Siri has also received significant updates, including the option to change Siri’s gender. The voice assistant now pulls up searches offering videos, images, and links from the web, depending on what the user requests. Siri also does a decent job of speech-to-text, which is useful for hands free texting. TG found that Siri understood mostly everything that was being said to it, without having to speak in an overly robotic voice.
Even if Siri can’t perform the task requested, it will at least pull up a search on the internet. It also features new searches such as nutritional information, so users can ask “How many calories in a banana?” and Siri will answer the question verbally and display an entire nutritional profile of the fruit.
The information typically comes from Wikipedia if Siri doesn’t have its own answer. For example asking “Who’s the President of the United States?” prompts Siri to reply “The answer is Barack Obama.” Below Siri’s answer, there is also list of very basic information about the President. Asking “How tall is Mount Everest” brought up a web search but phrasing it “How high is Mount Everest” resulted in a brief Wikipedia summary page, with the height in bold below the entry.
AirDrop allows users to quickly share and send photos, files, maps, contacts, and more instantly with other iOS users. However, AirDrop is only available to users with an iPhone 5, iPad 4, iPad Mini, and iPod Touch fifth generation or later with iOS 7 installed. TG tested the feature and it worked seamlessly, but the two users have to be right next to one another. So don’t expect to send something to a friend in another room or to a co-worker on a separate floor.
Swiping up on control center lets users turn AirDrop on or off. Turning AirDrop on prompts the user to select if they want AirDrop to be available to their contacts or to everyone nearby with a compatible device. TG thought it was a pretty cool feature, and one that could come in handy for swapping photos when out with a group at a party, event, or on vacation.
Those with compatible Mac’s running Mountain Lion OSX or later will also be able to use AirDrop to quickly transfer files from their iOS device to Mac and vice versa.
The camera app has been redesigned, and it is now Instagram friendly with a square shooting mode and built-in filters. Switching between camera modes is as easy as swiping left or right in portrait mode and up and down in landscape mode. The filters can be accessed on the right with an icon that is just three circles in different grey scales. Users are able to choose filters before the photo is taken, and the app displays the subject through all nine filters at once. Filters can be applied after a photo is taken, but it does not save a copy of the original, nor does it prompt users if they would like to keep the original. Users should save a backup of the original photo if it’s an important shot, just in case.
In iOS 7, the photo app features entirely new organization. Users can sort photos by year, date, and location, as well as by the traditional album mode. Photos are geo-located when possible, making it easy to quickly access photos from different trips, places, and events.
The Camera Roll updates are significant for users with hundreds or thousands of photos in their Camera Roll. With the new categories, users can search by day, location, or year to pull up the right shot to share with friends.
Safari has been completely revamped and offers a minimalist design for users. If the user does not have any web pages open, Safari defaults to the user’s bookmarks and favorite sites, which can be synced across iOS devices.
There is a search bar at the top, which minimizes and becomes unnoticeable while scrolling through the page. Users can click on the web address or scroll back to the top of the page to access it. Next to the web address, on the left, there is a button users can tap that will turn the entire web page into an easy to read document without ads.
The phone app has been redesigned just like every other app, with a circular touchpad and a cleaner interface. It functions basically the same, just with a new look. With iOS 7, users can now block specific contacts and phone numbers from calling them. Before, users would have to arrange this through their wireless carrier, or settle with naming contacts \”Do Not Answer\”.
Users can also opt to decline a call with a few new options such as replying with a text message or choosing to be reminded of the call later on. The options for a reminder include \”In 1 hour\”, \”When I leave\”, \”When I get home\”.
Undo and Redo
A new feature in iOS 7 that didn’t get much buzz is the “Undo” and “Redo” feature. Users can now undo actions such as deleting a mail message or editing text, or redo the action, by shaking their phone twice. A notification pops up asking the user if they want to undo the action with an option to accept or cancel.
In iOS 6, to switch between or shut down apps running in the background, users had to double tap on the home button, and hold down on the icons until they started to shake. Now, when users double tap on the home button in iOS 7, it brings them to a list of their open apps, along with an image of each running app. While it’s nice to have a more visual multitasking option, to close apps, users have to hold down on the screenshot of the app and swipe up, and it does take some getting used to.
In iOS 6, users had to scroll to the left to bring up a screen to search; now, users can pull down on the screen from anywhere to bring up a search bar. At first it seemed this would interfere with the Notification Center, but TG discovered it was easy to get pretty close to the very top of the screen and still bring up the search bar, and reviewers never accidentally prompted the search when attempting to pull down the Notification Center.
Search will look through all folders and files, but users can actually specify what apps, folders, and other content they want their iPhone to search through. It’s a useful feature, especially for the disorganized iPhone user with a ton of apps.
Overall, Apple made some big changes to its mobile operating system, and iOS 7 delivers on a lot of features users have patiently waited for. While iOS 7 may look like a more colorful and geometric iOS 6, there is plenty of stuff hiding behind the minimalistic design.
In many ways, Apple is playing catch up with Android, Windows Phone 8, and even BlackBerry 10, and it’s done a good job of making up lost ground with this iteration. There is still room for improvement, however. It’s not as smooth as iOS 6, and it definitely bogs down older devices like the iPad 2. Also, at its core, it’s still iOS, with the same basic and centralized operation. There is still no active widget support, nor is there true multitasking with multiple open apps, like on some Samsung phones.
Still, it’s enough of an update that iOS is no longer a major liability for certain types of users, like those that may have ditched iOS for Android, and it’s user-friendly and approachable enough for everyone else to boot.