iOS 7 looks to be shaping up as the most successful upgrade yet to Apple’s mobile operating system if initial download volumes are any indication.
I’m itching to upgrade to iOS 7 myself. Unlike some folks, I don’t mind the new look of iOS 7 at all. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the old System 6 minimalism that I cut my Mac user teeth on more than two decades ago, at least more so than the first six iOS versions were. (Working in iOS reminds me in several ways of the System 6 experience, but that’s another discussion.)
Aesthetically, the new color theme is more cheerful, and I’ve never liked skeumorphism, so I would not be at all unhappy to bid it goodbye. The new feature set—Apple says there are some 200 changes and enhancements—contains some solid improvements that would be nice to have.
However, I haven’t taken the plunge yet. How come? Well I’m almost never an early adopter of anything computer related, and my inclination is to to wait for the proverbial dust to settle a bit, even for the .01 first bugfix revision (which reportedly may come very quickly with iOS 7).
But I’m also concerned as to whether my iPad 2 will have muscle enough to handle running iOS 7 without a slowdown in performance from iOS 6. There have been reports that seven is a marginal performer on A5 machines like the iPad 2 and iPad mini, and I’m waiting for more real world accounts to emerge now that the final version is out before deciding, but I may wait until an anticipated upgrade to a more recent and faster iPad model in a few months.
My iPad is primarily used as a work and productivity tool, and the iPad 2 runs nicely with iOS 6, which may turn out to be the ultimate maximum performance operating system for A5 devices. Certainly I’ve had the experience of overshooting that peak with some of the Macs I’ve owned over the years.
For example, I eventually installed System 7.0 on my old Mac Plus in order to get better Internet compatibility (so to speak). However, System 7 overtaxed the Mac Plus’s minimal hardware resources, and I kept System 6.0.8 installed on a separate boot partition on the Plus’s 20 MB (!) hard drive for speed and efficiency. However, you unfortunately can’t dual boot an iOS machine, and iOS version upgrades are essentially a bridge-burning one-way-street (almost; there is a faint hope workaround).
However, another issue giving me pause for sober second (and third) thought is iOS 7′s revised “multitasking” feature. It still falls far short of what I would consider real multitasking capabilities, but based on reading many reviews and early impressions, it appears that Apple has taken a step backward with what it insists on calling “Multitasking” in iOS 7.
One of my favorite iOS 6 features has been the multitasking bar that can be accessed with an upward four-finger swipe as opposed to manipulating the mechanical Home button. Unhappily, as far as I’ve been able to gather from reading literally dozens of reviews and reports, with iOS 7 we’re back to double pumping the Home Button to summon the “multitasking” app switching interface, with no on screen alternative. As one who routinely switches among open apps from dozens to more than a hundred times a day, it concerns me that giving that sort of consistent heavy use will potentially result in failure of the Home Button with attendant inconvenience and expense. I’m not really a fan of touchscreen computer control, but one definite advantage it has is lack of moving mechanical parts, the latter of which always carries with it potential for wear and component failure related to use.
But there’s more to it than only lame actuation. Just as Apple ruined the erstwhile OS 10.6 “Spaces” feature in OS X 10.7 and 10.8, they have now ruined iOS 6′a reasonably usable and efficient “Multitasking” feature in iOS 7. Gone is the handy and quickly efficient swipe-sliding app switcher bar at the bottom of the screed accessed with a four-finger swipe, your Home Button double-click now brings up a full-screen interface in which appears full previews of other running apps in a card-file like motif. There is still an icon ribbon at the bottom, but for some inexplicable reason. The app icons are widely separated, with only three instead of the former eight, which of course requires more (and reportedly sluggish) scrolling.
I know I’m going to detest the Home Button bit intensely enough that it could be a deal-breaker for me.
One point in the “plus” column for iOS 7 multitasking is that, while in the past Apple has restricted background operations to only a few apps that use certain accessibility settings, with iOS 7 developers have been provided with an API that can enable an app to refresh in the background (although an associate negative will likely be diminished battery life). This moves the iOS at least a baby step further toward real multitasking capability, but alas, with version 7 multitasking, it’s a matter of one step forward and two steps back.