now covered enough to memorize the spelling of parallax, but elements within the apps get their dramatic zooms, too. I especially dig the way the speech bubbles in Messages slide into place from beneath the interface.
  • Control Center – Specifically, the flashlight. I think it’s great that Apple’s even including one for free, but it’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t bother with if it weren’t so easily accessible. That I can easily access it, Do Not Disturb, and more by simply swiping up from the bottom of the screen means that maybe I’ll actually start using them. I’d like to see Apple throw more options into Control Center, but I’m happy with what’s there now.
  • The New Ringtones I’ll Never Use – First, I don’t like that Apple changed the ringtone by default. Unless Apple employees just really want to know when someone in line at Chipotle is using iOS 7, I don’t get the point. But the new tones are as basic, clean and modern as the UI, and I found most of them to be quite pleasant. I’ll never use them, though, as they’re not jarring enough to get my attention when a call comes. Maybe that’s a good thing; I won’t have to feel bad about ignoring calls if I never knew they were coming.

The point to all of this is that I’m not going to talk about speech bubbles and ringtones when people ask me why they should update to iOS 7. But these little things take the edge off the update, and I have quite a bit of fun finding them. If you’ve found some little favorites you’d like to share with us, feel free to do so in the comments below.

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  • Kavok

    One little thing I thought was really cool is in iTunes. Specifically, when you are playing a song in a list, it now displays an animated “equalizer” next to the song. Before it was just a speaker icon I believe.