Like many people, I downloaded and installed iOS 7 within its first 24 hours of its availability. As I’ve learned in the past, this probably isn’t the best time to try to upgrade an Apple OS since you’re competing with the rest of the users in the United States, but I wanted to get a head start. A couple of hours later, the process was done, and I had a bright, shiny copy of iOS 7 on my third-generation iPad.
Bright and shiny is really the best way to describe the initial experience of using iOS 7. The new version of the iPad’s “rain drop” wall paper is so much brighter that I had to go immediately to the settings and turn down the brightness. And this led to my first attempt to try out some new features with the new OS.
Apple has now moved your most frequently used settings so that you can flick up from the bottom of the screen to slide open a settings panel that includes screen brightness along with music controls, access to WiFi, Bluetooth, airplane mode, mute and the camera. No longer do you have to open settings, figure out which menu choice you need (is it General?) and then open more choices until you drill down and find it.
This feature alone is a substantial improvement in usability for Apple’s new OS. This is accompanied on the iPad by another screen that you can pull down from the top of the home screen that shows you the time, your calendar information, the current weather, reminders and upcoming events. You can choose to look only at today’s update page, or you can see farther in the future or you can see what you missed.
If this was all that Apple did with iOS 7, I’d be happy, but in reality this is only scratching the surface. Apple has changed the entire user interface over iOS 6, getting rid of fake textures, strange backgrounds and overly complex screens. The result is that iOS 7 is now a much more seamless experience.
But this is not to suggest that everything is all hunky-dory. Apple has missed a few things and on some devices they seem to have put in a lot of effort to create features that not only aren’t needed, but that detract subtly from the usability of the device. The whole screen parallax feature seems to be a case in point.
If you haven’t tried it, the new look for screens on iOS is remarkable. On devices with a Retina display, the icons seem to float above the surface, and they move relative to the background. This movement is controlled by the motion-sensing hardware in the device, and most of the time it gives the vague feeling of depth. Some windows that open over the home screen also have this attribute.
There’s no question that this parallax effect is cool. But it adds no useful function, and in some cases, the motion-sensing circuitry seems to lose track and the icons will jump up and down slightly.