iOS 7: Apple’s colorful OS for generations new and old

Image via Apple

By now, many of us have seen or heard a long list of differences and upgrades associated with Apple’s redesigned iOS operating system iOS 7, but there’s an obvious difference between reading stats on a page and experiencing those changes for oneself. Now that iOS 7 has been available in the wild for a few days, it’s worth noting that we’re still finding new things to love.

For all of its small tweaks and enhancements, the most striking difference between iOS 7 and its predecessor iOS 6 is the visual scheme. Icons are now flat, folders are now “smart,” changing their own shades to blend nicely in with the device’s background wallpaper, and while colorful, the entire UI is more pastel than neon. It’s a brighter, lighter OS, and it’s a look I very much enjoy.

After getting used to this drastically different appearance, many of iOS 7’s subtleties begin to shine. Backgrounds move dynamically based on the orientation of the phone (this can be turned off in settings), and text messages bounce when scrolling through a long conversation. There are new animations throughout the OS, and while none of these are device sellers, the upgrade is like getting a new phone, without actually getting a new phone.

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iOS 7’s Command Center is arguably the best major improvement, giving easy access to all sorts of device settings by simply pulling a shade up from the bottom of the screen. The clock, calculator, wi-fi, flashlight, camera, airplane mode, do-not-disturb, brightness, orientation lock and more are now all represented here, eliminating clutter.

As an example, the flashlight toggle turns on the device’s flash LED, eliminating the need for applications that do the same. Furthermore, quick access to the clock and calculator allows users to hide away those apps that may have been taking up residence on the home screen.

For those that often make use of Apple’s personal assistant Siri, she’s received an overhaul as well. Most notably, her voice sounds much more natural (ie: less robotic), and she can be changed to a he, with a male voice option in the settings. Twitter, Wikipedia and Bing integration give Siri access to tons of new commands, like searching the web for an obscure celebrity or accessing ones’ own tweets on Twitter without typing anything into a search bar.

Easier and faster use is the goal of the updated photos app as well. Instead of showing pictures in a one large collage of sorts, the iOS 7 photos app separates photos based on moments in time and geography. Obviously more useful to those who store hundreds of photos on their device, this update makes finding that one picture much easier than browsing through the entire library.

Image via Apple

Over the years, I’ve developed a bad habit of ignoring app updates until they’ve piled up past a dozen or more. iOS 7 eliminates this with automatic app updates. Elsewhere, third-party applications now automatically refresh, allowing for apps such as Downcast (a podcast aggregator) to update and download new episodes without input from the user. These two updates entirely justify downloading iOS 7, even without the rest of its improvements.

While not exclusive to iOS devices, iTunes Radio was also introduced alongside iOS 7. This Pandora-style music streaming service offers the  iTunes catalog for listeners based on pre-existing channels or user-created streams. Purchasing a song is as easy as tapping on a button within the radio app and carrying on with your day. The service is supported by ads, but users can go ad-free by subscribing to iTunes Match for $25 a year. Compare that to Spotify at $5 a month and Pandora One at $36 a year (or $4 a month) and Apple’s going for the jugular of its competitors.

iOS 7 introduces over 200 new features to iOS devices, and while some may not even be noticed by most users, the entire experience is more fluid, user-friendly and downright fun to use. Ultimately, that’s all we could ever ask for.