iOS 6 vs. iOS 7: Is 7 Really Better Than 6?

iOS6vsiOS7With the introduction of iOS 7 on September 18, the old ways of doing things seem to be phasing out of Apple’s product culture. Perhaps phasing out is too subtle an expression. With the number and magnitude of changes that have been launched with version 7 of the iOS franchise, it’s more like booted out. In this piece, we take a visually verbal tour of the two operating systems to see exactly how different they are. No value decisions will be made here, but by the time you reach the end of this report, one will already have formed in your own mind about whether 7 is, indeed, better than 6.

In the following screenshots, the older version always sits on the left, unless otherwise specified.

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Interface

The first thing you see about an operating system, naturally, is the way it presents itself to you via the interface. From this perspective, the changes made by Apple are daring and decisive, to say the least. Minimalism seems to be the name of the game, and all the frills and attempts at realism have been done away with the new version.

Lock Screen

As you can see from these screenshots, Apple is making a clear statement that Steve Jobs is dead. A long-time fan of textures and realistic user experience, Jobs always believed in the idea that the user interface should be as friendly as it is fantastic. The iOS 7 lockscreen, however, defies those concepts and presents a stark and flat look rather than the deep, textured look on previous versions of the operating system. Not what one would expect from an iOS, but there you have it. If you look closer, even the fonts have been made thinner – but more on that in a bit.

At this point, a new user might well wonder – “hmm, did I update to the Twilight Zone?” The truth is that the experience might be unnerving for hardcore Apple fans even though they know that evolution is inevitable.

There’s no doubt, however, that “utility and convenience” have been on the minds of the developers of iOS 7. For example, consider the fact that you can unlock the phone by swiping it anywhere, rather than just the slider on iOS 6 and previous versions. Some might feel that it can cause accidental unlocking, but it’s definitely useful when you have only one free hand to operate the phone with – just swipe from left to right anywhere and your home screen is right there.

Another one of Apple’s new features – the Parallax Effect – makes use of dynamic imagery to make it look like your wallpaper and even your icons are moving when you turn the phone to a different angle. The lines may be stark, but Apple still hints at having something more than that up their sleeves.

Icons

Once you get past the initial shock of the lockscreen, you sort of mentally have to readjust yourself yet again for what’s inside. The icons only barely resemble those that you might be used to – although there is a definite thread somewhere that connects the new with the old. The problem is: some people might find that thread extremely hard to spot! The entire home screen shouts out an emphatic “flat and thin is IN.” Everything about the new icons screams minimalism, and that’s very likely the exact thing that Apple wanted to do.

The camera icon, for example, looks like something you’d see on a product package rather than the realistic lens view of the older camera app icon. The same theme runs through all the icons, and it somehow feels like the developers at Apple just took the whole bag of icons and ran over it with a truck – in a planned, calculated and strategic way, of course. The colors are still there – perhaps even a little richer than iOS 6, but that’s just the equivalent of re-painting the icons after the truck has left! Flat, but colorful.

A more subtle change is the lack of those smooth-cornered boxes that the icons once resided in. Without those, the new icons look a tad naked and cold; combine that with the stark lines and flat look, one might almost feel sorry for these lonely orphans.

One of the more drastic changes you are likely to notice is the newsstand icon. The classic bookshelf is gone, so don’t do swiping left and right looking for it. It’s right there on the home page, but it now looks completely different so no one will blame you for missing it.

If you can get past the icons without batting an eyelid, it doesn’t mean that you still won’t be jolted by the iOS 7. Wait until you get inside!

Applications

Most of the standard applications have undergone dramatic changes. They all show the effects of the minimalist approach underlining the new iOS, but some of them have some superb upgrades from previous versions. Some fantastic new additions have also been made – features that iOS device users have been eagerly looking forward to for a long time. Here are some of the nifty new or uber-cool upgraded applications on iOS 7.

Control Center

We will never know why it took Apple so long to do what Android has been doing for a long time when it comes to giving easy access to important applications and utilities. Anyone who’s ever used an Apple mobile device knows how frustrating it can be to have to wade through several options in the settings app before finding the right control. With the new Control Center, this is no longer a problem. The first thing they have done is to make this great tool available right at the lockscreen level. Remember the swipes on iOS 6 that either unlocks the phone or launches the camera app? Well, on the 7, they’ve added two more: swipe down for a new Notifications tool and swipe up for the Control Center tool. The latter is designed to be exactly what it is called: a single-page utility where all critical functions can be accessed and controlled. You have your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, your Rotation Lock and Do Not Disturb, your basic media controls, Airdrop and most of the regularly-used stuff such as Clock, Camera and even the camera’s LED light. This makes the new operating system definitely worth going through the psychological shock of the new design elements.

Notifications

Another major change is with the Notifications utility. As already mentioned, you can simply swipe down to access it from the lockscreen. In addition, it now has three pages instead of just one: Today, All and Missed – the first page tells you about the day ahead, like what’s coming up on your schedule and even how long it will take you to drive home from your current location; The All page has everything from the past and the present; and the Missed page shows you any unread messages, missed calls and other notifications that you might want to be reminded about. The Notifications utility is customizable from the Settings utility, so you get to decide which apps get to send you notifications.

Camera

Where previously there were only two options for the camera – photo and video – are now two additional choices: Square, for all those Instagrammers out there, and Pano, which lets you take advantage of the Panorama style. You can also apply any of several filters like the ones you’d see on Instagram, such as Fade, Chrome and so on. Needless to say, the Camera icon itself might be a little disappointing, but what’s inside makes it all worthwhile. And that brings us to the Photos app.

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Photos

‘Collections’ is a new feature on the Photos app for iOS 7. The phone basically sorts your images by date and location, and when you zoom out you get to see the photos sorted by year – a really useful tool for those who never clean up their mobile photos. It even sorts groups of people, and gives you options to make notes about them, etc.

Spotlight Search

This little Sherlock Holmes utility has a new home. You no longer access it by swiping right on the home screen – you swipe down instead, and you can do it anywhere on the home screen. It might be confusing for first-time users, but when you realize that you can pretty much get to it from any spot on the Home Screen, it makes perfect sense. In fact, you’ll soon be wondering why they didn’t think of that in the first place. However, if you only have the original iOS7 release, you will find that it doesn’t search the web for matching results – just your device. You have to do a separate search on the browser app for that. The solution is to update your iOS to 7.0.3, which has rolled back this feature to provide a universal search option.

Calendar

The only major change here is that you no longer have an overview of the day’s activities in the Month view, as it was with previous versions. It’s not a major problem because all of that is already available in the Today page of the Notifications utility.

AirDrop File Sharing

This is a very useful feature for two devices running on iOS 7 that want to share photos, contacts, documents and anything else that it currently supports. There are several options to choose from: you can share a single item with multiple devices or multiple items with a single device; in addition, you can apply restrictions such as only being able to send to people in your Address Book; alternatively, you can just send it to everyone nearby who has iOS 7 running.

Weather

The Weather app has also been given a complete overhaul. New images now show you a more realistic feel of what the weather is like outside rather than the static image on the old version that made you feel that the weather was exactly the same day in and day out. They’ve also removed the boxed-in look of the app page – much like what they’ve done with the icons on the Home screen and other pages. The best part is that there is an hourly prediction given for the current day by default so you don’t have to drill down to get that. Overall, the app has a more fluid feel on iOS 7.

Multitasking

Although this feature does exist on iOS 6, it has been given a new Avatar on the 7. For example, on Safari, it is now a lot simpler to flip through open web pages using something that most people might associate with manual business card storage and sorting devices. Just flicking through as you would a deck of business cards lets you get to the right window with minimal fuss. A brand new Bookmarks window makes the experience even better by letting you quickly go where you want to even if that page isn’t already open. As for the apps, you can simply close them by swiping upwards, although a lot of reviewers are saying that this is much slower than simply clicking on the red button in the corner of the app icon on the old iOS. Either way, it is great to be able to see a carousel-style view rather than just sets of four applications.

Siri

Much more powerful than what is available on iOS 6, the new Siri can do many more actions while you are still in the app. You can ask questions related to the app, search the web (although it still uses Bing), see specific people’s Tweets and even access important settings like airplane mode. For those who have been frustrated with Siri, they can now be happy with its bigger brain and more sensible functionality. It is no longer a superficial attempt to make a smartphone smarter than it is!

App Store

Everybody’s favorite store has been given a new look, feel and functionality, too. The Kids category puts together all the apps for children in one place – not something seen before, and a new option called Apps Near Me show you what people around your geographic location have been downloading. You might wonder how that’s useful – until you’re in an office environment and wondering why everyone around you is twice as productive as you are!

Find My Phone

This security feature has been given a boost as well. On iOS 6, you can easily erase the device or disable Find My Phone but with iOS 7, you have to enter your Apple ID and password to do those things. Even reactivating the feature requires a log in with that ID so it’s not like someone can take your phone and do away with the evidence. Besides, even if the thief is clever enough to do that, the custom message that you previously set will still be displayed. Good upgrades, considering that the iPhone is such a desirable phone and irresistible to phone thieves.

In-Car Compatibility

This feature might need your car to catch up with the technology first, but iOS 7 is enabled to integrate into in-car systems so your basic stuff – navigation, music, messages, phone calls, etc. – can be accessed on the larger touch screen you may have in your vehicle. It also lets you hook up to your vehicle’s Bluetooth system, although that feature’s been around for a while now.

iTunes Radio

If you already subscribe to iTunes Match, then you can enjoy ad-free song streaming in addition to what you already have in your library. It’s smart, so based on what type of content you’re used to, it will feature similar channels so you’ll always have what you are comfortable – whether it’s in your library or streamed over the internet. For those who listen to lots of music on the move, this is very convenient when compared to manually searching for genres that the phone already knows you listen to. It just makes sense.

Nested Folders

One great little feature that Apple has put into the new OS is Nested Folders, although some experts say that this is a glitch more than a feature and that’s why Apple doesn’t have any official guidance on this. Undoubtedly, it is a blessing for those who have tons of apps on their home screen. To undertake this housekeeping exercise, you need to first group the apps you want by putting them into folders. This is done the same way you’d do on the iOS or previous versions.

Once this is done, you have to click on the folder you want to nest – and this is the important part – and double tap for the multitasking menu before the folder icon starts to wiggle, while it is still grayed out. It’s a little tricky because you have just a split second to do this, but you’ll get the hang of it after a couple of tries. Once you have the multitasking menu open, tap on the folder that you want to put the first folder into. When you do this, you will have the first folder’s icon hovering above the second one (the destination folder’s icon). After that, simple press the home button once and voila – your first folder is nested comfortably within the destination folder. The great part is that this can be done over and over – nesting folders as deep as you want to go until your home screen is neat and tidy. Just follow the steps shows in the series of screenshots below.

Automatic App Updates

This great function makes it a breeze to keep your apps updated at all times. Whenever there’s a new release, the phone automatically downloads it and updates the appropriate app. For those who were beginning to feel that keeping updated apps was a little like Bonsai gardening, this feature is a blatantly undisguised blessing. But of course, Apple is not oblivious of a possible need to limit your data usage – especially for those whose data plans aren’t as hot as their phones – so this feature can be disabled and set to manual. If you have very few apps and don’t really use a lot of them, you can choose which ones you want to update automatically. Simple go to Settings and then iTunes and App Store; one you’re there, scroll right to the bottom and you’ll see an ‘Automatic Downloads’ section; just select the ones you want updated without your intervention and you’re done. In addition, you can choose how often the apps should be updated automatically and whether the utility can use cellular data or Wi-Fi only. This is probably the ideal setting for people with limited data plans who are keen on using Wi-Fi rather than precious cellular data.

Face Time

Not much effort has gone into this particular app, it seems. However, if your cellular signal is weak and your internet connection is shaky, then you have the option of going with audio-only. It helps keep the data usage down as well so if you’re on a budget plan or you simply don’t want to see the other person’s face (!), you can just use audio and save face, as it were.

Mail Management

The Mail app is often quite inconvenient to use when you want to have access to your frequently visited folders, but this is no longer a problem with iOS 7. Aside from a better design, the mailboxes are now smarter than before: it now lets you pin your regular folders so you can get to them quicker. Also, instead of clicking to trash an email or forward, reply, etc., all you need to do is swipe from right to left; when you do this, you will have Trash and More as options. Choosing the latter will give you the other options such as forwarding, et al. For people who depend on their iPhones for checking their mail when on the move, the importance of this feature cannot be overstated.

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20 Treats and Tricks for iOS 7 users

Now that we’ve covered the basics and all the changes that Apple has implemented on the latest franchise of the iOS series, it’s time to dig a little deeper than Apple will usually allow and see what tips and tricks they’ve hidden inside the operating system. Of course, you could always download a guide and do it that way, but that’s the boring approach – it’s always fun to try and investigate on your own. However, if you can’t be bothered with childish games and want quick access to these nifty little tricks instead, then read on…

1.      Burst mode in the camera app: Shooting successive photos in a burst has never been easier than with this fun little tip you can use. When you are inside the camera app, simply click a photo and keep your finger on the volume level up button. Simply release when you want the burst to stop. Great for sports shots or any kind of photography involving movement because it ensures that you get the best pic possible out of several.

2.      Quitting several apps together using multitask menu: You already know that you don’t have to swipe up on the multitasking menu to close an app. Did you know that you can use multi-touch technology to do the same thing for several apps together? The iPhone will let you do it with three apps as a maximum because of the limited visibility, but if you want to do the same on your iPad, then get ready to take your socks off too!

3.      Changing accessibility settings: If you don’t like the new look of iOS 7, you can make subtle changes that bring back a modicum of familiarity. For example, you can bold all system text, or you can choose a larger font size for text that is supported by the Dynamic Type feature. You can even tone down the Parallax Effect’s intensity if you don’t really like your icons following you around!

4.      Nest your newsstand: With iOS 7, it is now possible to put your books away into a folder with other stock apps. You can’t do this with version 6, so this is one more step towards a cleaner home screen. Of course, it will still be there when you need it, but not right there hogging up precious icon space on the home screen.

5.      Location history: Some people find this creepy but the Frequent Locations feature puts you right on the map with blue circles representing where you’ve been. As mentioned, the creepy quotient is way up there with this tool – just makes it easier for others to spy on you. Unless you have recurring amnesia and you can’t find your glasses, this is nothing more than either a bell or a whistle – can’t think which one it is! However, it does help your maps and navigation become gradually more accurate.

6.      Swiping to a previous page: When inside several levels of an app, all you need to do is to swipe backwards to go to a previous page. One would think that this was intuitive behavior, but it is surprising how many people don’t actually know they can do that – they move forward but then click on the back button to go back rather than just swipe the other way. Great time saver!

7.      Timestamps for messages and other content: iOS 7 is definitely minimalistic, so you won’t see a time stamp against any MMS, iMessage or SMS (text message). To do this, simply swipe from right to left and there it is! You don’t really have to go into the actual message to see when it was sent to you.

8.      Hiding notifications: When you are on the Notifications page, the left to right swipe still opens the app, but when you want to hide it, what do you do? Simply swipe up and the notification gets goes away. No need to take the trouble of doing anything else.

9.      Blocking undesirable contacts: This is great for preventing unwanted contacts from pestering you – either by phone, messaging or Face Time. Simply go into the contacts utility, scroll down right to the bottom and hit the Block This Caller button to put a full stop to whoever is bothering you. If you don’t have a number saved yet, you’ll have to create a contact and then do what’s described above.

10.  Spirit level app: With the Contact Center, flashlight apps will now be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, spirit level app developers will soon face the same future. Simply go into the Compass utility and then swipe from right to left to go to the second screen – voila! The spirit level app is great when you want to make sure that the world really is flat, after all!

11.  New ring tones – boring or fun, we’re number one: The same location as before (settings-sounds-sounds and vibration) will show you a bunch of new ringtones that Apple says may make you miss phone calls because you are dancing. This update is nothing out of the ordinary and, quite frankly, you’d have to be about 5 years old to miss a call because the ringtone was so good!

12.  Siri can read your emails for you: If you’re driving and you want to check your mails, this neat little function can literally be a life-saver. Now, you can list your mails with Siri, but you can also press down and hold the home button and give a voice command for it to give you a run down on recent emails – the subject line, the sender and the time. In addition, when Siri asks you if you want an email read out to you, just reply in the affirmative. To the non-military-trained, that means “yes.”

13.  Avoid motion sickness: The new iOS seems to have contradictory features. On the one hand, all the visuals have been flattened out and made more stark and austere; on the other, they’ve got Parallax Effect giving you motion sickness and making you feel like you have eyes on you all the time. Frankly, if you’re sick of it (pun intended), just go to settings-general-accessibility-reduce motion and turn it off.

14.  Apps Near Me: This has been explained in the section on App Store above, but it requires a second mention here because of its relevance to what you actually have on your phone. While the office example was intended in humor rather than as a serious consideration, there is one useful time when this particular feature will definitely come in handy – while travelling. Just imaging you are in a new country and don’t speak the language. How do you get directions when you don’t even know what to look for? Simple – just check the Apps Near Me list and see what the others have been downloading – bus time tables, tourist information, great restaurants nearby. The only problem is when you are in a non-tourist location. In that case, all you will get is a glimpse of what the locals prefer; interesting, but not very useful.

15.  Automatic updates gone wild: Unless you are ok with whatever updates an app developer is putting into your phone, NEVER have all your apps update automatically. It uses a tremendous amount of data if you have 150 apps on your phone, for example. Instead, use this option selectively or opt to download automatically only when a Wi-Fi connection is detected and locked into. If you want to see what apps were updated last, just go to the notifications page.

16.  Safari password auto-fill: This feature is quite controversial on any platform because it allows your computer or phone to remember all your username and passwords unless a particular site or application expressly prohibits this at the code level. However, if you aren’t too concerned about this and actually feel that it is a convenience more than it is a risk, just go to the Safari section in Settings and select the Auto-Fill option under passwords. The recommended method is to first download a locking app and use a difficult unlocking code or pattern (depending on the type of locking app you use.)

17.  Folder content limit: There’s no limit to how many apps you can have in a particular folder. The nesting trick we’ve described above will actually let you have tons and tons of apps right on your home screen. Reduce the number of swipes you need to get to a particular app by nesting it with similar ones. The only problem with this is that you may end up using Spotlight Search just to find an app that you would otherwise remember the location of!

18.  Turning off lockscreen notification access: Most people don’t know they can turn off the notification menu on their lockscreen. If you go to the settings page and head for the Notification Center, you just need to click the right slider position on “Access on Lock Screen.”

19.  Set default map directions preference to walking: If you typically walk more than drive, then you can set your Preferred Directions to Walking on the Maps section of Settings. The maps application on iOS 7 still leaves a lot to be desired. Apart from fiddling with the icon and flattening it out, they don’t seem to have done very much to improve the experience. Granted, the location history is great if you want to keep track of your teenage daughter or son, but other than that, the development effort on Maps is still disappointing.

20.  Control which apps refresh automatically: The Background App Refresh lets you choose which applications automatically refresh. That means you can control the level of activity on your phone’s processor and enhance its performance during memory-intensive tasks. It helps speed up the phone to a great extent if you don’t have all your apps refreshing automatically.

3 Common Problems with iOS 7 and Possible Solutions

1.      The battery drains down much quicker than you would expect on an upgraded operating system.

a.      The problem here is not with the battery per se but rather with your settings. You can try the following:

i.      Set Reduce Motion to the Off position. This feature can often suck up battery juice   while you’re not looking – or, rather, whether you’re looking or not!

ii.      Remove any apps from the Notifications Center that you don’t want constant news and updates about. This usually helps because every app that runs in the background for updates and notifications uses up valuable power.

iii.      Turn off AirDrop when you’re not using it.

iv.      Disable Automatic Updates or only select a few critical ones.

v.      Turn off Background App Refresh – this is pretty much the same as disabling Automatic Updates because cellular data and Wi-Fi typically use up quite a bit of battery power.

b.      Other functions and utilities you may want to turn off are Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, push notifications for email and so on.

c.       Use 3G rather than LTE (4G) when you don’t require that much data speed. Checking emails doesn’t require LTE, for example.

d.      Install a good batter manager app that can automatically manage your power efficiency and maximize it. Make sure that the app has a good user rating on the App Store before you download and install it.

2.      Lag time on keyboard input.

a.      This seems to be limited to iPhone 4 users, but that may well not be the case. There seems to be only one possible solution for this: turning off Documents and Data under iCloud in the Settings menu.

3.      Bluetooth and Wi-Fi aren’t working or the settings are grayed out.

a.      This has been reported in quite a few cases, and some day that rebooting the iPhone as well as the Wi-Fi router often acts as a good workaround – but not as a permanent fix.

b.      If your iPhone name has an apostrophe, it may help removing it. For example, if your iPhone name is Jeff’s iPhone, then changing it to Jeff iPhone might help.

c.       Some people have resolved this by first putting their phone into Airplane mode and then resetting network settings in Settings-General-Reset

d.      Try resetting your iPhone to factory settings; if all else fails you may not have any other option than to take it in to an Apple Store.

As mentioned in the beginning of this blog, there is no value decision being made on whether iOS 7 is indeed superior to iOS 6. The decision is purely subjective even though the elements making up that decision are all objective and measurable in nature. All it goes to show is this: technology serves up what it thinks are “conveniences” to us on a platter, but it is only the user experience that truly defines it as a convenience. Long live Steve Jobs!

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