Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 7.0
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The Settings app itself has not changed dramatically from prior versions other than receiving the expected iOS 7 treatment. Options remain generally presented in the smae order as before, although a splash of colour has been added with a column of icons beside the main options.
The first group of items remains much the same, focused on the wireless features of the device. A significant—and very useful—change in this area can be found in the Cellular section, which now provides detailed data usage counters on a per-app basis, as well as for system services and even for apps that have been uninstalled.
In addition, users can now switch cellular data access of entirely on an app-by-app basis, forcing those apps to use Wi-Fi only—a feature that will be an extremely welcome addition for users on limited data plans.
Notification Center, Control Center + Do Not Disturb
The second grouping now includes a new option for Control Center alongside the Notification Center and Do Not Disturb sections. Apple has replaced the ON/OFF toggle for Do Not Disturb with a settings menu that was previously found one level deeper, within the Notification Center settings.
As discussed earlier, Notification Center and Control Center provide options for disabling these features from the lock screen or third-party apps, customizing the Today View for Notification Center, and configuring notifications for third-party apps.
Do Not Disturb now includes a “Manual” switch at the top of its settings, since the option is no longer directly available on the main Settings screen, although of course the new Control Center provides direct access to this option as well. A new setting at the bottom of the Do Not Disturb section allows notifications and incoming calls to be silenced whether the device is in use or not, or to simply remain with the default behaviour of only suppressing notifications when the device is locked.
iOS 7 adds an entirely new collection of ring and alert sounds, presumably to go along with the significant changes to the visual interface. The venerable “Marimba” default ringtone has been replaced by a new sound called “Opening” and similar changes have been made to default alert tones.
The pre-iOS 7 sounds are still present for users who prefer these, and have been relegated to a “Classic” folder in each section.
The General settings subsection adds new options for Text Size and Background App Refresh, and moves iTunes Wi-Fi Sync and VPN options down to the bottom of the list while moving Accessibility settings up to the second group of options.
Text Size allows apps that support “Dynamic Type” to adjust to a user-specific reading size that can be adjusted using a slider found on this screen, which is also now duplicated in the “Larger Text” option under the Accessibility settings.
Background App Refresh relates to a new API in iOS 7 that will allow third-party apps to actually update data in the background without requiring the user to open them first—a feature that up until now has only been the purview of Apple’s built-in apps and apps designed for the Newsstand section. The option here allows users to choose which apps will have access to the background refresh feature.
An additional Restrictions setting has been added for disabling AirDrop, while Siri-related restrictions have been moved to the “Allowed Content” section.
New Restrictions have also been added for locking down Privacy controls further, and access to Cellular Data Use and Background App Refresh can also now be locked down from here as well.
A new Websites section under “Allowed Content” allows browser access to be controlled, either by limiting adult content or limiting access to specific websites only. Selecting “Specific Websites Only” provides a pre-populated list of a handful of kid-friendly sites with the ability to add additional entries; selecting “Limit Adult Content” allows specific sites to be allowed or blocked.
iOS 7 now requires applications to specifically request access to the microphone, and a new “Microphone” section under the Privacy controls allow users to view a list of those apps that have requested access and toggle the access on and off for each app, similar to how other the other privacy options work.
The Advertising section introduced in iOS 6 has been moved from its odd location on the “About” screen to the Privacy settings, a much more logical place in our opinion.
Mail, Contacts, Calendars
iOS 7 can now automatically abbreviate names in apps such as Messages and Mail in order to fit more information on the screen, a feature particularly useful for multi-party messages. A new option in the Contacts section allows the user to decide whether to shorten the first name or last name (e.g. “J. Hollington” vs “Jesse H.”), or show the first name or last name only. A “Prefer Nicknames” option here also allows any nickname in a Contact entry to be displayed instead of the user’s actual name.
Accessibility gains a handful of new options and subtle changes. As noted above, Larger Text now uses a slider view in place of the six pre-defined font choices, with seven slider positions representing smaller or larger text options. It is unclear, however, whether this will be the same in the final version, since as the name implies, the Accessibility option is for larger text, and the option currently only supplies three larger sizes and three smaller sizes.
Bold Text can be used to increase font weight for users who have difficulty reading some of the thinner text in the iOS UI. This is particularly apparent in areas such as the icon labels on the home screen.
A “Reduce Motion” switch has been added which disables all of the parallax effects in iOS 7, again useful for visually impaired users or those who may simply find that the effect makes them nauseous. Interestingly, users can also disable Ambient Noise Cancellation during phone calls from here if they so desire. The three-button click option has now been renamed to “Accessibility Shortcut” but otherwise provides the same basic functionality as before.
An On/Off Labels setting adds I/O text to every control switch throughout iOS, a useful feature for visually impaired features to compensate for the removal of the actual ON/OFF text used in prior iOS versions.
Subtitles can also now be customized from a new “Subtitles & Captioning” section in the Accessibility settings. Users can enable Closed Captions and Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH), and choose their preferred display style. Three standard options are provided, along with a preview of what the subtitles will look like. A button in the top-right corner also allows the user to switch to a full-screen preview.
Alternatively, users can choose to create a completely custom style of their own, choosing font, font size, font color, background color and opacity, and even text opacity, text edge style, and text highlight. A sizable collection of font choices and font substitution options are available, and each setting includes a “Video Override” option to allow the user to choose whether styles supplied by the video they are watching will override their preferred settings or not.
iOS 7 represents a massive—and perhaps shocking—change to a relatively staid and static six years of Apple’s mobile operating system, and it’s quite likely that many users will be divided as to whether such changes were necessary; some will welcome the fresh new look in a mobile platform that they may have felt was getting “stale” while others will find the experience jarring and unsettling, taking some getting used to.
The good news is that it’s not all about the UI refresh, however, and iOS 7 has added some much-needed quality-of-use enhancements such as Control Center, an improved Notification Centre, photo improvements, and AirDrop. Whether these will be enough to compel hesitant users to take the plunge remains to be seen, however.
As one last aside, it’s worth nothing from a stability perspective that while iOS 7 seems rock solid on the iPhone and iPod touch, iPad users may want to wait until iOS 7.0.1 or 7.1 ships to see if this stabilizes the experience. Our team has been having mixed results with iOS 7 on our various iPad devices, with the iPad mini seeming to suffer the most instability, while the older iPad 2 remains relatively stable.
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