It’s Apple season again.
This time, though, the latest iPhone (5c, complete with thumbprint-recognition technology and a colored exterior option) has been overshadowed by the company’s more universal addition: iOS 7. The update, available to users of iPad 2 or later and iPhone 4 or later, is equipped with a few new and interesting features, but the majority of the changes are cosmetic rather than functional.
The home screen’s redesign by Jony Ive, Apple Inc.’s senior Vice President of design, is bafflingly simplistic at first glance, but its elegance becomes apparent as its features are explored in greater depth. The new lock screen eliminates the traditional “slide to unlock” bar, although the same motion is still required when accessing devices older than the 5c.
The home screen itself is essentially unchanged, minus a few stylistic alterations. Redesigned app icons and keyboards now look more two-dimensional, noticeably displaying Apple’s new color scheme (Ive and his team apparently have an affinity for white on lime green).
Additionally, in a visually stimulating but virtually useless fashion, the apps actually adjust themselves for the viewer as the device’s screen is tipped. The graphic elements of the operating system do not always serve a necessary purpose, but they are certainly attractive.
Arguably one of the most improved features in iOS 7 is the reconstructed camera function. Pressing and holding the slightly-smaller-than-before shutter button allows users to take pictures in rapid sequence, and an HDR option is available for photos taken with the rear camera.
Also, a simple swipe of a finger takes users from video mode to photo mode, square (otherwise known as Instagram-ready) mode, and panorama mode, thus keeping iOS 7’s promise of simplicity. Built-in “live” filter settings are also present, mimicking Apple’s popular MacBook application, Photo Booth.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the camera’s upgrade, though, is the photo storage unit’s newfound ability to organize one’s personal photos by location. The feature is convenient when searching for a particular picture. However, it is a bit unnerving to discover that one’s photos have been automatically and accurately labeled by date, city, and by the exact street name on which the picture was taken.
Another feature worth noting is the newly added “Control Center.” Swipe a finger up from the bottom of any screen, and a hazy box displaying initially cryptic icons appears. Upon testing every button, it becomes apparent that the Control Center is nothing but an over-glorified shortcut menu, but somehow, it still manages to project the illusion of indispensability.
From the Control Center, one can adjust the screen’s brightness, set the device to airplane mode, and access Wi-Fi without needing to go all the way into the “settings” menu.
Music controls (play, pause and skip buttons and volume settings) are found in the middle of the Center, as well as the Wi-Fi dependent AirDrop sharing feature.
Additionally, shortcuts for the flashlight, timer, calculator, and camera apps are conveniently included, making what could amount to two or three screen taps into just one. The Control Center is not necessarily more convenient than simply pressing one’s desired app icon, but its clever design still manages to make it appealing.
One downside to the upgrade, though, is that a few familiar features are negatively altered. The classic Apple ringtone disappeared with iOS 6, leaving a strange new marimba etude in its place. The old ringtone was never particularly memorable, but its replacement is unabashedly tuneless.
Also, with the addition of iOS 7, every song in one’s iTunes library, unchecked or not, shows up on the mobile device through the iCloud. It’s advisable, then, for users to delete any Hannah Montana albums from their iTunes libraries before agreeing to let a friend peruse their device.
Ultimately, though the iOS 7 update has its questionable features, it undoubtedly serves its most important purpose. By adding attractive, if minimal, changes, the operating system update keeps Apple users invested in Apple products.