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.
iTunes Store & App Store
The iTunes Store and App Store apps get the standard iOS 7 facelift for their UI elements but remain much the same otherwise since most of the actual store screens and menus are delivered from Apple’s servers rather than built into iOS.
New to both apps is the ability to redeem gift cards using the device’s camera, a feature first introduced in iTunes 11 last fall. As with the feature in iTunes, however, the capability remains limited to only the newer store gift cards with a box around the code; unfortunately codes from older gift cards as well as the promotional coupons given out at stores like Starbucks will still need to be entered the old-fashioned way.
The standard iOS 7 sharing menu is now incorporated into both apps as well, allowing store links to be sent to other devices via AirDrop as well as through the usual sharing methods of Messages, Mail, Twitter, and Facebook. The bottom-row wireframe icons include the ability to copy a link to the keyboard or send a paid app as a gift.
The App Store adds a new “Apps Near Me” section that allows users to see a list of apps that are popular near their current location. It’s unclear at this point what data Apple is using for this—whether it is based on where other users have purchased apps, where they’re actually using them, or whether it’s simply a static list of what Apple thinks is popular at a given location. At this point, however, the feature only seems to show lists of apps when at popular venues and landmarks.
The App Store app also gains support for the iTunes Wish List feature to allow users to keep a list of apps they may want to purchase later. Any paid app that the user doesn’t already own can be added to the Wish List using an additional wireframe icon that appears in the lower part of the sharing menu.
The Wish List syncs back to the user’s iTunes Store account and is available in iTunes and in the App Store app on other iOS 7 devices. Users can view their Wish List by tapping the lined button in the top-right corner of the App Store or selecting the “Wish List” link from the iTunes Store home page.
The iTunes Store app does not include any support for the Wish List feature—the lined button in the top right corner accesses a history of recently previewed items as it did in iOS 6. Oddly, the sharing menu in the iTunes Store currently includes a button to add the selected item to the Safari Reading List, where it is stored simply as a link back to the iTunes Store page. It is unclear if this is a bug or an intentional feature, but it seems like an odd way of saving iTunes Store pages.
The Calculator in iOS 7 gets a much flatter, more modern design, but like most other built-in apps remains much the same in terms of core functionality. One major advantage in iOS 7, however, is that the Calculator is now accessible from any screen, including the lock screen, via the new Control Center.
The standard portrait-orientation view omits the memory buttons found in iOS 6. It also reduces the equals button to the same height as the rest, lining up all of the operation buttons into a single column. A percentage button is added to the top row in the vacant space created by this new layout. Active operation buttons are now indicated by a much more subtle increase in the symbol size rather than an outline around the button itself.
Turning the device into landscape orientation presents a scientific calculator much as it did in iOS 6, again with a somewhat reorganized button layout. The prior 6 x 8, 46-button layout has been replaced with a 5 x 10 grid made up of entirely square buttons with the exception of the zero, delivering 49 buttons in total. The additional space has been used to add buttons for square root, cubed root, and Euler’s number (e).
The Mail app has gradually added new enhancements with each major iOS update, and iOS 7 is no exception this regard. In addition to the usual new UI treatment, iOS 7 Mail now officially adds support for multiple “From” addresses on a single IMAP or POP account. While it has been possible to do this for some time simply by separating multiple addresses with a comma as in the OS X Mail app, this was something that just happened to work and was never officially advertised by Apple as a supported feature. With iOS 7, the Mail account settings now provides an actual option to add multiple addresses to a standard IMAP or POP account.
Further, when replying to an e-mail, the iOS 7 Mail app will now choose the appropriate “From” address for the reply based on which address the original e-mail was sent to. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be available for pre-defined account types like Gmail, although that may of course change by the time iOS 7 is released in the fall.
Third-party IMAP and POP accounts also now gain the ability to define an “Archive” mailbox under Advanced settings, in addition to the prior settings for Sent Items, Drafts, and Trash. With this change, generic accounts can now take advantage of the same one-button Archive feature available only for Gmail and iCloud accounts previously. A setting on the same Advanced screen allows the user to choose the default behaviour, and if “Archive” is selected, the user will also be able to tap and hold on the archive button in the Mail app to choose to delete instead; sadly this doesn’t work in the other direction, however.
As with other areas of iOS 7, the swipe-to-delete/archive gesture now only works from right-to-left, but also presents an additional “More” menu that can be used to choose additional options for the current message. A “Move to Junk” option is now available as well to quickly move the selected message to a designated Junk Mail folder. This can also be found on the flag/mark menus alongside the options for flagging messages or marking them as unread.
A left-to-right swipe gesture is now used to move up one level, taking the user back to the message list when viewing an individual message, or back to the folder list when viewing the message list. Other elements and features of the Mail app remain much the same as before, and most users will find it quite familiar. One notable change is the replacing of the flag symbol with a simple orange dot for representing flagged messages, in the same style as the blue dot for unread messages.
iOS 7 on iPad: Debuted in iOS 7 Beta 2 (June 24, 2013)
The iTunes Store and App Store in iOS 7 on the iPad show the expected iOS 7 design changes, simply applied to the larger screen, with no real surprises.
Mail likewise gets the iOS 7 treatment but remains largely similar in overall layout to the iOS 6 version.
As in prior iOS versions, the Calculator app remains unsurprisingly omitted from the iPad version of iOS 7, at least at this point.
For more information on iOS 7, check out big picture iOS 7 guide, and other articles in this series.