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Review: Apple's iOS 7 is much more than a pretty face

Michael deAgonia | Sept. 19, 2013
More than a superficial coat of paint, iOS 7 represents a new direction for Apples mobile OS.

iOS 7 can now intelligently track when and how often you use an app, and if you're consistent, it'll update any data before you launch the app.Let's say you check Facebook or a news app every morning during breakfast; iOS 7 will spot that pattern and update that app's content so it's ready before you even open it. The same thing happens when you get a notification — say, a breaking news alert from your favorite news source. The notification triggers the app to update with the latest info, so it's available immediately.

There are also silent notifications that can trigger an app to download information such as the latest magazine or book you subscribed to or bought.

iOS 7 also has some networking tricks that helps ease the burden of multitasking on a resource-limited device like an iPhone or iPad. For instance, even though apps are capable of silent background downloads and updates, iOS 7 will smartly update data whenever the device is activated by a Swipe to Unlock and connected to a strong network signal. Because updates are intelligently queued together and run in groups — instead of done sporadically throughout the day — battery life won't take as big a hit.

And if you're worried about using up your monthly data allotment, you can restrict which apps use cellular data for updates or turn that option off all together. That's done in Settings>Cellular. (You can also disable automatic downloads of purchased music, apps, books, and updates in Settings>iTunes and App Store.)

On a final note, apps can update their preview state in the multitasking switcher, so you get an updated view without having to launch the app; a glance at the multitasking switch screen should tell you what you need to know at a glance.

Users who rely on the system-wide Spotlight search will find that it's now accessible via a pulldown swipe from the Home Screen; just use your thumb to swipe down anywhere on the screen and a keyboard will slide up, allowing you to type your search query. As before, Spotlight can search for apps and contacts, look through email and media like music, podcasts, videos and audiobooks, and search for events, reminders and messages.

Music and iTunes radio
In keeping with the new look, Music now sports a white theme with a bright reddish-pink text. Although the functions are more or less as they were before, there are a couple of notable exceptions. First, Coverflow is gone. In its place is a new view that shows you about 15 or so album cover thumbnails, and you can swipe side-to-side to browse through your library. When you find the album you want, tap on it to zoom into that album, where you can browse track listings and start listening.

 

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