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. Our series on iOS 7 has looked 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.
Thus far, the Settings app in iOS 7 has retained the same basic layout from prior versions while adopting the new UI treatment for menu icons, text, buttons, and switches. As with any major iOS update, a few things have been moved around a bit, but the app remains quite familiar.
The first group of items remains much the same, focused on the wireless communication capabilities of the device. Apple’s only major change in this area can be found within the Cellular section, which now provides more detailed data usage counters on a per-app basis, as well as for system services and even an aggregate count for apps that have been uninstalled. In addition, users can now switch cellular data access off entirely for specific apps, forcing them to use Wi-Fi only. This will be an extremely welcome addition for users on limited data plans.
Notification Center, Control Center + Do Not Disturb
The second grouping now includes options for Notification Center, Control Center, and Do Not Disturb. Apple has replaced Do Not Disturb’s on/off switch with settings that were formerly found an extra layer deep under the Notification Center options. The Notification Center section now includes options for deciding whether notifications and the new “Today View” will be available from the Lock Screen, as well as the ability to customize the Today View by enabling and disabling or re-ordering some of the sections.
Control Center contains only a single option right now to allow users to disable access to it from the Lock Screen. Do Not Disturb now includes a “Manual” switch at the top of its settings, since the option is no longer directly available on the main Settings screen, although of course the new Control Center provides direct access to this option as well.
A new setting at the bottom of the Do Not Disturb section allows you to decide whether notifications and incoming calls should only be suppressed when the iPhone is locked—the default behavior in iOS 6—or always silenced.
The General settings subsection adds new options for Text Size and Background App Refresh, moves iTunes Wi-Fi Sync and VPN down to the bottom, and adds some new Accessibility options while bringing the Accessibility settings menu up into the second group of options.
Text Size allows apps that support “Dynamic Type” to adjust to a user-specific reading size that can be adjusted using a slider found on this screen, which is also now duplicated in the “Larger Text” option under the Accessibility settings. Background App Refresh reveals a new API in iOS 7 that will allow third-party apps to actually update data in the background without requiring the user to open them first—a feature that up until now has only been the purview of Apple’s built-in apps and apps designed for the Newsstand section. The option here allows users to choose which apps will have access to the background refresh feature.
Accessibility gains a handful of new options and subtle changes. As noted above, Larger Text now uses a slider view in place of the six pre-defined font choices, with seven slider positions representing smaller or larger text options. It is unclear, however, whether this will be the same in the final version, since as the name implies, the Accessibility option is for larger text, and the option currently only supplies three larger sizes and three smaller sizes.
Subtitles can also now be customized from a new “Subtitles & Captioning” section in the Accessibility settings. Users can enable Closed Captions and Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH), and choose their preferred display style. Three standard options are provided, along with a preview of what the subtitles will look like. A button in the top-right corner also allows the user to switch to a full-screen preview.
Alternatively, users can choose to create a completely custom style of their own, choosing font, font size, font color, background color and opacity, and even text opacity, text edge style, and text highlight. A sizable collection of font choices and font substitution options are available, and each setting includes a “Video Override” option to allow the user to choose whether styles supplied by the video they are watching will override their preferred settings or not.
A “Reduce Motion” switch has been added which disables all of the parallax effects in iOS 7, again useful for visually impaired users or those who may simply find that the effect makes them nauseous. Interestingly, users can also disable Ambient Noise Cancellation during phone calls from here if they so desire. The three-button click option has now been renamed to “Accessibility Shortcut” but otherwise provides the same basic functionality as before.
A new “Switch Control” section has also been added in Accessibility, with advanced configuration options for using third-party adaptive accessories to access and manipulate items on the touchscreen.
Brightness & Wallpaper
iOS 7 adds support for “dynamic” wallpapers, and the new Brightness & Wallpaper settings now separate sections for “Dynamic” and “Stills” under an “Apple Wallpaper” heading. New static wallpapers have also been added, and wallpaper previews are now rendered in a taller screen aspect ratio.
A Photos section appears below the Apple Wallpaper section, allowing users to choose their own wallpapers as before. It is unclear whether Apple will allow third-party developers to create dynamic wallpapers, but we’d hope that it will, as the feature has so much potential.
iOS 7 now requires applications to specifically request access to the microphone, and a new “Microphone” section under the Privacy controls allow users to view a list of those apps that have requested access and toggle the access on and off for each app, similar to how other the other privacy options work.
The Advertising section introduced in iOS 6 has been moved from its odd location on the “About” screen to the Privacy settings, a much more logical place in our opinion.
The iCloud settings remain much the same as before, but get the new icon treatment and add a section for the new “iCloud Keychain” feature.
Presented as a simple on/off toggle, initially enabling the iCloud Keychain on an iOS 7 device will take the user through a process involving the Apple ID and password and setting a four-digit PIN code.
Enabling the iCloud Keychain on an additional iOS device requires the user to supply authorization by entering the Apple ID and password on the primary device or entering the Keychain Security Code.
Mail, Contacts, Calendars
The Mail settings remain mostly the same, although proper support for secondary e-mail addresses has been officially added, as well as support for a designated “Archive” mailbox in standard IMAP accounts, as noted in our earlier article covering iOS 7 Mail.
iOS 7 can now automatically abbreviate names in apps like Messages and Mail to fit more information on the screen for multi-party messages. A new option in the Contacts section allows the user to decide whether to shorten the first name or last name (say, “J. Hollington” versus “Jesse H.”), or disable name shortening entirely (“Jesse Hollington”).
A new setting in the Calendars section now allows users to override the default starting day for the week, indicating the default day for the user’s chosen region, but providing the ability to select any other day of the week instead.
Phone, FaceTime, Messages
The Phone settings now offer an option for choosing to disable the display of Contact Photos in the Favorites section, and a new entry for managing Blocked numbers. This latter option can also be accessed in the FaceTime and Messages sections of the Settings app; the block list is common to all three services.
At this point only entries from your contacts can be added to the Blocked list from within the Settings app, although the Phone, FaceTime and Messages apps all allow you to directly add numbers and e-mail addresses for calls and messages that you’ve placed or received. Adding a Contact will add all of that contact’s phone numbers and e-mail addresses to the list as individual entries, and removing a contact requires removing each of these numbers and e-mail addresses one by one. We expect that this interface will be simplified by the time iOS 7 is actually released to the public.
A new option in the Maps settings allows users to select either Driving or Walking directions as a default.
A Compass section has also been added to settings to select True North instead of Magnetic North when using the Compass app. This setting was previously found inside the Compass application.
The Smart Search Field options allow the user to disable search suggestions and preloading of the top hit. See our earlier article on Safari in iOS 7 for more information on these features.
AutoFill settings have also been expanded to include support for credit cards which can be synced between devices via the new iOS 7 iCloud Keychain.
Music + Videos
Music settings get a minor layout change, moving the “Show All Music” option into a separate block above the iTunes Match setting, presumably as the switch now controls the availability of purchased music from iTunes in the Cloud even when the user is not an iTunes Match subscriber.
The Videos section now gets a similar “Show All Videos” option to allow users to toggle off the display of streamable iTunes in the Cloud purchased content in the Videos app.
Photos & Camera
In Photos & Camera, the “Shared Photo Streams” option has been renamed to simply “Photo Sharing” – a good choice in our opinion, as the clearer name helps to distinguish it properly from the main iCloud Photo Stream.
The Grid option for the Camera app also now appears in Settings, rather than as a menu option in the Camera app itself, requiring a visit here to toggle the grid on or off.
Game Center now gets its own section in the iOS 7 Settings app. From here the user can choose to enable or disable friend invitations, a new “Nearby Players” feature, viewing their Game Center profile, and whether or not to use Contacts and Facebook for personalized friend recommendations.
Tapping on the Nickname field will sign the user into the Game Center profile, showing additional information, although it doesn’t appear this feature has yet been fully implemented in the initial iOS 7 beta.
For more information on iOS 7, check out big picture iOS 7 guide, and other articles in this series.