Soon after Apple debuted the completely redesigned iOS 7 on June 10, 2013, it became obvious that the iOS user experience has changed enough to merit a public re-introduction—a forward-looking discussion of the updated user interface and integrated apps. Over the next week, our series on iOS 7 will look at every key section of Apple’s new operating system, starting with setting up iOS devices, the new Lock Screen and Home Screen, then continuing through other major UI elements and built-in apps. For a broad look at all of iOS 7’s changes from iOS 6, check out our big picture look at iOS 7, published on June 10, as well as our articles on iOS 7 setup, the Home Screen, and Lock Screen. Note that some features and graphics may change before iOS 7’s final release.
With the debut of iOS 6 last year, Apple released its own Maps service, abandoning the Google Maps data that iOS relied upon since 2007. iOS 7 continues to use the same Apple database found in iOS 6, although the data has continued to improve since Maps made its inauspicious debut last year. Notably, 3-D “Flyover” imagery has been dramatically expanded since last year’s initial release, and some of the previously inaccurate Maps locations and directions have been fixed, all changes that remain accessible to iOS 6 users. As with other aspects of iOS 7, the big difference here is in the user interface, which abandons former skeuomorphic elements such as the folded page menu in favor of a “cleaner” look.
The same map views and controls remain, now augmented with fade-in/fade-out bars indicating the current scale of the map view, and a single-tap command to remove the UI elements in favor of a full-screen map display. A new “Sharing” button appears in the iOS 7 Maps app to allow users to share their current or selected location via AirDrop, Messages, Mail, Twitter, or Facebook, or add a bookmark for it.
Location labels have been given a cleaner, flatter look as well, with a square icon for accessing driving directions on the left, and a small subtle arrow on the right to indicate more information. Users can tap anywhere on the label with the exception of the directions icon to bring up the info card for the selected location. Other than a standard iOS 7 font treatment, these info cards remain mostly the same as before, although a new “Popular Apps Nearby” section now notably appears for major venues and landmarks, allowing users to link directly to the App Store to download apps that may be appropriate, such as city guides and store apps.
Turn-by-turn navigation is also still here, with driving and walking directions built-in; transit directions for bus and subway/metro use are unfortunately still left to third-party apps to provide. A couple nice new touches have been added here, however, including a menu allowing users to choose the volume for voice guidance without having to visit the iOS Settings app, along with a “night” navigation mode.
The latter feature simply provides a darker UI for menus and UI elements based on a combination of the time of day and ambient light sensors, the latter of which are used during twilight hours. The maps themselves appear to still be rendered in their usual brighter colors in some cases, although proper “night maps” do appear in others, so this is likely just a glitch related to the iOS 7 beta, and will likely be resolved by the time of release.
Maps options in the iOS Settings app now also include an option for preferring walking directions over driving directions.
As one of the newest apps in the iOS family, the Passbook app in iOS 7 received only a minor facelift, since most of the content comes from the app-delivered passes themselves. A newly designed version of the “intro” pass embraces the new UI design and reveals one new feature: the ability to scan Passbook barcodes with the built-in camera.
While Apple has not announced anything about this feature yet, the intent will presumably be to allow Passbook links to be used in various marketing, advertising and in-store displays to allow users to more easily grab coupons, passes, and other special deals.
Passes can also now be shared with other users via AirDrop, e-mail or messages using a sharing button found in the bottom left corner when viewing a pass. Additionally, the new iOS 7 Passbook app also ditches the animated shredder that was formerly displayed when deleting a pass, replacing it instead with a “winking out” effect.
As one of the most classically skeuomorphic apps to be found in iOS, the previously nautical-themed Compass app has been completely redesigned with a more modern aviation-inspired digital interface. Replacing the prior “wave your device in a figure-eight” system, a new calibration screen guides the user to move the device around to fully light up all of the indicators in a circle.
Once calibrated, the Compass app presents a basic white-on-black display, with the only color coming from a red North indicator. Degree points are shown both on the compass circle itself along with a digital indicator of the exact heading, the user’s current city, and a specific latitude and longitude indicator, so long as Location Services are active.
Swiping to a second screen provides an orientation indicator or level of sorts. Taking the form of two circles and a numeric indicator, this screen uses the accelerometer and gyroscope hardware to determine the angle at which the iPhone is being held, displaying both a number in degrees as well as a visual indication represented by the position of the circles to each other. When the iPhone is being held close to level, the circles will completely overlap and the screen turns green. It’s kind of a weird thing but may be useful in replacing third-party level apps in some cases. Note that the Compass app remains iPhone-only, as the iPod touch doesn’t have compass hardware.
The Notes app retains most of the same functionality from prior versions, while getting a more basic UI. Gone is the yellow lined paper look along with Marker Felt, Noteworthy, and other font choices; the only option now found in the Settings app under Notes is the default account to be used for synchronization.
Text is shown in the standard system font on a plain white paper background, with few UI elements: the time and date of the last update at the top of the note, a yellow button in the top left corner to return to the Notes list, and three buttons at the bottom for sharing, deleting, or creating a new note. Notes can now be shared over AirDrop. Buttons to move left or right through the Notes list’s contents have been removed.
The list of notes contains faded lines merely as separators, along with a “New” button and the date and/or time each note was last updated. Scrolling the list down slightly reveals the usual search dialog box at the top. A swipe gesture can be used to delete notes from here, but as with everywhere else in iOS 7, this is now exclusively available in a right-to-left direction.
iOS 7 on iPad: Debuted in iOS 7 Beta 2 (June 24, 2013)
The iPad version of iOS 7 continues to omit the Passbook and Compass apps. Changes to Maps and Notes are primarily UI-centric, and Notes quite unsurprisingly gets the anti-skeuomorphic iOS 7 treatment, replacing yellow paper and faux leather with a spartan white app that borders on boring.
Maps similarly gets a minimalist design that does a good job of placing the emphasis on the actual maps and content, leaving the much more subtle UI controls to blend into the background.