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Taking a Quick First Glance at iOS7

Today I dusted off my iOS developer account to give the beta release of iOS7 a try. After some light research which yielded some skeptical opinions of the new OS, I decided to look for myself.

When reading the following review, keep in mind I’m a seasoned jailbreaker so my opnions of new features may come with some skeptical undertones. At least the core functionality I longed for with a jailbreak is now here in iOS7, which I’ll dive into below.

UI

iOS7 boasts a completely new redesign based on the trend of flat UI. While it looks pretty, it feels as though Apple sold out on this one. There’s always been something inherently special about the UI of Apple products with every element crafted to identify with the Apple brand. Nice to look at? Sure. Unique and self-identifying? Not really. The light weight font, matte colours and simplictic icons are have more design parity with Windows 8 theming than anything I would aesthetically correlate with Apple.

The UI revamp will also post a challenge for developers to create varying application instances with two different types of chrome. The more I used my phone, the more applications felt out of place rending old chrome in the new interface. It’s the price you pay for innovation, but there will be a significant visual adjusting period for users.

Performance

Along with new UI comes new user experiences, which is sprinkled all over the application with the introduction of transition animations intended to keep your orientation and make navigation smoother. You’ll notice every scroll, window change and swipe comes with a playful animation – at the cost of performance. I appreciate the effort Apple, but the overuse of tacky, in-your-face animations make me feel more annoyed than productive. The key to UX animated transition is the user shouldn’t even realize what they’re viewing is animated. Animated transitions should aid the user experience and feel natural, not mechanical and forced.

The overuse of animated transitions wouldn’t be so terrible if they didn’t come at a severe performance cost. In all fairness I’m working with a beta release, but I’ve experienced more app crashes in the past 5 hours than I have in the past 5 months on iOS6.

A perfect example of this is scrolling through my chat history. Chat bubbles move and collide individually based on the direction you swipe instead of sliding the chat history as a single panel. The worst part? All these sprinkled effects actually delay the time it takes between user action and end result, so navigation feels significantly slower than iOS6. You also don’t have an option to turn them off, only “reduce” the effect with a predetermined setting. Even my background is animated. whocares.jpg.

Top Features

Now the good stuff. iOS7 comes with a lot of delightful new features which if you look past the mediocre UI will make it worth upgrading. If you’re a jailbreaking veteran these features will be nothing new; all new features can be replaced with Cydia tweaks. I almost wish I wasn’t spoiled with the jailbreaking experience so I could see the new features with fresh, unjaded eyes. If you’ve never jailbroken your phone before you’ll be in for a real treat with what iOS7 has to offer.

Control Center

Control Center offers all the popular setting destinations in a single, accessible control panel. This is Apple’s solution to SBSettings, and they did a slick job with the implementation. Swipe up from the bottom of your screen to quickly control music, brightness, wifi, and get quick access to a handful of apps. Not having to plow through settings or app folders to find these commonly-used options is a huge time saver and my primary motivation for jailbreaking in the first place.

New and Improved Notification Center

Finally, a notification center that’s actually useful. The new notification center provides a useful aggregate to common information including calendar invites, mail, messages and missed/unread calls and texts conveniently available from swiping down from the top of the screen.

Easy Access to Spotlight

This might seem like a lackluster improvement to some, but I’ve personally taken to the Alfred-style method of app launching both on my desktop and phone. It’s always been a pain to swipe to a separate screen to search for what I want; now I swipe down anywhere on my screen and have access to spotlight at any point on the home screen.

Find My iPhone – Now Actually Useful

Arguably one of my favourite things about iOS7 is the new, jacked up version of Find My iPhone. Having lost/stolen three iPhones over the course of my lifetime, this comes as a pleasant refresher. It’s always bothered me that Find My iPhone was never tied to the IMEI, but now it seems they’ve found a more reliable way to track your stolen or lost device.

First of all, deleting or turning off FMI requires a password no matter what. Second, even if your iDevice is erased, your Apple ID is required to reactivate it. Suck that phone thieves.

In a perfect world they would have enabled GPS tracking for wiped devices but hey… a girl can dream right. Cylay is still my iDevice application of choice (for jailbroken phones) but even then you can’t control what happens after the device is wiped.

App Switching Just Got Amazing

App switching on previous versions of iOS was a pretty big let down and came nowhere close to the intuitiveness you get with switching apps available from Cydia. With the new app switcher, you can see the screens you’re switching between and the animated transitions used provide a graceful experience.

Letdowns

Airdrop

When I saw Airdrop was available on iOS, I was ecstatic thinking I could send files to my Mac. Until I learned you can only use it with other iDevices running iOS7. Bummer.

No Instant Reply to Texts

…still. This is functionality I love with BiteSMS (available on jailbroken devices) and the freedom to text and reply from anywhere in your phone is blatantly missed when you don’t have it anymore.

Camera

I’m 50/50 on this one. Swiping between different camera modes (swipe between video, phone and panorama instead of using buttons) is nice, but lacks any new practical functionality. A 9-up view displaying all the possible paltry real-time filters you can apply doesn’t sell me. I would’ve rather seen investment in developing depth-of-field or new editing features, but to each their own I suppose. Shitty filters are as popular as flat UI designs these days.

The Verdict

At the end of the day you’re probably going to be pretty happy with this update. I give it a solid nifty on a scale from uninspiring to amazing. The focus on gestures over chaining button pushes is a healthy refresh in usability. It’s nice and worth updating – especially if you’ve never experienced any of the new features on a jailbroken device – but it lacks that something “special” or any truly innovative feature I’ve come to know and love from Apple products. There’s also lots of new features not covered in this review, though the ones I highlighted are the ones which make the most significant impact on my personal iPhone usage. Perhaps my expectations are now too high being spoiled from innovative updates in releases past. In any case, get the update when it comes available – you might not be overwhelmed with excitement but at least you won’t be regretting the upgrade.


 

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Posted on June 11, 2013 by Sarah · 2 comments

2 comments

  1. Alejandro Gutierrez
    - Reply

    Welllll
    Let’s just say I won’t be abandoning my HTC One any time soon. Thanks for breaking all this down Sarah!

    Great piece.

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