iOS 7 – These are a few of my favorite things

I’ve been testing iOS 7 from the beginning, and though the UI took a bit of getting used to (and the new icon on the Photos app still makes me do a mental reset sometimes). Overall, I love the changes in it. I’d like to take a minute to tell you about a few of my favorite enhancements in the OS.

  • Control Center – Control Center is easily one of my favorite changes – and it’s immensely useful. A flick up from the bottom and quickly starting the iPhone’s flash, timer, calculator and camera are just one click away. You can easily turn airplane mode/Wi-Fi/Bluetooth on and off, lock the display orientation, and turn on DnD mode. It’s also easy to adjust brightness and volume – two things you sometimes have to do in a hurry. It’s well designed and quite usable.
  • Camera – The new Camera app is clean and minimal, and lets you quickly switch between video, photo, square photo, and panorama modes. More importantly, the camera app is FAST. Traveling with my family a few weeks ago, I captured many photos that I might have missed on iOS 6 with my iPhone 5, because the app… wasn’t fast.
  • Notification Center – I’m still minimalist and like to turn off most things, and only let a few apps partake in the Notification Center. From the beginning to the end of your day, iOS 7 gives you a quick glance of what’s in plan. You can see weather, your next appointment, and more at a glance. Your whole calendar for the day is also visible, as is a summary of tomorrow’s events. One cool, somewhat useful feature of iOS 7’s Notification Center is telling you what your commute will be like on your way to work and on your way home. It’s not perfect – it picks the likely main route to your office (for me, I take a back route, not the Interstate it assumes I will, so it’s not really indicative of the time my route will take), but is still useful for an at-a-glance traffic indicator.
  • Mail undelete – A hidden gem. Ever deleted an email accidentally? With earlier versions of iOS, that meant tunneling down to your deleted items, waiting for it to sync, and putting it back. With iOS 7, just shake your phone (perhaps like an Etch-A-Sketch, perhaps like a Polaroid picture). When it prompts you to Undo Trash, click Undo, and you’ll get the last deleted message back. But wait, there’s more. It’s got a queue of deleted messages, so it’ll go back some time and keep undeleting them one at a time.
  • Managing apps/Safari tabs – A double tap shows all apps. Swipe side to side to switch to an app, or grab it with your finger and fling it upwards to close. Safari, which is now capable of showing far more tabs, is the same UI, albeit turned 90 degrees to the right. Swipe up and down to select a tab, or grab one with a finger and fling to the left (or hit the X) to close.
  • Siri – No distinct improvement here, except Siri seems faster, more reliable/better at dictation, and the voice that is used is much more natural (US English – your language may vary).
  • Apple Maps – Faster to load, better directions, immersive iOS 7 look and feel. Just overall a better experience. Not perfect, but better. A single finger tap and window chrome hides. A single tap again brings it back.
  • Automatic app updates – What’s to say? No checking for updates and manually installing. It just happens. Updates are annotated in the Notification Center, as well as in the Updates tab of the App Store (where the What’s New change list is easily visible), and a small blue orb also appears next to recently updated apps.
  • Calendar app – Clean UI, gesture friendly. Scroll up and down to see the whole day. Scroll up and down on year view to go from year to year, click a month to drill in (scroll up and down for months before/after, then click a week to drill in to that. From week view, you can just fling the week listing to the right to go back a week, fling to the left to go to next week. Tapping the month and year takes you back to each of those views. Again, easily navigated, though does take some learning to get the shortcuts down.
  • Safari – Single address box for typing URLs, searching the Web, and searching pages. Takes a bit of getting used to, but is great. The same UI approach as the rest of iOS 7 is in Safari. When you start using it, it can be annoying – but here are two tips.¬†As you scroll, the controls fade away. You can single tap the address shown at the top to bring back the address box and window controls on the bottom. If you’re scrolling down and start to scroll back up, it will also show the address bar and window controls. Finally, if they’re hidden and you tap once (as with Maps) on the bottom of Safari where the window controls normally would be, the window controls will be shown.

Overall, I’m really impressed with iOS 7, and can’t wait to put it on my iPad (which has been spared during the previews).

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