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First Impressions of Apple's iOS 7

Michael deAgonia | June 18, 2013
Apple's updated mobile OS showcases a confident design

If you're afraid of change, you can take comfort in the fact that iOS still bears more than a passing resemblance to previous versions, and navigating the interface is just as simple as before. You still get a home screen with app icons, and you'll still be swiping up and down and side to side. The main difference between iOS 7 and previous releases is that the update leaves you feeling that every design element has gone through a formal vetting process by someone who had many nits to pick about the way things looked and behaved before.

This is a confident design where all of the elements hang well together.

The feel of it
From the moment you hit the home button and the lock screen pops up, you'll notice some different, but subtle, changes. When the display comes on, for instance, instead of snapping into view, it fades to life. And when you turn the device off, the screen fades to black.

There is a distinct feeling of depth throughout the OS, a reflection that the user interface has been sectioned into layers. Nowhere is that more evident than with the use of parallax for home- and lock-screen backgrounds; depending on how the phone is held, the background image shifts beneath text and graphic elements. It delivers an almost 3-D experience, and was showcased during the WWDC demo.

New unlock screen
The new unlock screen in iOS 7 shows that the unlock slider is gone. (Image: Apple)

Unlocking the phone using a swipe-to-unlock gesture is no longer limited to a specific swipe area. Swiping left-to-right anywhere on the screen fades away the lockscreen, fades up the home screen background, allows app icons to glide into place, followed by the lower app dock. All of this happens quickly, and plays into the overall "layered" feel.

Opening folders and launching apps now triggers a zoom-in animation that reminds me (geek alert!) of the level transitions in the game Flow (there's an example at the one-minute mark in this video — or the animation used for the stellar cartography scene in Star Trek: Generations. Tapping a folder and launching an app zooms the content into full screen view, as if you're plunging into the folder or the app. Quitting an app and tapping out of a folder triggers a zoom-out effect.

Double-tapping the home button launches the new multitasking bar, which springs into view by pulling back on the on-screen interface, displaying app icons and a screen shot preview of recent apps, allowing you to swipe through them with now-familiar swiping gestures. From here you can quit background processes with an up-swipe gesture — as if the app is being dismissed — or you can tap to select the app and be plunged into it.

 

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