Apple introduced a complete rethink of its smartphone and tablet OS Monday. Though iOS 7 has 200 new features, it doesn't reshape the OS game.
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Apple has finally revealed iOS 7, the first major redesign of its smartphone and tablet operating system since the original iPhone's 2007 debut. Not only does iOS 7 bring with it an entirely new look and feel, it adds hundreds of features to the operating system. The new platform is in beta testing right now and will reach iPhones, iPads and iPods later this year.
Some of the changes are unique, while others were culled from the best of what's offered by the competition. Now that we know what iOS 7 looks like and what it can do, let's assess just how much progress Apple made. Does iOS 7 go far enough with this redesign, or did Apple take things perhaps a bit too far?
One word that describes iOS 7 is "polarizing." The Web showed a strong reaction to the new design of iOS. Some like it, some don't; either way, iOS 7 generated a heated response from people who watched as Apple unveiled the new operating system. Apple changed the fonts, the color palette, the size of the text and the icons, and removed the 3-D textures that have long been a part of iOS. Apple calls the new look "modern," a term Microsoft uses to describe its own Windows Phone platform. In fact, many of the changes to iOS were likened to some of Windows Phone's features, such as the new lock screen.
iOS was in dire need of a refresh. iOS 6 looked and functioned nearly identical to the way iOS 1 looked and functioned back in 2007. It was time. Whether or not you like the new design, it was something that had to be done.
In some areas, Apple clearly played catch-up. The weather app, for example. It has been the same, boring, static app since Day One. The iOS 7 weather app adds animations and an easier way to look at your list of favorite cities. Of course, HTC had animated weather apps as far back as its Windows Mobile smartphones in 2007.
Multitasking, too, takes a page from the competition. In iOS 6 and earlier, a double-tap to the home button brought up a dock along the bottom of the screen that showed recently used apps. Tag the app you want to jump to and away you go. The new multitasking screen looks like a mishmash of Palm's webOS and Windows Phone, with cards -- each representing an open app -- that float across the screen. This is another area where Apple needed to catch up.
Same goes for Control Center. Android smartphones have for years had easy access to toggles for the wireless radios, brightness settings and other system tools. The new Control Center in iOS 7 adds these in addition to some app shortcuts and music controls in a translucent screen that can be accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the display.
All these and other changes bring Apple's smartphone and tablet operating system up-to-speed with the likes of Google and Microsoft in areas where it was behind.
But there was little "wow." There was little to put Apple leagues ahead of the competition.
Despite the complete visual overhaul of the operating system, iOS 7 does not add any truly revolutionary features. There was nothing buried in Apple's WWDC keynote that made everyone's jaw drop with excitement. One might argue that there's little left that smartphone makers can do to truly wow people, but if there's one company that could do it, it's Apple (or, at least it used to be).
Apple also failed to touch on a wide number of features that could (should) have been added to iOS, but weren't. iOS 6 brought us PassBook last year, an app that fell several steps short of becoming an iWallet. Apple did not announce any new features for PassBook or a new mobile payments app for iOS 7. Apple may be reserving these for when it introduces the next-gen iPhone, but the chances are slim. Apple didn't talk about support for Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy or NFC; it didn't talk about running two apps on the screen at the same time; it didn't talk about using both cameras a the same time; and so on.
In other words, iOS 7 may be good, and it may even put Apple slightly ahead of its competitors, but it doesn't change the game completely.