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Apple unveils flatter, cleaner iOS 7

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June 10, 2013

iTunes Radio is more or less a Pandora clone

iTunes Radio is more or less a Pandora clone

Image Gallery (8 images)

The world of Apple's iOS 7 is flat. The maker of the iPhone, iPad and iPod revealed the latest update to its mobile operating system at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) today with a raft of new features and a new, flatter, cleaner look that CEO Tim Cook declared "the biggest change to iOS 7 since the (launch of) the iPhone."

Apple's vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, demonstrated many of the new iOS 7 features on stage before thousands of developers and press, and highlighted the new style that is noticeably more black and white and drops the skeumorphic, 3D feel of older versions of iOS.

Beginning with a new unlock screen, iOS 7 sports a fresher look, and the device home screen shows off a new "parallax" effect that responds to how the user moves the phone.

The single most notable feature of iOS 7 is iTunes Radio, which is essentially a Pandora clone, but comes with the added advantage of integrating with iTunes and iCloud. The streaming service comes in a free ad-supported version or without ads for iTunes Match subscribers.

Apple's Eddy Cue demonstrated the new streaming radio service, which comes with a number of preset stations but also allows for the creation of new stations in much the same way as similar offerings from Pandora, Google and Spotify.

Ovum analyst Jan Dawson says iTunes Radio was more about playing catch-up than innovation:

"What would be really disruptive is a service that allowed you to call up specific songs on demand as you can with Spotify, but that would likely have disrupted Apple's existing iTunes business, and the music industry as a whole, too much."

More new features

One novel new addition to iOS in this iteration is the always-accessible Control Center, which allows for easy access and control of a number of the device settings and a few other thoughtful features like a flashlight.

The new control center

The new control center

Multitasking and sharing throughout iOS also got an upgrade, particularly in Air Drop, which allows sharing directly, via social networks and other channels to other Air Drop users connected via WiFi.

"No need to run around the room bumping your phone," joked Federighi in a clear jab at the near-field communication "bump" sharing feature used by Samsung and other Android phone makers.

Other updates to Mail, Safari and Photos seem to serve to catch up with features already popular on Android and other platforms like swiping away messages, adding notifications to the unlock screen and removing the previous limit on open browser tabs.

The new Safari on iOS 7 can handle unlimited tabs

The new Safari on iOS 7 can handle unlimited tabs

Another popular feature receiving a long overdue update is Siri, which comes with the choice of a male voice in iOS 7 and broader data banks to provide more and better answers to requests.

iOS 7 on the road

Siri will also be joining iOS 7 behind the wheel next year. Cue offered a sneak peek at coming deep iOS integration for cars. A number of major carmakers will begin to roll out models starting in 2014 in which iOS will be right at home on the screen mounted within the dash, according to Cue.

In essence the iOS interface migrates to the in-car screen, and can be controlled via the screen or by using Siri when your eyes need to be on the road.

The small (but still cool) stuff

Federighi also mentioned a number of minor upgrades that won't turn many heads, but also offer some new key functionality.

Audio only calls via FaceTime on a WiFi connection will become possible in iOS 7, as will virtual private network access on a per app basis.

Notifications on one iOS device will sync with other iOS devices to prevent having to manage the same notices on all your devices, and a new activation lock provides a new theft deterrent by denying access to data and control of stolen devices.

"Many of the new features Apple added to iOS 7 are fixes to problems rather than dramatic or clever new ideas," says Dawson. "Notifications, Siri, and Multitasking enhancements and the introduction of Control Center all deal with deficiencies rather than providing surprising new features no-one would have thought of."

While there was no fantastic "one more thing" at WWDC today, in the style of Steve Jobs, Tim Cook and the rest of the Apple crew are likely hoping the completely re-stylized iOS 7 will be enough to satiate the masses until the introduction of some new mobile Apple hardware later this year.

Product page: iOS 7

About the Author
Eric Mack Eric Mack has been covering technology and the world since the late 1990s. As well as being a Gizmag regular, he currently contributes to CNET, NPR and other outlets.   All articles by Eric Mack
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10 Comments

iOS7 took on a lot of design attributes from WinPhone7.

Tom Arr
10th June, 2013 @ 05:59 pm PDT

Looks a bit bland to me.

Riaanh
11th June, 2013 @ 04:39 am PDT

(Open comment, not directed towards anyone in particular)

Why is it that the only people complaining about the iPhone are the same people who would never buy one in the first place? Be happy with the product you bought and let everyone else choose for themselves.

Silverbird
11th June, 2013 @ 05:02 am PDT

Apple's version of a phone is pretty well perfect and any enhancements welcomed as long as they don't copy the offerings of the others.

A larger (wider) screen size which a thumb cant reach accross making the phone a two handed device isnt all that great. Hidden screens popping from the four sides of the phone isnt a friendly to use feature and phones using this are that much more complex to use.

Once youve had an iPhone, it is a hard thing to substitute.

Apple needs to work on something drastic, not clone whats out there.

Apple should also completely re-vamp their itune site and make it as easy and intuative to use as their phones/tablets: if there was a genuine concern, that is it as all those on my network hate Itunes.

How about a phone whos front side is the business end of the phone and the rear side a full width viewing screen for the social media aspect for instance?

Mike DuBois
11th June, 2013 @ 09:35 am PDT

Apple's version of a phone is pretty well perfect and any enhancements welcomed as long as they don't copy the offerings of the others.

A larger (wider) screen size which a thumb cant reach accross making the phone a two handed device isnt all that great. Hidden screens popping from the four sides of the phone isnt a friendly to use feature and phones using this are that much more complex to use.

Ankur Singh
11th June, 2013 @ 10:34 am PDT

WOW Apple has invented the minimalist view (windows phone) and some advantages on home screen (Android).

Now Apple has other things for many patents and sue to other companies.

John2013
11th June, 2013 @ 11:00 am PDT

Nicely done article, Eric.

Barnbaby
11th June, 2013 @ 12:11 pm PDT

Interesting to see Apple in catch-up mode when Microsoft is truly innovating. Maybe there'll be a few less iClones around.

JuMo
11th June, 2013 @ 12:34 pm PDT

"Flat" means - ignoring all the basics of user interface designs. Buttons are no longer clearly BUTTONS, you have to GUESS constantly what is or is not a button. An epic fail. Or as they say - 'The triumph of form over function'. And yes, it looks very much like Windows 8 - which is a BAD thing.

It isn't 'clean', it's 'stupid', but then, since when did designers ever care about what their users think?

packoftwenty
11th June, 2013 @ 03:52 pm PDT

Flat? So Apple is going back to their roots of System 6 and System 7.1? That faux 3D style that's been around in GUIs since the mid 90's must've been just a fad, eh?

Windows' home screen now harkens back to Windows 1.0's non-overlapping tiles with active content - looks like Apple thought aping their own history would work for them as well.

Gregg Eshelman
12th June, 2013 @ 01:23 am PDT
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