iOS 7: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Blogs Michael Grothaus 15:02, 13 Jun 2013

Ex-Apple employee, author, and journalist Michael Grothaus offers up his take on Apple’s controversial iOS 7 update

To hear me say my jaw dropped during the WWDC keynote on Monday when Apple showed the first images of iOS 7 might make you think I was impressed.

But you’d be wrong.

iOS 7

My jaw dropped because Jony Ive’s much-anticipated new look for iOS 7 leaves the impression that the icons were designed by an eight-year-old who found his sibling’s pastel markers, started drawing, then gave up halfway through but decided to hand his work in anyway.

But perhaps I’m being too harsh. Because the new iOS 7 is more than just redesigned icons on the homescreen. There are radical design changes throughout the OS and some pretty great new features as well.

And it’s the new features and functionality that is what is good about iOS 7. Perhaps the most welcome new feature is Control Center. This is a panel that swipes up from the bottom of any screen in the OS that allows the user to quickly toggle system-wide services, like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Airplane mode, on or off. 

Previously, users had to navigate to iOS’s Setting app to do all of this, which could result in a significant number of taps depending on what app you were in.

Another great feature is called Today. This is now part of Notification Center and gives you a quick overview of what your day is like, including a snapshot of your appointments, the weather, and the best route to work or home based on traffic conditions.

If this sounds a lot like Google Now...well, that’s because Apple copied Google Now for this feature. And I’m glad they did. Though I’ve been an Apple fan for over ten years (I worked for the company for five of those years), iOS had fallen behind Android in some respects in the last few years. I’m glad to see the company swallowing its pride and borrowing the best features of other mobile OS’s. 

Matter of fact, most of the new features and functionality are borrowed from other platforms. iOS 7’s new multitasking switcher is taken directly from webOS: you now see screen previews of the apps lined up one after the other and simply swipe up to close and app. 

One new feature Apple didn’t copy from someone else is AirDrop. This was actually borrowed from OS X and allows users to transfer files from their iPhone to a friend’s with just a few taps. There are plenty of file sharing implementations on other mobile OS’s, but the unique thing about AirDrop is that it does not require NFC like many sharing solutions on Android phones do, nor does it require users to be on the same wireless network. iPhones running iOS 7 will automatically pick up other nearby iPhones and form mini-networks between them on the fly.

Perhaps my favorite new feature of iOS 7 is iCloud Keychain. This feature allows Safari to remember not only account names and passwords, but credit card information as well.

So now, when you log onto a website (or app) to buy something you no longer have to sit there entering in your credit card number and expiration date on the iPhone’s tiny keyboard. iCloud Keychain will fill it in for you.

It’s a great feature, as anyone who has ever logged into websites on a mobile device knows it’s a much greater pain to do on a phone than on a desktop browser. But there’s another reason I like iCloud Keychain so much: it sets the stage for the introduction of a biometric fingerprint reader in the next iPhone. Gone will be the days of having to remember your various InterCapped usernames and passwords. iCloud Keychain will remember them all for you and the biometric fingerprint reader will be how you enter them. 

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