Today, at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, Apple revealed its newest iteration of its mobile operating system. With iOS 7 unveiled, Apple fans have got tons of new interesting features to look forward to, some of which borrow a bit from mobile operating systems of Apple’s competition of the past and the present. So what’s new in iOS 7?

Redesign

To usher in the new version of iOS, Apple has overhauled the look and feel of the GUI. The icons are flatter, and fonts are slimmer, and the notification center is available right on the device’s lock screen. Overall, Apple is giving users more ways to get what they want out of their devices, and doing so in a focused, concentrated way that only some Android devices have done in the past. For a good example of this, look no further than the new Control Center feature.
ios-7-featuresControl Center takes a page right out of the Android playbook—and it’s a great one. Control Center can toggle the device’s settings easily and quickly, and can be accessed while in any app or screen with nothing more than a single swipe of the finger. Rather than having to navigate all the way through to the settings app, users can instead simply flick up from the bottom of the screen to access lots of the phone’s most vital systems—like brightness, WiFi, media, and most-used apps.

This is a feature that’s been present in some form or another in many Android phones. The problem on Android, though, is that various device manufacturers have made Android’s version of the Control Center more or less apparent depending on its interpretations of Google’s OS stylings. For example, a Samsung phone might have a control center just like the one described here, while an HTC phone might not. By including this in the new version of iOS, Apple is making a statement that this is definitively a feature that users ought to have, and hopefully manufacturers of other devices will take note.

Sure, Android’s had this feature for a while now, so in some ways it seems that Apple’s playing catch-up. But because Apple manufactures the devices its OS runs on, all iOS users will be able to enjoy this great feature, while plenty of Android users are stuck dealing with the whims of their particular device manufacturer. Hopefully Control Center in iOS 7 will be enough to make the feature standard across the mobile device industry.

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Multitasking

One of the most exciting—and shortly thereafter, disappointing—developments in the mobile OS space was Palm’s shortlived WebOS. Used exclusively in the Palm Pre line of devices, WebOS’s big selling point was the ability to multitask between apps in much the same way users can switch easily and relatively seamlessly between apps on the computer. Each program was represented by a “card,” through which users could switch with just a few easy swipe gestures.

While WebOS had plenty of loyal fans, the devices to which it was exclusive failed to find an audience, and parent company HP killed the system a few years ago. Since then, mobile multitasking hasn’t really made much of a comeback—until now. Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi demoed iOS 7’s multitasking abilities, the first such iteration of the feature since WebOS.

As mobile devices and full computers converge more and more, emphasizing multitasking capabilities is a huge step in the right direction. Furthermore, apps will auto-update, helping take the onus of making sure that the most current version is installed off the user.

AirDrop

Another nod to Apple’s competition comes in the form of AirDrop. In ads for the phones of mobile rival Samsung, Galaxy S III users could bump phones to exchange data or files. While the feature was neat, it was somewhat limited in that only owners of that particular phone could take advantage.

With iOS 7, the far more ubiquitous iPhone will get AirDrop, a similar feature that doesn’t even require phones to touch. “You just tap to share,” said Federighi. “You don’t need to wander around, bumping your phone.” Thank goodness—phone bumping is pretty dumb, to be totally honest. Wireless devices shouldn’t have to touch to exchange information. It’s important to note that this feature will not be made available for iPhone 4 or 4S.

Photos


The new OS’s photo app will automatically organize photos based on the time and place users take them. Called “moments,” this will definitely help users better index and share their favorite photos. Instead of having to dig through a whole folder of images, iPhoners will just have to check out which moment they want to revisit. That’s definitely a cool addition to the operating system that’s sure to be imitated soon by those hoping to catch up to Apple’s dominant market share.

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Siri

Apple senior vice president of internet software and services Eddie Cue took the stage during WWDC and explained the improvements that are coming to Apple’s digital assistant, Siri. Along with a new male voice, the talking application can help you adjust your phone’s settings directly, meaning you can change your phone’s brightness by simply asking. In addition, Siri will also search Twitter, Wikipedia, and Bing, vastly expanding the breadth of knowledge available to users.

iTunes Radio

Taking a page from the enduringly popular music application Pandora, it seems that Apple has added a very similar kind of feature to its iTunes app. Called iTunes Radio, you’ll be able to create music “stations” that streams songs from similar artists, with an easy “buy” feature if you like what you hear. This one’s a no-brainer when you think about how many people enjoy using iTunes as a means of buying music. Taking Pandora out of the equation is a great way for Apple to bring in more music purchases, and keep users in-house. Don’t be surprised if iTunes Radio manages to get very popular—assuming it works as well as Apple hopes. If a user never has to leave Apple’s walled garden of apps, that’s win-win for everyone.

The new feature will be free to users, but will have advertisements. But if a user is subscribed to iTunes Match, it’s advertisement-free. Once again, Apple the innovator is proving that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as this plan is quite similar to that of Pandora and Spotify.

Activation Lock

Everyone’s felt the fear that comes with a lost or misplaced phone. To address that concern, Apple’s created Activation Lock, a new feature that keeps thieves from being able to wipe iPhones or turn off the Find My Phone feature, unless they also know a user’s iCloud login.

Platforms and Release

The new iOS 7 is available today for developers, while it’ll launch for everyone this fall. As for what devices will be able to run the new OS, that’s restricted to iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 and later, and 5th gen iPod Touch devices. Considering how devoted most Apple users are—and how often they update their devices to have the latest versions—that should cover most users.

Your thoughts on the new iOS? Let us know below.


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