May 1st 2013 9:59 am

Heads up! A newer version of this product is out!

final rating

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Criteria Comments Rating
  • Ease of use It's fairly easy to figure out. If you've used previous iterations of iOS, it's fairly easy. There's some new things, but you understand it after a day or two. good
  • Speed Caveat: It's super speedy on my iPhone 5. In fact, it feels even faster than iOS 6 did! great!
  • Configurability You're not going to be changing themes, icons, etc. But you can change the usual stuff: wallpapers, notifications, alert sounds. so-so
  • Ecosystem (apps, drivers, etc.) Still the best out there in terms of apps available and the number of external devices that support it. Everything from guitar amps to health sensors. great!
  • Openness Hah. Out of the box there's really nothing you can do. After downloading apps you can use other files (MKV, ZIP, etc). But can't change core system functions. poor
Detailed review
iOS 7 is finally here! It does away with the cheesy skeuomorphism of previous generations of iOS, trading wood, felt, and aluminum for a simple flat background. On one hand, this takes away obvious connections between the digital and analog world, but on the other it adds a certain amount of cohesiveness to the iOS ecosystem now that both Apple's apps and third-party apps are following the same design paradigms.

For the most part, iOS 7 is simply a fresh coat of paint on an old car. The first time you use iOS 7, you might think that it looks the same as it always did. A grid of icons and folders (with even smaller icons inside). Then you start to notice some of the app icons: Safari, Photos, Camera, Settings, Reminders, and more. They all look very... playful. Opening up each app presents a redesigned interface that feels airy and contains lots of whitespace.

The changes are jarring at first, and I found myself not initially impressed. It's a sentiment that I've heard from a number of friends and family over the last week. This reaction seems to subside as you use it more and eventually forget about it all together.

That said, some things still feel inconsistent and almost unfinished. In some apps (e.g., App Store), Apple uses a mixture of simple icons with text below that describes the action. In others (e.g., Safari), Apple uses very simple icons with no description. Oh, I didn't realize that this weird up arrow in the middle of a square that sort of looks like a house means "share". To top it off, in other apps, they use text descriptors to tell you where to go -- which ends up looking a bit messy (and does some funky things with center justified text). These sorts of complaints are minor, but they give an impression that there's still more work to be done and this was a rushed first draft.

On the backend, there's some new tools and APIs that are welcome. The first is automatic app updates. You no longer need to remember to open the App Store to update your apps (this is a godsend for people who help support their parents and find out they have 87 apps waiting to be updated). Once you setup automatic updates, you get push notifications alerting you that apps have been updated. The App Store now keeps a running summary of all apps that have been updated, allowing nerds like me to still peep at changelogs.

The other major change is that apps can now download data in the background. Pocket is one of the first to take advantage of this, allowing you to have a constant updated list of articles ready for you to read should your cell connection suddenly be shut off (i.e., stuck on a subway). One of my favorite podcasting apps, Downcast, was recently updated to take advantage of this as well. Now I rarely have to check for new podcasts. (One thing to note, Apple currently imposes a 30 second limit for apps using background app updates. I've frequently encountered Downcast hitting this limit and then timing out, resulting it incomplete downloads. Fortunately, it usually finished the download the next time the background app process runs.)

All in all, iOS 7 is a novel new experience that will take some adjusting to. But new features such as automatic app updates and background refreshing are welcome.
review history
Edited comment on Openness