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Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 7.0
By Jesse Hollington | 09.18.13

Earlier this year, Apple unveiled iOS 7 at its Worldwide Developer Conference, revealing an entirely new design for the company’s venerable mobile operating system and thereby introducing the most dramatic visual change since the iPhone was first released in 2007.

The new design in and of itself will be quite polarizing—in our experience people who have seen it either love it or hate it—and it’s likely to leave long-time iOS users feeling at least initially unsettled. On the other hand, the new UI is largely like a fresh coat of paint on your house: your rooms, fixtures, and light switches are pretty much all in the same places as before, only the furniture has been moved around a bit.

That said, as with any major iOS update there’s a lot more here than just a UI overhaul. iOS 7 adds several significant new features and improvements that should help make the transition worthwhile. We have a full review of iOS 7 if you want our opinionated take on the subject, as well as an article to ease your transition from iOS 6 to iOS 7; what follows below is a guide to the features we felt were most worthy of your attention.

Downloading and Installing

iOS 7 is a free update for all supported iOS device models and is also the default version of iOS that will come installed on the new iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s, as well as upcoming iPads.

To download and install iOS 7, users can use the “Check for Updates” option found on the Device Summary page in iTunes 11, which should locate, download, and install the update automatically. In some cases, iTunes may have already discovered the update by itself, in which case you will see an “Update” button rather than a “Check for Updates” button. For an over-the-air (OTA) update, you can simply go into your device’s Settings app and choose General, Software Update to check for and install the update. Note that to receive OTA updates your device will need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network and should be plugged into a power source or have at least 50% remaining battery life for the update to successfully install.

The usual caveats and warnings apply here as with any iOS update: the installation may or may not preserve all of your existing data. It may result in the wiping of your device‚Äôs data under certain conditions, and it is therefore a good idea to make a full backup of your device before beginning. Be sure that all of your media content and apps are in your iTunes library, as these do not form part of the backups made by iTunes, as Apple reasonably expects that you should be able to re-sync this information from your iTunes library following a full restore. You can check the status of your backup before beginning by visiting the “Devices” section in your iTunes Preferences.

Supported Devices + Model Differences

As with prior iOS releases, iOS 7 drops support for some older devices, although this year brings a slightly more inconsistent collection, with the fourth-generation iPod touch—only discontinued this past spring—falling off of the list while the much older iPad 2 and iPhone 4 remain supported, albeit with a somewhat limited feature set. The logic here on Apple’s part seems to be to only provide support for devices that were still being sold by Apple prior to its September 10th event; the iPad 2 and iPhone 4 qualify, while the earlier discontinuation of the fourth-generation iPod touch allows Apple to strike it off the list of iOS 7 supported devices. Memory constraints of older devices likely played a role, as well.


There are few surprises with iOS 7 in terms of support for new features on older devices. Existing features like Siri and Panorama remain limited to the same devices as before, and obviously the new iPhone models. The iPad 2 is excluded from most new camera features, while live filters in the Camera app are limited to the iPhone 5 and later and the fifth-generation iPod touch only; other devices—except for the iPad 2—only gain the ability to use filters when editing photos in the Photos app.


The new AirDrop feature is particularly restricted due to its requirements for dual-band Wi-Fi hardware, with support only on the iPhone 5/5c/5s, iPad mini, and fourth-generation iPad—an unfortunate omission for a technology that’s explicitly designed for sharing data between iOS devices. The third-generation iPad, released only last year, does not offer AirDrop support.

Older devices such as the iPhone 4 will further lack support for some of the new visual effects features simply due to a lack of processing power to handle them.

Regional Differences

While iOS 7 doesn’t introduce any significant regional-specific features, many regional limitations still apply for features like Siri, Maps, and of course the iTunes Store. Apple has updated its Feature Availability Page for iOS 7, highlighting the countries with support for specific features.


New User Interface

The most striking change users will notice in iOS 7 is the completely redesigned user interface, which eschews all of the former skeuomorphic design elements and textures in favor of a new design with flat layers and translucency. After six years in which the design of iOS remained largely static, many users will find the new experience to be jarring, and it will definitely be a matter of personal preference whether this shift is in a good direction or a bad one. Our own editors remain somewhat split on the merits of this new design, with more widely differing opinions than we’ve probably ever had on a new Apple product or OS release. Some will like it, some will hate it, but nobody will be able to say it isn’t an “interesting” change.

Home Screen + Icons

Every built-in iOS app gets a new icon as part of the iOS 7 deal, with the new versions taking on a much flatter, almost cartoony look. While some icons such as Phone, Mail, and Messages remain relatively true to their original forms, others such as Camera and Newsstand have taken sharp left turns bearing little resemblance to their iOS 7 predecessors, while still others like Photos and Game Center don’t even seem to clearly illustrate their functions any more.


Text on the Home Screen is also rendered in a much thinner font than before—a change that may only bother users who rely more on titles of their apps rather than icons, but definitely something that we’ve heard concerns raised about. Fortunately, this can be easily corrected with a quick trip into the iOS 7 Accessibility settings to enable the “Bold Text” option.


Spotlight Search has been moved away from its former position to the left of the first Home Screen; it is now accessed by swiping downward from the middle area of any Home Screen, revealing a search field in a manner similar to the UI within apps that support searching, such as Mail and Music.


Dynamic Wallpapers + Effects

As part of the new layered approach, a parallax background wallpaper effect creates the feeling of iOS 7’s icons “floating” above the background. This new parallax effect may range from cool to annoying depending on your vertigo tolerance and your choice of background wallpaper. Fortunately, it can be turned off in iOS 7’s Accessibility settings.

Also for the first time, iOS 7 adds a new set of “dynamic” wallpapers. Bearing a very superficial resemblance to the “live wallpapers” found on Android, these are built-in animated backgrounds that float behind the icon layer.


Apple only includes a set of seven built-in dynamic wallpapers (six on the iPod touch) which really differ only in their colors—options that have been quite obviously coordinated to match the iPhone 5c. Sadly there appears to be no facility for adding custom dynamic wallpapers or doing anything else interesting with them beyond a simple animation.

Lock Screen

The Lock Screen in iOS 7 also gets a dramatic new design treatment, cleaning up the previous controls and shaded bars to allow the background wallpaper to further show through. Notifications on this screen generally create a translucent layer, blurring the actual background wallpaper but allowing the general color to be seen. The passcode entry screen provides a similar translucent layer effect over the background wallpaper. Again, support for this translucency varies between devices.


Sliding to unlock can now be triggered by swiping any part of the screen from left to right, rather than having to focus on the specific control slider, although Lock Screen notifications continue to behave as before, activating a specific notification when swiping on that area. A small right-pointing carat provides a tiny visual cue for users as to which direction to swipe.

The status bar icons at the top have also been slightly enlarged on the Lock Screen, presumably to improve visibility of things like signal strength and battery status when glancing at a locked iPhone.


Users can still access the camera from the Lock Screen by swiping up from the bottom right corner, where a small translucent camera icon can be seen. By default, the Lock Screen also provides access to the new Notification Center and Control Center features without requiring the device to be unlocked by swiping down from the top of the screen or up from the bottom of the screen, respectively—horizontal lines appear at the top and bottom as visual cues for these features. Control Center also provides the ability to open the Clock and Calculator apps directly from the Lock Screen without needing to unlock the iPhone or iPod touch, as well as adding a flashlight feature that turns on their rear LED flashes; the Calculator and flashlight features aren’t available on iPads. Lock screen access to the Notification Center and Control Center can be turned off individually from the iOS Settings app; the horizontal indicator lines will disappear from the lock screen accordingly when their respective features are disabled.


Music playback on the Lock Screen now shows playback controls on the screen automatically, rather than requiring a double-click of the Home Button to make them appear. Triple-clicking the Home Button will bring back the clock temporarily, however this will revert back to the playback controls the next time the device is woken from sleep.


iOS 7 adopts a new translucent design for Home Screen folders, but more importantly removes the limit on the number of apps that can be stored in a single folder by allowing users to swipe through the content within a folder. The tradeoff here, however, is that each folder only displays nine icons now, rather than the 12 or more that were previously shown on various device models. In short, you can stuff a huge number of icons in a folder, but you won’t see as many of them in a single view as you used to.


The folder icons on the Home Screen inherit a similar light gray transparency, making them look quite different from the darker background used in iOS 6.


The application switcher has been entirely redesigned in iOS 7, eliminating the older dock-style tray in favor of a full-screen view complete with previews of each running app. This is accessed by double-tapping the Home Button in the same manner as before, although it’s worth noting that the previous features for things like volume control, AirPlay, and orientation lock have been moved to the new, separate Control Center instead.


Apps can be removed from this list simply by swiping upward on the preview screen, effectively “flicking” the app out of view. Further, unlike the Home Screen, the multitasking view will display in landscape view on the iPhone and iPod touch when accessed from that orientation.


This view will show a list of all recently used apps, even across restarts of the device. It’s worth keeping in mind that much like previous iOS versions, most of the apps shown here are not actually running, but merely suspended in their previous state, and therefore not consuming any resources.

Swipe Gestures

In some of the built-in apps such as Mail and Messages, users can now swipe to the right, starting from the very left edge of the screen, in order to go back to the previous screen. This is useful for features such as returning to a message list when viewing an e-mail or messages conversation, and much like the pull-to-refresh gesture added to Mail in iOS 6 is something that Apple has clearly borrowed from third-party apps.

Presumably as a result of this change, swipe gestures for tasks like deleting messages have been modified to only work with right-to-left swipes, a change that will unfortunately confuse many experienced users and for which Apple doesn’t provide any real help or guidance following the update to iOS 7.

Control Center

Perhaps one of the most useful new features in iOS 7 is Control Center, a significantly improved implementation of controls previously found in the recent apps tray. Accessed by swiping upward from any screen—including the Lock Screen—Control Center provides access to not only volume, AirPlay, playback, and brightness controls, but also now provides shortcuts for toggling Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, and Orientation Lock. Media playback controls also now include a positional scrubber in addition to a volume slider


Once again, on the iPhone and iPod touch, additional buttons at the bottom of Control Center provide quick access to the Clock, Calculator, and Camera apps as well as support for a new built-in flashlight feature that can now be used to toggle on the flash LED—and leave it on—from anywhere, including the Lock Screen, eliminating the need for third-party flashlight apps.


Control Center is rendered a bit differently on the iPad. Since those devices lack a built-in Calculator app or LED light, buttons are provided only for the Clock and Camera features. Also, since the side switch can be customized for either orientation lock or mute, the Control Center button for this purpose switches to the opposing function, much like it did in the recent apps tray in iOS 6.

Note that the buttons in Control Center are fixed to specific functions and cannot be customized. The only options available for Control Center in the iOS Settings app simply allow the user to decide whether it should be accessible from the Lock Screen or within third-party apps.

Notification Center

The Notification Center in iOS 7 has also received some significant enhancements, moving it from simply a place to gather notifications into a more full-featured organizational view. Now divided into three panels, the first pane provides a “Today” view which includes a summary of birthday reminders, weather information, time to next destination, a daily calendar, stocks, reminders, and information about any upcoming alarms in the Clock app. The Weather and Stocks features on the Today view replace the separate “widgets” previously found in the iOS 6 Notifications timeline.

Notifications are now split into two different views: All and Missed. The first works in the same way as Notification Center did in prior versions of iOS, simply collecting all of your Notifications in one screen until they are dismissed. The new Missed view allows you to see only new notifications that you haven’t addressed in the past 24 hours—a useful feature for users who receive a lot of notifications and don’t regularly clear them out.


The Today view in Notification Center can be customized from the iOS Settings app, with the ability to switch the different elements on or off. Tapping the “Edit” button in the top-right corner allows the Calendar Day View, Reminders, and Stocks elements to be reordered by dragging them up or down the list, however the Today Summary, Next Destination, and Tomorrow Summary remain fixed in their positions at the top and bottom of the Today view.


Options can also be found here to turn off access to either the Today View or Notifications View from the lock screen. The usual per-app Notification Center settings can found by scrolling down, and work in the same way as they did in iOS 6. It’s worth noting that accessing the Notification Centre from the lock screen respects the “Show on Lock Screen” and “Show Preview” settings for notifications—if a notification isn’t shown on the lock screen, it won’t be shown when pulling down the Notification Center from the Lock Screen either, allowing users to leave Notification Center access enabled from the Lock Screen while keeping more personal notifications secure.

With the update, however, the “Sharing Widget” used for making quick posts to Twitter and Facebook has been removed from the Notification Center entirely.

Next Destination and Frequent Locations

Note that the “Next Destination” feature found in Notification Center works a little bit differently than most would expect. Rather than simply trying to read appointments from your Calendar, what iOS 7 actually does here is track locations you frequently visit and attempt to discern a pattern from these. For this to work you must have Location Services enabled and ensure that “Frequent Locations” remains turned on within the Location Services settings under Privacy in the Settings app.


From here you can actually view your location history—essentially a list of places that your iPhone has been. iOS 7 can use this information for a number of purposes, including making improvements to Maps and providing “Next Destination” information in the new Notification Center.


A “Clear History” option is here to allow users to erase this location information and start over in the event of privacy concerns or irrelevant locations having been recorded, however there appears to be no way to remove individual location information—it’s an all-or-nothing process.

Next: Easing Your Transition To iOS 7

Previous: Adding other users to Find My iPhone


You have it saying that the in-camera filters are not available on anything below an iPhone5, but I can use them on my 4s. Not just applying them after the fact, I can take the pictures while the filter is already on.

By Joe on 09.18.13 at 05:27 PM

Just so that I’m clear, you can still scroll with the new Cover Flow right? In any case, I’m glad they kept it. It has always my favorite feature.

By hoshieBIOTpod on 09.18.13 at 09:57 PM

Some subtle changes:

In the Summary bar while connected to iTunes, there is a new “Documents and Data” category.

For the time period to require a Passcode, 15 minutes is now available for iPhone (was 5 minutes max, 15 was only for iPad).

By rockmyplimsoul on 09.19.13 at 02:08 AM

This update should be aloud on ipod 4th gen also thats what i have and its really cool. How come ipod touch 5 gen always get all the good stuff?

By Laura on 09.19.13 at 09:54 AM

Another subtle difference—there is now a dedicated FaceTime app for iPhone, it used to be accessible only through Contacts.

By rockmplimsoul on 09.19.13 at 10:44 AM

Very informative, thank you! I won’t hold it against you that you used Rush for screen shots ;-).

By Scott on 09.19.13 at 01:50 PM

Hi! Just a real simple question really; how do I turn on location services in the privacy settings? The toggle bar is not available to turn on or off! I’ve read through reams of info but I can’t get to the point of turning it on. I need it so that my TomTom app will work. It did before I downloaded IOS 7 but sure doesn’t work now! Please can you help, thanks.

By chris taylor on 09.20.13 at 04:58 AM

When I receive a text in “lock” mode, how can I change the appearance on the Lock screen to say “text message” instead of showing the contents of the message?

By E on 09.21.13 at 11:31 AM

Hi,my iPhone 4s has paired beautiful with the new iOs7. Everything working fine exept the translucent effect with the control center window. Any helpful suggestions? Thanks.

By Rudi Oppinger on 09.22.13 at 11:17 PM

Can you reset the deault colors, for example my stock app is now black, green and red.  The green in this app and all other apps is so bright that it makes it difficult to read the text.

By Nancy on 09.23.13 at 12:20 PM

The older iOs allowed one to clear the cache by double-tapping the home button.  How is the cache manually cleared with iOs7?

By Tom on 09.23.13 at 05:02 PM

Hmmmmm. Is this a bug? I have Do Not Disturb enabled with the Silence Always option checked. However, if I’m in the Messages main screen and a text comes in the phone will make a sound. It is my understanding that if the Silence Always is checked then no alert sounds should go off. This only happens when on the main screen of the Messages app.

By Veronica on 09.23.13 at 06:52 PM

what happened to my app icons when i updated my 4s to 7.0.2?

By roy on 09.26.13 at 04:18 PM

I can’t find any information on my problem. My iPad 2 just keeps trying to download iOS7.0.2 but is not making any progress. How do I stop it OR how do I make it start? It has been spinning for days now.

Thank you,

By Sue on 09.29.13 at 09:21 AM

Hello,I can’t find my timeline on iOS 7 Facebook.Thanks

By Paul Corwin on 10.01.13 at 04:29 PM

Thanks very much for this piece of information. It is the best I could find sofar.
Keep going!

By Hans Ris on 10.02.13 at 04:00 AM

The new iOS has screwed the alarm clock function for many users.  It’s is so quiet that you miss it and sleep through. There is also to marimba tone which was the best alert.  Si in short, I can no longer rely on my alarm clock to wake me.  Very upset since it used to work so well and you could have the screen locked.  Will you be returning the alarm click to its former glory? I have ready countless posts , all with the same complaint.  People have been late for work and even missed flights. Not a smart change in this upgrade

By Shaunna on 10.02.13 at 04:38 PM

@Shaunna (#17): Marimba is actually still there—you’ll find the older ringtones under a “Classic” sub-menu along with all of the other pre-iOS 7 sounds.

By Jesse Hollington on 10.03.13 at 10:04 AM

The new ios7 is rubbish.
You should have left things the way they were.
The volume of tones,music & alarms are quiet now even thou evrything is turned up to the max.
The mute button has even stopped working since i updated.
Whats going on if this carries on im moving to Android.

By Chris on 10.06.13 at 03:42 PM

I have problems with my control center! I have an ipod touch gen 5 and my music player won’t start when I click the start button and when I started it in the music app and lock my ipod It wont let me skip to the next song.

By Lily on 10.07.13 at 05:37 AM

I cannot lock the screen into the portrait or landscape position. The least little movement causes it to move all the time. Very difficult to read a book or anything else.
The control center on the mini iPad does not have a place to lock th screen into one position despite people saying it ides.

He control center on he mini iPad does not look lik the one on my iPhone 4S.

By Barbara Fedak. on 10.12.13 at 07:37 PM

The older iOs allowed one to clear the cache by double-tapping the home button.  but in the newer version i can’t..  How is the cache manually cleared with iOs7? thank you

By tmtm on 10.26.13 at 09:38 AM

and now with ios7.03 all your apps are gone too. all the time you spent organizing your aps into folders are all gone. All your ‘sent’ mail and all other folders are all gone too. crap crap crap. Losing money here because of this stupid ‘upgrade’—how can anyone rely on this fickle minded os for doing business??? The ‘best’ part is…you cant even restore from a previously properly working back-up…..crap crap crap

By malik on 10.26.13 at 10:05 AM

@Tmtm to clear the cache is also by double-tap home button. Only unlike the 6, with 7 you just slide up the apps one by one.

By ddd on 12.15.13 at 11:54 PM

How do I get my iphone 4 to text while holding horizontally with two hands? It was working fine & I was playing around getting to know the it and now it only works vertically. What did I do and how do I fix it? Thanks, Brian

By Brian Hilberer on 01.05.14 at 07:36 PM

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