Apple iOS 7 review: Eye of the beholder


Depending on where you come from, the iOS 7 may be the bigger, and better, piece of news than the new iPhone duo. Certainly true if you have the iPhone 5 and you intend on holding on to it, unfazed by what looks like a dilemma between a marginal upgrade and a candy-colored downgrade.
It's not about the phones though. Not yet. There's two of them for a change, which means Apple will be keeping us busy with double the usual amount of hardware to review. However, we cannot ignore the fact that we took the first glimpse of the new iOS 7 this summer as a sign - a promise? - of a better, new exterior design to come.
Yes, we liked the iOS 7 and, as it's about to start hitting the iPhone 4, 4S and 5 on September 18, we're taking a closer look at what's the biggest overhaul of the platform since it debuted in 2007. What makes it different this time is that we're not focusing on the new stuff but exploring the OS head to toe.
Let's start with a closer look at the list of features.

Key features

  • Complete UI overhaul with adaptive colors and system-wide Back swipe gesture
  • New system icons and folders, animated icons available
  • System-wide parallax effect
  • Dynamic wallpapers
  • Control Center with toggles, multimedia controls and shortcuts
  • Updated Notification Center with three tabs
  • New adaptive multitasking with new card interface, background refresh of apps and services
  • Updated Safari browser with unified search filed
  • iTunes online radio service
  • AirDrop file sharing
  • Inclinometer within the Compass app
  • Camera filters with live preview and new square mode
  • New Photos app with better photo organization, picture editing
  • Weather app with live weather animations
  • Updated Maps with Night mode and Turn-by-Turn walking directions
  • New Siri interface, new supported commands, new voices
  • Contact Blacklist
  • FaceTime audio calls
  • Activation lock
  • Automatic app update
  • Cellular data usage breakdown
  • Chinese-English, Italian, Korean and Dutch dictionaries
  • iOS in the Car coming in 2014 in selected cars

Main disadvantages

  • Heavily iTunes dependent for uploading files and multimedia
  • Segregated file system means you often have to duplicate files to access them through various applications
  • No widgets
  • Air Drop works only between selected iOS 7 or later running devices
  • No lockscreen shortcuts (besides those in Control Center)
  • Very basic camera UI with limited features and settings
  • Limited video codec support for the built-in player
  • No Smart dialing in the dialpad
  • iTunes radio only works in US Apple IDs at launch
We know many of our readers are impatient to see what kind of difference the 64-bit A7 chipset is making and excited about the return of the fingerprint scanner to the mobile world. But while we wait for a review iPhone 5s to arrive, let's explore the final version of the iOS 7.
The dynamic wallpapers and parallax view, along with live icons and the agile use of transparency are all part of the new design language but there's more to the iOS 7 than the modern aesthetics.
From a functionality perspective, Apple finally has connectivity toggles organized within the new Control Center, an iTunes radio streaming service, the notification center has been completely redesigned, there is AirDrop for easy sharing between different iOS devices, and an even more capable Siri.
Of course, there are still features missing. And those will be duly noted as we go along. This review is based on the Golden Master build, made available to developers ahead of the full-scale release to the general public, and we have it running on an iPhone 5.
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