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.
Graphically, the iOS Music app has been updated to match the rest of iOS—and quite nicely at that—but its core navigation is mostly the same as in iOS 6. One of the biggest differences is that entries in the artist view are now listed with an album cover and a listing of how many albums and songs by that artist are available, rather than a simple text list. Tapping reveals all of that artist’s albums collected together onto one scrolling page.
Likewise, the Now Playing screen takes on new graphical design elements, but works much the same as before. The tracking scrubber has been moved below the artwork, as have the title, artist, and album information, plus Repeat, Create, and Shuffle buttons. These are now represented with text, rather than icons. Create replaces “Genius,” the prior iOS tool for auto-creating similar song playlists. Now, Create offers three options: starting a new Genius Playlist, creating an iTunes Radio station based on the artist, or creating an iTunes Radio station based on the song. Notably, the AirPlay control is gone from this page; you can activate it using the button in Control Center.
Cover Flow has been redesigned as a flat, scrolling mosaic of 12-15 album covers at a time, depending on the iPod/iPhone model you’re using. Any entries without artwork are represented by a black box, with white text running diagonally across it.
Rather than the album flipping over when you tap it in this orientation, the cover now zooms in and displays next to the album’s track list.
iTunes Radio is one of iOS 7’s main new features, and a free competitor to services such as Pandora. Found in the Music app, it allows users to listen to “stations” curated by Apple, or create their own based on similarities between artists, songs, and genres.
Once a station is playing, tracks can be voted up or down to tailor the station. Tapping on the i button at the top of the screen brings up a listing of the currently playing track, new station creation buttons, and copyright information about the song playing. The track can be purchased from anywhere within iTunes Radio, although at this point, the app doesn’t seem to recognize songs that have already been purchased or are on the device.
iTunes Radio keeps track of songs that are played, allowing users to easily find and purchase what they’ve heard. There’s also a wish list feature, allowing favorite tracks to be tagged and easily accused. Notably, the service seems to have the same limited number of skips per hour as Pandora and others.
iOS 7 notably brings support for iTunes in the Cloud to the Videos app, specifically in regards to movies and TV shows. Now, anything that’s been purchased with the Apple ID on the device automatically shows up alongside content that’s been transferred, and can be downloaded at will. Content that’s been purchased through the iTunes Store has detailed information in text form.
For TV shows, this information includes a summary of the series, and related shows. Similar information is displayed for movies, and all of the details are available even if the video hasn’t actually been downloaded to the device.
Content that wasn’t downloaded from iTunes, but still recognized, gives you the option to buy more episodes.
The pop-over video controls have been redesigned to match the rest of iOS 7, including transparency, but are functionally the same. No new features have been added here, but the controls look better than ever before and interfere less with video viewing.
Photos has been significantly redesigned; instead of a grid displaying all the pictures you’ve taken, it’s now broken down into a hierarchy based on Years, Collections, and Moments, with Years as the top level. Collections are groups of images taken in the same area, during a range of time, while Moments are broken down even further, to specific locations and times. This is all handled automatically by iOS. In the Year and Collections views, users can scrub across the photos, with magnified images popping up as appropriate.
The Photos Share Sheet now prominently displays AirDrop, followed by standard services such as Mail and Facebook, and the ability to copy a photo, assign it to a contact, and more. Flickr and Vimeo integration are new for photo and video sharing, respectively; YouTube remains an option for video sharing.
Shared Photos now displays an Activity page, showing chronologically what’s been added to each of the streams you’re subscribed to. The Shared Photo galleries don’t adopt the new hierarchy, and instead are just listed in a stream.
With iOS 7, subscribers can now post to to photo streams. Videos can also be shared now in Photo Streams. Also notable: deleting a photo now removes it from your device and from Photo Stream as well.