Just wanted to give everyone an update on the development of iOS 7 and how it’s been going. As of this writing, Beta 4 has just been released and is currently downloading onto my phone. Beta 3 was much better than Beta 2 in terms of crashing and things of that nature, and 4 apparently has a bunch of bug fixes in it. The thing I wanted to talk about mainly, though, is the fact that I had to spend three days back on iOS 6 and wanted to share that experience with you.
I had to have my iPhone replaced under warranty because of some strange spots that were showing up in all of my pictures. I don’t know what caused it, but I got a new (to me) handset, and I was happy, until I remember that the dev portal was down. Apple’s developer portal got hacked a couple of weeks ago, and even though my data was safe, it caused Apple to shut down access to the site while they redid all of the security. That’s cool. I can appreciate them wanting to keep me safe. Trouble was that I that meant that I couldn’t register my replacement phone’s UDID and put iOS 7 on my phone until they got it back up and running. So I was stuck with iOS 6 from Tuesday afternoon until Friday night. I cannot tell you how crippled I felt. It’s not like iOS 7 has some sort of magic that it can do that 6 can’t, but the features that I had gotten used to weren’t there anymore. I tried at least three times on two or three occasions to swipe in Safari to go back before I remembered that I had to use a button. I swiped up from the bottom countless times trying to get to Control Center.
I think that that is a testament to just how good those features really are. They aren’t mind blowing (after the first couple of times) but they get integrated into how you function on your device. I hope never to have to go back again.
It has been nearly a month since E3 and WWDC, and I have been running iOS 7 in beta form on my iPhone 5 since day one. Some people would argue that it isn’t the best idea to run beta software on a primary device, but I have run the beta versions of iOS 5, iOS 6, and now iOS 7 on my primary iPhone over the past few years, and with the odd exception it’s gone pretty well each time. Here are some of my thoughts on Apple’s latest mobile OS after using it for a few weeks.
Obviously, iOS 7 is beautiful. You don’t have to run the beta on your device to know that, but to fully appreciate the amount of work that has gone into this, you really have to live with it for a while. I appreciate almost everything that the team did to iOS 7 to make it visually pleasing, but so far some of it seems to have come at a price, mainly speed. The parallax effect and the overall depth of iOS 7 cannot be overstated, and really needs to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. It’s a wonderful overall feeling to have everything flat and smooth, yet having greater overall depth thanks to the layered plains.
Overall the second version of the iOS 7 beta has been running very well on my iPhone 5, minus the occasional spring board crash, and I haven’t experienced the horrible battery drain that some others have reported. However, the overall speed of the betas has not been so good, but that is par for the course. Both iOS 5 and 6 were slow in beta, getting faster and faster as we moved towards the Gold Master, and then the final releases. My biggest gripe when it comes to speed is also one of my favorite features in iOS 7, and that’s multitasking.
The new animation and action used for switching between apps and killing their background processes is very nearly perfect, with the exception of it’s speed. I especially love the ability to double click the home button to access multitasking while in an app and when the animation happens I am given the option to kill the background process of the app I am currently using. For someone who obsessively kill background processes, this is awesome. Despite the fact that I am running iOS 7 on the iPhone 5, multitasking is sluggish at best. I go back and forth between being ok with it and saying, “It’s still in beta”, and slowly sliding my left thumb over the home button while my right index finger creeps towards the sleep/wake button and strangling it into DFU mode and going back to iOS 6. But I know that if I did go back I would miss another of my favorite features: Command Center.
One of the things that many iOS users have been wanting for some time was quick access to certain settings, many saying that they could simply be added to the Notification Center pull-down. Not being one to settle for mediocrity, Sir Jony Ive and his team created something far better in Control Center. Accessible from both the home screen and the lock screen, Command Center gives you control over Airplane Mode, Wifi on/off, Bluetooth on/off, Do Not Disturb, and Screen Rotation Lock, as well as screen brightness, music controls, Airdrop, and shortcuts for using your flash as a flashlight, Clock.app, Calculator.app, and your Camera.
This list has changed the way I use my iPhone. I have been able to delete the flashlight app that I used to keep on there, as well as move the Calculator (which has anchored the bottom right corner of my phone for many years) to a “Stock” apps folder. This has changed the way I use my phone to the point where I don’t think I could go back to iOS 6 even if I wanted to, and that’s a good thing.
The biggest changes to Notification Center come in the form of what some call “little things”. First (and this is a big one) you can access Notification Center from the lock screen. That doesn’t sound like a huge deal until you’ve lived with it for a while and been able to use it. The other changes to Notification Center are it’s contents. You now have “today” which gives you an overview of the days events in your calendar and the local weather, “all” which shows you all of your notifications, and “missed” which will filter out anything you’ve already looked at and only show stuff you haven’t seen, like missed calls, etc.
I will be writing more about iOS 7 and it’s betas as we progress through them and find more cool stuff or improvements. There are some out there who have said that it’s really the same as iOS 6 with some additional stuff tacked on, even after running the beta for themselves. I disagree with that stance. I feel that the iOS team did an amazing overhaul on the mobile OS, and at the same time did something that Apple has been doing for years: making something that is new and different, but feels comfortable and familiar. That’s no easy feat.