I’m generally an Android user, largely because I’ve run out of patience with Apple’s proprietary port shtick. (Hey, we’ve all got our pet peeves!) But it turns out to be useful perspective when trying out iOS 7, because it illustrates where the OS has improved… and where it could still do better.
I tried iOS 7 out on an iPhone 5, a loaner from a friendly app developer, and compared it to another iPhone 5 running iOS 6. At this point, iOS 7 is just a beta for app development but it’s to Apple’s credit that there was almost no sign that this wasn’t a finished product, at least that I ran into.
The first thing that stands out is the redesign, dumping the look the OS has had since 2007 for a “flat” look. If you’re the kind of person who cares about these things, it’s very pretty, but honestly, if you don’t you’re probably really not going to care. It has no effect on the OS either way; everything is still in the same place and works the same.
That’s actually an ongoing theme. There’s no green felt in the Game Center, but it’s still the Game Center, for example. It is slightly faster going between apps, and one suspects that when the inevitable update for the iPhone arrives this fall, it’s going to be a lot zippier.
One problem the fanboys will likely have is Apple’s gleeful willingness to crib from Android. There’s a lot of Android in this design, from the multitasking window that lets you swipe away an app preview to shut it down to the fact that the mobile version of Safari is just Chrome with the serial numbers filed off now. That said, the “Control Center” is a much better design for a settings menu that Google is swiping its next go-round. One swipe from the bottom and you’ve got everything you need: Music controls, phone settings, a WiFi meter, even a flashlight button.
One thing that’s unique, though, is the new Siri. Easily the most genuinely impressive feature, Siri can actually control your phone, now, and can search Wikipedia and Twitter. It’s not perfect yet; this is where the beta shows its rough edges. But I spent way too much time telling Siri to tweak the brightness of the screen and search Twitter.
In the end, a day with iOS 7 indicates that it’s less a revolution and more of a carefully updated system. I didn’t get a chance to try app updates or FaceTime Audio, but overall, it looks like a solid series of improvements to an excellent OS.