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.
The Clock app has received the expected iOS 7 coat of fresh UI paint, but as an app that was relatively plain to begin with, the changes seem far less dramatic than elsewhere in iOS 7.
iOS7’s World Clock screen gets a much “flatter” look, with the same white and black clock faces used to indicate day or night in each location, but no world map background. A single tap on any entry will switch between the standard analog clock faces and a digital time display, rather than displaying both at once.
Alarms are presented in much the same way as before, with the addition of subdued grey shading used to indicate those alarms that are inactive. Editing an alarm uses the standard new scrolling time selector that has been adapted throughout iOS 7. Other features here remain the same, including the sound selection and the ability to use individual songs—but not playlists—from the music library.
The Stopwatch and Timer screens get the same general design treatment, but remain otherwise functionally unchanged from the previous version.
Game Center is perhaps both the most significant and oddest revision in the collection of iOS 7 apps. While the original version was arguably the epitome of skeuomorphism, the new version takes such a dramatic left turn as to be almost indistinguishable from the original, replacing the green felt card table design with a colored bubble motif.
The bubbles shown on the main user profile screen represent the different sections of Game Center and are tappable shortcuts to their respective areas. Tapping on the user profile photo allows the user to remove it entirely or choose or take an alternate photo, and the user’s Game Center status can be updated by tapping on the speech bubble beside the profile photo.
Transition effects are used when moving to and from the user profile screen, with the bubbles flying off or back onto the screen. The Friends list uses the round avatar design found elsewhere in iOS 7, and includes the same filtering and sorting options as before. A Requests button in the top left corner allows the user to see pending Friend Requests, although iOS 7 currently lacks the iOS 6-vintage ability to approve or reject Friend requests en masse.
Users can also now more easily report a problem with other Game Center members using an ellipsis button displayed in the top-right corner when viewing a Game Center user’s profile. The remaining areas of Game Center function much as they did before, again with iOS 7 design treatment applied.
Newsstand isn’t exactly an “app” per se, as the original Newsstand acted more like a special ever-present folder for collecting apps based on periodicals. However, with iOS 7, Newsstand acts a bit more like Passbook: it takes over the screen while still acting primarily as a repository for third-party developer content. It now requires a press of the Home Button to return to the Home Screen, which experienced Newsstand users may find initially disorienting. As an added bonus, you can now file the Newsstand app away in another folder.
Beyond that, there’s not really much to talk about here. The wooden bookshelf design is gone in favor of a collection of shaded virtual shelves, with the word Newsstand shown at the bottom alongside a small Store button to take users to the Newsstand section of the App Store. Newsstand apps go on the shelves automatically when downloaded, update with new content automatically, and can be rearranged and deleted in much the same way as before. Each shelf contains three publications each for a total of 9 or 12 per 3.5” or 4” screen; swipe gestures can be used to move to additional screens once the first is full.
Already one of the cleaner apps on the iPhone and iPod touch, Safari goes even more minimalist in iOS 7. Both the top and bottom blue-grey address bar and toolbar have been replaced with a much more subtle white design that gets hidden almost completely as the user scrolls downward, reappearing when scrolling back up.
The top address bar finally adopts the “omnibox” functionality introduced in Safari on OS X Mountain Lion, borrowing from the Chrome browser by immediately displaying the user’s bookmarks when tapping on it. As the user enters text in this box, the bookmarks are replaced by a list of top hits, search results, bookmarks and history that are refined as the user types more information. The top hit is also preloaded in the background to allow it to load faster once the user selects it. Options can be found in the Safari section of the main Settings app that allow the user to disable Search Suggestions or the Top Hit Preloading feature, conceivably reducing bandwidth.
Swiping down on this list hides the keyboard to display more information, and also shows a “Private” button in the bottom-left corner that can quickly be used to enter “Private Browsing” mode—a very welcome change from the previous implementation that required a trip to the Settings app to toggle the feature on or off.
Tapping the “Private” button will automatically enable or disable private browsing mode right away if no other pages are open; otherwise the user is given the choice of keeping or closing existing pages. Private Browsing remains an “all-or-nothing” setting here; unlike the Incognito mode of Google Chrome it is not possible to open only a single Private Browsing page. The “Private” link is shown in green when Private browsing is enabled, blue when disabled, and much like in iOS 7, the top and bottom bars are rendered in dark grey to indicate that Private Browsing is enabled.
Safari’s Bookmarks listing has been redesigned as well, not only getting the iOS 7 UI treatment, but separating the Reading List into its own tab alongside a new “Shared Links” section which gathers links from the user’s Twitter feed—assuming one has been configured in the iOS Settings app. The Reading List view has also been enhanced with abstracts and photo thumbnails displayed where appropriate, and is accompanied by a button in the bottom right corner to toggle between displaying all Reading List items or only unread items.
Switching between pages gets a brand new UI as well, ironically replacing iOS 6’s flatter side-by-side page view with a three-dimensional vertical carousel display that is nonetheless more useful. Users can close pages by tapping a small X in the top left corner or simply swiping the page away from right-to-left; as elsewhere in iOS, this only works in that one direction, however. The iCloud Tabs feature that allows users to open pages from Safari on other devices has been moved here from the Bookmarks menu, and can be found by scrolling down from the page carousel. The Private button also appears here to allow the user to toggle Private Browsing on or off, and a plus button in the bottom center. Perhaps most significantly, the former nine-page cap has been removed, allowing users to open many more pages. We’re not sure what the limit is here, but we were able to open 50 without any difficulty.
Sharing has also been expanded to include AirDrop, as well as the usual Messages, Mail, Twitter and Facebook options. Wireframe icons appear below for bookmarking the current page, adding it to the Reading List, Home Screen, copying the URL or printing it via AirPrint.
The Reader button is now displayed as a series of lines to the left of the address bar, getting a new font treatment and plain white background. Autofill continues to work in much the same way as before, but now adds support for the new iCloud Keychain feature to store and sync saved passwords—as well as credit card information—securely across multiple devices. Users can enable or disable the Autofill features and view and manage their saved credentials in the Safari section of the iOS Settings app.
For more information on iOS 7, check out big picture iOS 7 guide, and other articles in this series.