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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

The Notification Center and Control Center panels are both accessed from their respective areas of the screen via different swipes, a top-down swipe or bottom-up swipe, respectively. The Notification and Control Centers look as if they sit in a layer that seems to reside on a higher plane than the multitasking interface; anything underneath it is blurred by a frosted glass effect. (That effect shows up throughout the OS.)

Mail in iOS 7
The Mail app interface gets an overhaul that's clean and spare. (Image: Apple)

Between the parallax background view and the interface layers, the feel of iOS 7 is a very stylized attempt by Apple to give spatial orientation to the interface. However, the new design is no more confusing than previous versions and the use of text instead of icons in some spots actually makes it easier to figure out what you're doing.

Generally, iOS 7 retains much of the straight-forward interface concepts that have helped make the iPhone and iPad so popular, but this release uses animations more effectively to graphically convey exactly what is happening. It's similar to some of the changes we saw back in 2001 in the move from MacOS 9 to OS X. While Windowshade had its fans, OS X's genie effect and Dock combo was an easy visual metaphor to grasp, especially for novices. The same is true here.

The use of it
OS has always had an interface that scales with experience, one that's easy enough for a three year old to use and powerful enough for rocket scientists. So rule No. 1 should be to not mess with the workflow too much. Thankfully, despite the new look and feel, iOS is still iOS. There is still an emphasis on one-handed operation, with modest improvements to step up that convenience for users. The Notification Center may still require a bit of stretching to activate, but access to common system controls via the new Control Center is a breeze. And the layout of Control Center seems to be designed to accommodate one-thumb control, as it covers the bottom two-thirds of the screen.

New to iOS 7 is the ability to navigate by swiping from the left edge of the screen, though it will be up to developers to take advantage of the feature for it to achieve full success. Currently, most system apps do, and I imagine that number will expand as the final release date approaches.

Spotlight searching is now available with a swipe-down gesture from anywhere on the home screen, making it much more convenient for regular use. And Siri, as shown at last week's demo, gets some improvements, with a new look and extended routines, new voices and added voice actions. You can now use Siri to control system settings like enabling/disabling bluetooth and turning on Airplane mode.

 

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