One thing is for sure, the big iOS 7 reveal is going to cause some friction. Users are going to love or hate the new look. It's very different, very different indeed.
Every single pixel of iOS7 has changed. It's the flat design that we have been hearing so much of, but with lots of points of flair thrown in too. It could be described as all of these: bright, square, flat, layered, colorful. It seems to borrow inspiration from Windows Phone, with Sir Jonathan Ive's take on what it should have been. If you haven't seen it already, here's an example of what the flat design of iOS 7 looks like:
iOS 7 has included many of the features people have been clamoring for while ignoring a few others. Apple, as always, needs to innovate without compromise. This means add features without compromising the user experience. Not just the experience of the expert users, but of all users. Everyone should be able to use iOS without confusion. Here are a few of the key updates:
The new look of iOS simplifies and removes what is known as skeuomorphism, or making digital things look like real live items. Think the leather in calendar or the felt in Game Center. The flat design simplifies will helping users get the info they need. During the presentation, Craig Federighi repeatedly noted the lack of wood, felt, and stitching in the new iOS. He is obviously not a fan of the old look. Apple has much more on the new design of iOS 7 in their iOS 7 Design page.
iOS 7 includes some much needed features like quick access to radio on/off buttons, multiple page folders, and new gestures to make navigation faster. It also includes an updated multitasking tray that shows what apps are open along with what the current screen looks like for that app.
Air Drop is the feature in iOS that allows sharing between multiple iOS and OS X devices. It allows quick and easy sharing of items like images, movies, etc. Pulling up the share sheet will show a new option for Air Drop that allows you to pick from users nearby to share the item with.
iCloud updates were a necessary item to check off the list for iOS 7, and Apple did some good updates to iCloud features this time around. For one thing, iOS will securely share your keychain (passwords, credit card info, etc.) between your devices including OS X devices. This will hopefully lead to users with stronger passwords as the need to remember this is no longer needed.
iCloud Photostreams now allow sharing of videos as well as allowing multiple users to add items to a Photostream (finally!).
A few months ago we posted a (decidedly pretentious) open letter to Apple about theft. While I don't think our letter was the reason that Apple finally did something about the issue of stollen iOS devices, it would be awesome to think it did.
Under iOS 7, Apple iOS devices will now require the iCloud user login to activate a wiped device once it has been activated with that account. This means that if a thief tries to wipe the phone, or if a user wipes a phone due to it being lost, before it can be re-activated, whomever has it MUST login with the original iCloud login, or it won't activate. Fantastic, thanks Apple!
App Store updates were minimal, but of obvious interest for readers of this site, so we'll include them here. The only real new feature mentioned, besides the new iOS7 look, is a new Apps Near Me feature. This feature shows the apps that are popular near the current location.
Another feature that will be interesting to see how it's implemented is age-appropriate apps. The Kids section now has a curated age-range section for apps for kids of a certain age.
In addition, iOS 7 will automatically update the apps, when updates are available, if the user wishes.
One big feature, an no other real mention of gaming at the keynote, in spite of this being E3 week.
We heard rumors at GDC that Apple was asking developers about their interest in game controllers. Now we know what has come of that. iOS 7 will have support for Game Controllers that are specifically made for iPhone/iOS. It will be interesting to see what this really means now that it's been made official. We've already seen the (now dead) Gameloft Controller that was officially supported by iOS.
Multitasking for All
Apple has updated the multitasking for apps to include all apps, with some restrictions. This multitasking allows the app to update in the background, but not run constantly. Which would, of course, ruin battery life. But iOS 7 should allow intelligent multitasking to let apps update at certain intervals and when the timing is right like when the phone has a good signal. It is also designed to group the updates -- so when the power consumption spikes for the background updates, multiple can be done at once to keep the battery impact to a minimum.
Apple really needed to deliver the updates for iOS 7. While we don't know all of the details yet - like what SDK changes have been made, we do know that the interface has been greatly improved. We'll have more in the coming days and can expect more new features to surface.
iOS 7 will be compatible with iPhone 4 and later, iPod Touch 5th gen and later, and iPad 2, iPad mini and later.
All in all, I think it's a significant update, well done, thoughtful, and I can't wait to get my hands on it. It will be out in the fall for iPhone, iPads, and iPod touches.