10 iOS 7 Features You'll Want

Apple's latest mobile operating system update is free but it's worth a lot more if you care about a good user experience.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

September 20, 2013

4 Min Read

Apple iOS 7: Visual Tour

Apple iOS 7: Visual Tour

Apple iOS 7: Visual Tour (click image for larger view)

Apple's iOS 7 debuted on Wednesday as a free download and by Friday afternoon, close to 48% of iOS users had adopted the operating system update, assuming analytics firm Mixpanel's data set of 2.75 million records is representative of the iOS user base as a whole.

That's within a percentage point of the present proportion of iOS 6 users and more than the percentage of Android users who have adopted Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), released July 2012, and Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean), released in November 2012, combined.

Such rapid adoption is the reason iOS 7 is a big deal for developers: Apps created with new iOS features have a large potential audience almost immediately; apps created with new Android features are likely to be relevant to a smaller percentage of the platform user base and to have a more limited audience for a longer period of time.

[ Is Apple paying enough attention to software? Read Apple CEO Cook: We Don't Do Junk. ]

iOS 7 brings a new look to Apple's mobile operating system. It's much more visually appealing than previous versions. The use of real-world textures has been ended, for the most part. There are a few laggards, like the iBooks app with its wooden bookcase, but the result is a much more modern, elegant sensibility.

The highlights of iOS 7 -- Control Center, Notification Center, Multitasking, AirDrop, Camera, iTunes Radio and Siri, among other features -- have been widely praised. But these less heralded additions deserve your attention:

1. Maps Bookmarks Can Be Shared Across Devices
Sharing Maps bookmarks across iOS devices will be useful, but the addition of Apple's Maps app to the company's forthcoming desktop operating system, OS X Mavericks, will make it even more so.

2. Find My iPhone Activation Lock
Apple has made iOS devices a bit more secure by adding password protection to the Find My iPhone off-switch. What's more, users can also now send a custom message to a lost iPhone even after the device has been remotely erased, a feature that may prove irresistible as a way to taunt thieves.

3. Notifications Only Live Once
If you have multiple iOS devices on the same Apple ID -- a fairly common situation for developers or families -- receiving a notification used to mean seeing that notification on every device. No longer. Dismissing a notification on iOS 7 dismisses it across all associated devices.

4. Automatic App Updates
Once you have several screens worth of apps, keeping them updated becomes a full-time job. With iOS 7, you have the option to set your apps to update themselves. Just be sure to disable this feature if you find your battery is running down too quickly.

5. Wi-Fi HotSpot 2.0 Support
The HotSpot 2.0 technical specification is a standard for connecting to WiFi access points without the burden of network selection and password entry, but with the security benefits of encryption. The idea is that you should be able to just walk into a cafe with a network that supports WiFi Passpoint and be connected without doing anything. It will take a while before WiFi network operators adopt the WiFi Passpoint system, but when they do, your iOS device will be ready.

6. The Inclinometer
The Compass app now has an inclinometer, meaning it can act as a level. It may not be what you'd use for a construction job but it's nice to have nonetheless.

7. Blocking
iOS 7 allows users to block unwanted phone calls, text messages and FaceTime calls. Really, this should have been a standard feature in 2007 when the iPhone debuted.

8. New Sounds
iOS devices desperately needed a fresh set of ringtones, alarms, alerts and system sounds. iOS 7 delivers. The "Cosmic" and "Radar" ringtones are worth a listen if you're not into making your own.

9. Infinite Folders
With iOS 7, you can now put as many apps as you like into a home screen folder.

10. FaceTime, Without Your Face
Those who dislike the obligatory attentiveness of FaceTime video calls can now place audio-only FaceTime calls.

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About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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