Apple’s iOS7: For Better or Worse

Apple’s iOS7: For Better or Worse

iOS7When Apple rolled out the new operating system (iOS7) for its mobile devices last month, I questioned whether Apple’s plan to make everything “look and work differently” on iPhones and iPads was going to make life better or worse for users of those gadgets.

At that time I planned to put off updating from iOS6, and said:

Waiting two weeks to thirty days—or even longer—to install iOS 7 is not likely to have any practical effect on the use of your iPhone or iPad. So why not wait? Certainly don’t try to install it while you’re on a trip when you need your phone or tablet to work without a hitch.”

Well, now I’ve bitten the bullet on installed the new operating system on both my iPhone 5 and iPad (4th gen.).

Here’s what I’ve found is better and worse with iOS7.

Installation a Breeze

When too many people simultaneously access Apple servers to download an update to Apple’s mobile operating system you can be left spinning your wheels while the download sputters away. But since I waited about three weeks to move from iOS6 to iOS7, that wasn’t a problem for me.

In fact, the whole download and install process was a breeze on both iPhone and iPad.

However, I might have put off the operating system update for another week or two, but for the fact that some of the apps I had already installed couldn’t be updated because the new versions were not compatible with iOS6.

And my wife still hasn’t done the update on her iPhone 4S and it’s working just fine.

What Apple Promised

This YouTube video demonstrated how your “iDevice” would work under iOS7.

httpvh://youtu.be/XNVFEgFyCwQ
The question is: What Apple has actually delivered with the new operating system?

Here’s my take, for better or worse.

Iconic Icons Gone

imageThe first thing you’ll notice after updating your iPhone or iPad to iOS7 is that the app icons look completely different from the way they appeared with previous versions of Apple’s mobile operating system.

Apple was apparently going for a “cleaner,” flatter, look. And I have to admit that I like it.

And when you unlock your iPhone or iPad, it “zooms in” on the Home Screen. And it zooms out when you close an app.

Not everyone, including Lauren Orsini who wrote about iOS7 for “ReadWrite,”  is a fan of this animation.

And others have reported that the visual overlay that appears to “float” over the screen may cause some users to feel like they are suffering from “motion sickness.” You can try to tame this “illness” by going to Settings/General/Accessibility and turning on “Reduce Motion.”

If you’re having trouble reading text in general, go to Settings/General/Accessibility and adjust the font size, turn on Bold Text (which will restart your phone), and turn on Increase Contrast.

I haven’t thrown up, literally or figuratively, on my iPhone since installing iOS7. But I have encountered something no other tech writer seems to have discovered: “Test Pattern” icons.

Test Pattern Icon

I call these grayed-out, blank app icons “Test Pattern” icons because they remind me of the test patterns that decades ago would show up on a TV screen before a station began a day’s broadcasts or after it signed off the air at the end of a day.

If you click on one of these nameless, faceless icons, nothing happens. The app doesn’t launch and you don’t even know which app it might be.

When I was in an Apple retail store on Monday, I showed this to a “Genius Bar” rep. He’d never seen it, assumed it was some sort of software bug, and suggested that I simply turn off my phone, and then turn it back on again, to see if the app’s icon would properly display.

After restarting my iPhone the “Test Pattern” icons had been replaced by the correct ones for the apps in question.

But this weird icon display continues to happen on both my iPhone and iPad. It is intermittent, and doesn’t seem to occur with the same apps every time.

Background App Closure; Battery Life

App ClosureMany apps will run in “background,” not visible to you, but still functioning, after you’ve switched back to a Home Screen or to another app.

Shutting down background apps used to be a bit tedious. You had to double tap on the “Home” button to display those apps and set them wiggling away, and then you could delete them one by one.

Now when you’ve displayed the apps running in background in iOS7, just flick upward on the screenshot of the app right above its icon to close it.

While Lauren Orsini of ReadWrite finds this change annoying, I think it is a vast improvement over the app closure function in previous iterations of iOS.

Shutting down apps running in background could keep your iPhone or iPad battery from draining more quickly than it would if no apps were running.

Samantha Murphy Kelly of Mashable also suggests going to “Settings > General > Background App Refresh” and turning off that refresh function. She’s got six other suggestions for prolonging battery life, too.

Searching via Spotlight

I’ve got hundreds of apps installed on my iPhone, more that can be displayed on all of the phone’s screens. So I use the “Spotlight” search feature to quickly find an app.

With iOS6 and earlier versions of the operating system, I had to go back to the Home Screen and then swipe my finger to the right to open Spotlight.

Now I can simply swipe my finger downward from the middle of any screen to run a search. (Swiping down from the top of a screen brings up the “Notification Center” as it did in iOS6.) This is a big improvement.

Spotlight searches apps, notes, contacts and any other content on your “iDevice.” [October 22, 2013 UpdateThe iOS7.0.3 update released today adds Web and Wikipedia searching back into Spotlight. You’ll find those search options at the very bottom of the Spotlight search screen.]

To do a Web search, use Safari, Siri, or the Google Search app.

Control Center

Control CenterLeaving WiFi or Bluetooth enabled can cause your iPhone or iPad battery to drain faster than if these wireless connections were turned off.

In iOS6 you can to go to the Home Screen, then tap on Settings to find those on-off buttons.

With iOS7, just swipe your finger up from the bottom of any screen to open the new “Control Center” where you can quickly turn WiFi, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode, Do Not Disturb or Portrait Orientation on or off, plus access other functions

I’d like this new feature a lot but for one thing: I find that the upward finger swipe often does not open Control Center.

AirDrop

Files can be easily shared between Mac computers (running OSX Lion or later) using Apple’s AirDrop feature instead e-mail or services like Dropbox.

AirDrop is now available on iPhones and iPads running iOS7. You can share the following between those devices:

  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Contacts
  • Passbook passes
  • Notes
  • Voice Memos
  • Web URLs
  • Links to App pages (App Store) Maps direction

It look a little fiddling before I could get AirDrop to transfer between my iPhone and iPad.

First I had to enable AirDrop using the Control Center on both devices. The choices are “Off,” “Contacts Only” (limiting sharing between your devices and those owned by people in your device’s Contact list), or “Everyone.”

Secondly, I had to make sure both my iPhone and iPad were turned on and “awake.”Then I had to wait a bit for each device to discover the other.

Finally, I had to accept the file transfer on the receiving device.

AirDrop

While AirDrop is a big plus, it inexplicably won’t let you transfer files between Apple’s mobile devices and Mac computers.

And since I prefer to edit and share photos from my iMac desktop computer, I use the Photo Transfer app to move photos and videos between my iPhone iPad and Mac.

Speaking of Siri

Siri VoiceSick of the syrupy sounds of Siri’s female voice?

Not a problem.

Just go to Settings/General/Siri and select “Male” as the “Voice Gender.”

As you can see from the screenshot on the right, Siri (The Guy) can express his “inner feelings” as well as Siri (The Gal) does.

If you’re incredibly fond of either “Voice Gender” of Siri, you can turn on “Raise to Speak,” and Siri will “come alive” and beep its readiness to help whenever you raise your iPhone up to your ear.

While in that section of Settings, tap on “My Info,” select your name, include your work and home addresses. Then set up “relationships” by going to your Contact information, scrolling down to “Add Related Name” to add people like parents, spouses, partners, and siblings, to make calling them using Siri (e.g., “Siri, call my wife”) easier.

Siri can also read aloud the sender, date/time, and subject of your e-mails. It can also read the entire text of a selected e-mail.

iTunes Radio

Before there was an iPhone there was the iPod, Apple’s answer to the MP3 music players made by other companies.

And there was iTunes, the place to buy single songs or albums.

Now there’s iTunes Radio, presumably Apple’s foray into turf occupied by Pandora and Spotify.

ITunes RadioWhen you tap on the “Music” icon at the bottom of the iPhone/iPad Home Screen, your first choice will be iTunes Radio. You’ll see a list of “Featured Stations” at the top of the screen, and you can create a list of your own “stations” playing music of a multitude of genres, from “Alternative” to “World Hit.”

You can listen to music for free, but at the top of the screen for a song you’ll see a box with a price in it.

Unfortunately for Baby Boomers like myself, there’s a “Hits of the ‘80’s” category, not one for the ‘50’s or ‘60’s.

When a “station” is playing a song you can “Favorite” it, pause it, or hit the fast-forward button to move to the next available tune. (Moving back to the previous song doesn’t seem possible).

You’ll still find all of the music from your iTunes Library by tapping on the “Music” icon. But Podcasts are now played using the separate Podcasts app.

Since “Click to buy” seems to be what iTunes Radio is all about,I’ll probably stick with Pandora.

Built-In Camera

Some of the iPhone/iPad Camera controls have been changed by iOS7.

CameraYou can access the Camera from the Lock Screen, the Control Center, or by tapping the Camera icon.

Selecting the type of image Video, Photo, “Square,” or “Pano” (for “Panoramic”) is easier than before. You just swipe your finger left or right across the screen. I like this change a lot.

You can pick from one of nine built-in filters by clicking on the overlapping colored circles in the bottom right corner of the screen.

HDR and Flash are turned off by default. Turn either on by tapping at the top of the screen.

Switch between the rear-facing iSight camera and the front-facing FaceTime camera by taping on the camera icon at the top right of the screen.

If you’ve got the latest iPhone 5S, you can shoot rapid-fire photos in burst mode by holding down the shutter button.

Maps

You may recall that Apple reaped tons of grief when it replaced the Google Maps app with its own “Maps” app that functioned poorly.

Well that Apple “native” app may have improved somewhat over time. And it now allows you to find your way from place to place using public transit.

Well, it sort of does.

Unlike the Google Maps app which directly displays public transit information, Apple’s “Maps” app merely refers you to other mapping apps, including Google Maps, when you tap on the little bus icon.

So I’ll continue to use Google Maps and MapQuest (which I prefer for driving directions) rather than Apple “Maps.”

Closing Safari Tabs

In previous versions of iOS, you had to click on the little “X” in the corner of a tab in Safari to close a Webpage.

In iOS7, you just swipe your finger to the left to do so.

Definitely an improvement, but it only seems to work on iPhones, not iPads.

App Store: “Near Me”

The “Near Me” tab at the bottom of the App Store app screen lets you find apps, such as those for public transit, that could be useful in finding places, events, or navigating your way around your current location.

“Near Me” will display apps you already have installed on your iPhone or iPad, or those you don’t have but could download.

This could be a real boon both at home and when you’re “on the road.”

App Folders

The idea between sticking apps into folders was that you could group a bunch of related apps into a folder with a name that made sense to you. For example, I put all of my camera apps into a single “Cameras” folder.

But there were some problems with folders.

First, you could only put 12 apps in a single folder.

Secondly, it was very hard to move apps into a folder unless those apps were on the same screen on your iPhone or iPad. Moving them into folders via iTunes wasn’t very easy, either.

Now you can make folders into Pages. I haven’t tried it out yet, but it promises to make organizing you apps a simpler process.

If so, I’ll love it!

Calendar

I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!

As you’ve gathered, I hate the new iOS7 Calendar app.

In iOS6, the Calendar displayed an entire month and the background color made it easy to see on which dates you had something scheduled.

But in iOS7, the default display seems to be “Today. Although you can switch to a “Month” view,  the white background makes it hard to read anything.

And there doesn’t seem to be way to customize the Calendar view to solve these problems.

Arrgh! (That’s “Pirate” for “I hate the iOS7 Calendar app!”)

iPad Bluetooth Keyboard Woes

Finding the iPad virtual keyboard inadequate for my heavy-duty typing needs, I bought a ZAGG Portfolio Bluetooth keyboard and case. The keyboard is very responsive and solid, and the case provides good protection for the iPad.


The only downside to the case is that because it holds the iPad in landscape orientation, using apps that don’t automatically rotate from portrait to landscape is a pain.


The solution: Get a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover like the one I just received as a gift from my wife. (There’s a version for the iPad Mini, too).

Unlike the ZAGG keyboard, the Logitech keys aren’t backlit, but otherwise it seems easy to type on and because the iPad sits in a slot in the case rather than being attached to it you can easy move the iPad from landscape to portrait orientation. The Ultrathin Keyboard Cover lacks the protective backing on the company’s “Folio” iPad keyboards, but I don’t think that will be a problem for me when I use it at home. (When traveling, I could always switch back to the ZAGG.)

However, at least some owners (including myself) of various makes and models of iPad Bluetooth keyboards, including those made by ZAGG and Logitech, have reported that some keyboard function keys (like “Search”) have stopped working after the iPad was updated to iOS7. Other users have had trouble getting their Bluetooth keyboards to “pair” with their iPads. Whether these can be resolved via a firmware update from the keyboard manufacturers remains to be seen.

My major difficulty: I can no longer touch-type entries into the San Francisco Chronicle crossword puzzles using either the my ZAGG or Logitech iPad keyboards.

Other Views on iOS7

I’m hardly the only tech writer to put in his or her two-cents worth about iOS7.

Here’s some other “takes” on the new operating system:

Getting Help From Apple

Need yet more information on how to use iOS7?

You can view and download the complete, 154-page “iPhone User Guide (For iOS7 Software)” .PDF file from the Apple Website.

There are separate iOS7 user guides for the iPad and iPad Mini, and for the iPod Touch.

iOS7 USer guide

You can also download the free user guide in iBook form to your “iDevice” from iTunes.

iOS7: Better or Worse?

While iOS7 doesn’t represent a “quantum leap” in mobile device technology, I think that overall it does improves the utility of the iPhone and iPad.

But I still hate the Calendar app!

(Dick Jordan frequently writes about travel technology and Apple iPhone/iPad apps. Purchasing ZAGG or Logitech keyboards through links on this page helps Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel and technology stories.)

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One Reply to “Apple’s iOS7: For Better or Worse”

  1. Thanks for the detailed review of the OS Dick. I have a curious cousin who is a fan of Apple products. Though I don’t mainly use the iPhone or a Mac, my cousin uses the phone and my hubby uses Mac. So I get to touch them very frequently.

    I’ve become a fan or AirDrop – So far that has been my fav 🙂

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