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Apple’s annual software update is finally ready for public consumption and while things sure do look different this time round, much of what makes iOS tick remains the same. Don’t be surprised – iOS hasn’t really changed much since it was known as iPhone OS, aside from added features Why The Latest iPhone Announcement Was More Significant Than You Think [Opinion] Why The Latest iPhone Announcement Was More Significant Than You Think [Opinion] Another underwhelming iPhone was announced: the same size, the same basic features, and it doesn't even make your morning cup of coffee yet. Sigh. Read More and a few licks of paint.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, after all: why fix what isn’t broken? While iOS 7’s changes might not be as revolutionary as some might have hoped, the free upgrade still offers a good number of shiny new things to check out once your iDevice has rebooted and applied the update.

Translucency – Everywhere!

Well, unless you’re using an iPhone 4 or iPad 2 that is. If your iOS device is fairly recent, you’re in for a visual feast that decorates various UI elements intelligently using your background and a series of translucent panels. Cosmetics and having no real-world “usefulness” whatsoever aside, the translucent effect spearheaded by Ive and his team is a great addition to iOS.

Apple didn’t hold back on it either. Watch the camera preview frost and blur seamlessly as you switch modes, check out Safari’s background while browsing through your tabs and marvel at the way colours bleed through the various lines and UI elements in the redesigned Notification Centre.

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Navigating iOS 7 is just as effortless and smooth as it ever was, it just looks even better as previously drab backgrounds dynamically reflect whatever they’re sitting in front of. The new FaceTime app even uses a frosted preview of your ugly mug as you navigate around the dimly lit interface.

Control Centre

Swipe upwards from the bottom of the screen and you’ll see the new Control Centre, which provides quick access to toggles for Airplane Mode and Wi-Fi among others, brightness and volume controls, AirDrop and AirPlay toggles and some shortcuts to handy applications.

By default Control Centre is available while using other apps (it behaves just like Notification Centre has, requiring two swipes) and everything is usable from the lock screen, though both of these features can be turned off from Settings > Control Centre. The ability to turn on the LED torch or set a quick timer from the lockscreen still isn’t old, even though I’ve used the beta since June and it represents an area where Apple really needed to play catch-up.

Incidentally, you’ll now find portrait lock and media controls here (and only here) rather than their old location in the app-switcher.

A Better Home Screen

Spotlight has been moved from its previous position to the left of the home screen to a hidden pull-down box accessible from any home screen. Folders sporting the sexy new translucency effect are no longer limited to 12 apps, and instead behave like separate home screens, allowing you to swipe between collections. And that fabled parallax effect? Well, tilt your phone and marvel at the faux-depth therein!

Apps now zoom in and out on launch and freeze, the clock icon finally shows the real time and the Settings icon still looks like a gas burner. Quips about iconography aside, the refined home screen doesn’t represent a massive change for iOS or Apple’s design principles. Many lament the lack of widgets as being a bad thing, but I’m not one of them. Apple is famous for keeping things simple, and that’s exactly what iOS 7’s main control panel adheres to in this revision.

Notification Centre Refined

Swipe downwards from the top of the screen to reveal Apple’s revised Notification Centre. By default notifications and the new Today view are accessible from the lock screen, though you can disable this from Settings > Notification Centre if you’re concerned about privacy.

Today view integrates with core apps like Calendar and Reminders to show you any upcoming schedules or outstanding items that require your attention. The first thing you’ll notice is a sentence or two remarking on your day, weather forecast and even nearby traffic conditions, while the blurb at the bottom sums up tomorrow along with any alarms you have set.

You can mark Reminders as done simply by tapping the circle next to them, and skip straight to upcoming Calendar appointments with a tap. The Today screen can be edited to leave out much of this information if you do not use it in Notification Centre settings.

Siri’s New Sounds

In addition to the improved interface and smooth blur transition, Siri has been treated to a new dynamic waveform not too dissimilar to the original iPhone 4 Voice Control screen. Siri has also improved on the voices included, with new English (US), French and German voices included by default, you can flick through them all under Settings > General > Siri.

The digital assistant also now has the ability to interact with apps and settings, paving the way for requests like “turn on Bluetooth” or “launch Photos”. The rift between Apple and Google widens, as Bing replaces Google for web requests, which also allows users to now say “bing puppies” and even “bing pictures of puppies” for media-specific queries.

Wondering what your friends are saying on Twitter? Ask Siri “what is Mark O’Neill saying?” and it will trawl the service for relevant tweets. Similarly, “wikipedia cold war” will bring up the relevant Wikipedia article.

Failing all else, if you really get stuck for things to ask Siri, a simple “what can I ask you?” command reveals a trove of requests specific to you (though you might want to find actual people to talk to, rather than just your phone).

What Else Is New?

Lots! Despite iOS 7 being a mostly cosmetic update, Apple has managed to refine and change a lot more than what I’ve mentioned here. Luckily, we’ve put everything we could find into our “What’s New in iOS 7?” guide which you can read for free in your browser, download a free PDF or even buy for your Kindle for a small fee.

Download or View: Your Guide To iOS 7

But I Don’t Have It Yet!

If you’re reading through this article wondering why you don’t yet have iOS 7, head to the Settings > General > Software Update and let it scan for new firmware. As with many initial releases, Apple’s servers often struggle to keep up with demand in the early stages of the rollout so if you’re having trouble finding or downloading the update, a combination of patience and perseverance is key. If you’re lucky enough to have an iPhone 5s or 5c Why The Latest iPhone Announcement Was More Significant Than You Think [Opinion] Why The Latest iPhone Announcement Was More Significant Than You Think [Opinion] Another underwhelming iPhone was announced: the same size, the same basic features, and it doesn't even make your morning cup of coffee yet. Sigh. Read More , then you already have this update pre-installed!

Have you got your hands on iOS 7? Have you read our iOS 7 guide? What are your favourite new features?

  1. Al
    October 2, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Everything looks sparse and broken in my iPad2. Spontaneous app closings has sky rocketed. The upgrade simply broke my iPhone4 and I'm now looking at a total reinstall on some level.

  2. Jeremy Moss
    September 26, 2013 at 9:01 am

    I like the new OS, but I don't think there was anything wrong with the graphics of the old one. the new bells and whistles are great, but wouldn't they have worked with the old graphics too? My iPhone 4 really seems to have slowed down and become a bit more unresponsive since upgrading. Is it a drain on the memory, or is it just me?

    • Tim B
      September 27, 2013 at 12:30 am

      I feel that the old graphics were quite dated now, after all they haven't changed very much in 6 years. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but compared to the lighter modern theme that does away with faux leather and drop shadows I much prefer iOS 7's look and feel.

      Apparently the iPhone 4 does struggle a bit with the new animations, and does away with a few features (there's no proper translucency, for example), but this is down to the older A4 chip. It simply can't keep up any more. Then again, you have got another year's worth of updates and great app compatibility thanks to the updates, so that's nice.

  3. Anonymous
    September 24, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    I think iOs7 is fine. Lots of good new stuff.

  4. Doug Haywood
    September 24, 2013 at 12:36 am

    Updated to the IOS 7 . Wish we hadn't , looks plan and awful .

  5. Patricia Murphy
    September 22, 2013 at 8:48 am

    I have downloaded IOS 7 on to my iphone 5 and I cannot access my phone. The screen prompt is asking for a 'passcode'. I have keyed in the password that I have been using to use my phone after it has been turned off and it does not work. Has anyone had this problem after downloading IOS 7 and what is the 'passcode'.

    • Tim B
      September 26, 2013 at 12:12 am

      Did you manage to resolve this?

      The passcode should be whatever it was before you upgraded. There's no reason that the passcode should change between you upgrading the software and the phone rebooting.

  6. Anonymous
    September 22, 2013 at 5:05 am

    Agree with all of the above, get rid of transparency! Give users a choice of how they want to view things, like classic view as in how we viewed things previously. My mother who is 83 loves her iPad would never be able to see the transparency look. Am NOT going to tell her to upgrade! You do not give users a choice on how things look or do, App updates after being updated do not leave the menu, so now when things update I have this long list, go back to old format of when Apps are updated make icons go a way and say "Updates are finished." Some change is good, but GIVE MORE CONTROL to the user on how they would like things done!

    • Tim B
      September 26, 2013 at 12:23 am

      I don't understand how someone can't "see the transparency look". To start with it's translucency, which frosts the background rather than making it transparent. Transparency would be awful because the screen would look way too busy with the background faintly visible, hence translucency. On the iPhone 4 and iPad 2, there is a small amount of transparency used (about 80% opacity) to mimic the translucency effects that the older hardware can't handle.

      Giving users a lot of choice over how iOS looks and behaves is not Apple's way. It never has been, and it never will be. So if you're after a truly customisable experience then iOS is not for you, period.

      Apps now update automatically, so I not entirely sure what you mean about a long list of updates. The list is just telling you which apps have been updated already, which is very handy because otherwise things would be updating left right and centre without any indication. This is a feature, not a problem.

      There are some valid reasons not to upgrade (iPhone 4 and iPad 2 apparently struggle a bit) but accessibility with regards to the new theme is not one of them. In fact there are more accessibility options in iOS 7, with variable text size and optional boldening added to Settings.

      At the end of the day the visual style is just a reskin. It is no more difficult to use than the past style. The way the device will function afterwards does not change. There are some new features, but nothing has changed to the point of being unintuitive to use.

  7. Tom H
    September 21, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    I have downloaded iOS7 and am completely underwhelmed! I first started with Apple products when I bought my iPhone 3GS. I remember Jason Bradbury saying in an article that it was a thing of beauty and I agreed with him 100%.
    My, my, how things have changed!
    I will be buying an HTC at the earliest opportunity, Jonny Ive and friends have completely massacared the iOS in my opinion. It is very difficult to see and it is not as intuitive as before.
    I have got 16 apps queuing to be upgraded, which means that they are in limbo and cannot be used until the upgrade is completed, This is now day two of my plight.
    The whole phone appears to have slowed down considerably. I can click a link and nothing happens for a few seconds or doesn't happen at all.
    In all, a really bad move by Apple I think.

  8. Jenni
    September 20, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    I've seen the new iOS7 on two different devices now and I won't be updating to it anytime soon. It looks awful! It's flat and uninteresting. The groups and the items in them are barely visible. It may have some bells and whistles, but why take away the lovely graphics of the old iOS?

  9. Oppie
    September 20, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Sort of hurt my eyes at first. I'm still not thrilled with the visibility (gen5 iPod touch) but changed the text size (settings:general) and some of the accessibility settings - Bold Text=on and Increase contrast=on. Not my ideal UI but more useable. Thank you again for your iOS7 tutorials.
    btw- I'm Dyslexic as long as other organic/mental issues were raised...

  10. Stephanie S
    September 20, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Actually I am pleasantly surprised at how seamlessly the new system installed and functions. Not like installing a major upgrade in a Microsoft product at all. I was a bit apprehensive too. I like the look now that I have played with it a while. At first the flat icons were "meh". But the transparency, quick response to my touch, etc. are all good. Thanks for pointing out the new features and also thanks for the iOS7 guide sent yesterday.

  11. Janice
    September 20, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Why oh why do artists like white print on a near-white background - we are not all picture driven!

    • Jenni
      September 20, 2013 at 9:45 pm

      Totally agree Janice. Means you have to change your background to suit and make it something dark, like many do on the Android devices

  12. Alex D
    September 19, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Personally this does feel a little Android-y. I haven't had any desire to buy an Apple product yet, and this really hasn't changed my mind. I'm not knocking the new paint job, I just don't really think this will change anyone's minds about iOS if they were already firmly with Android.

  13. David Wilkerson
    September 19, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Upgraded last night, I have to admit, when the beta first came out, I kind of despised it, but it has grown on me and the more I use it, the more I like it. I just wasn't into the flat design at first because in a way it reminded me of the metro interface of Windows 8 (which has now grown on me as well). iOS needed a change and I do believe this is the right direction. It is snappier and gives you that new technology feel. It did not take any features away but added plenty of other features, the more I play with my phone, the more I like. So everyone just give it time.

  14. Morgan Naidoo
    September 19, 2013 at 6:37 am

    Why can I not zoom this page. The font size is much to tiny for me to read easily. Is there a way to enlarge, please let me know how to. Thank you

    • Chinmay S
      September 19, 2013 at 10:22 am

      Press Ctrl and then scroll in.

  15. paulin maersk
    September 19, 2013 at 12:11 am

    android copycat at its worst

  16. Kimble
    September 18, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    Wow that looks horrible. Glad I don't own any Apple products. Nor my family or people I know. Its a sickness. OCD....

    • Tim B
      September 19, 2013 at 12:47 am

      Care to explain this strange idea you seem to have about how Apple products relate to a troubling mental disorder that affects millions worldwide regardless of their choice of gadgets?

      I wouldn't be bothered if you were just the standard troll we get around here (see below), but seeing as you're spreading this rubbish elsewhere on the site, and the fact that I've had my fair share close contact with OCD sufferers throughout my life, I'd love to hear how you came to this conclusion.

    • Sash P
      September 19, 2013 at 3:51 am

      I have OCD and I don't have iOS. I'm serious.

    • JaniT
      September 19, 2013 at 4:24 pm

      Have you ever used an Apple device?

    • JaniT
      September 19, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      Upgraded to iOS7 this morning and though when it was announced I havent considered it as a step forward, it is a pleasent surprise - almost like a breath of fresh air.

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