As promised, Apple(s aapl) released iOS 7 on Wednesday for multiple iOS devices. The software represents a radical departure from the now 6-year old mobile platform, with a full face-lift of icons, fonts and features. Some of the changes are simply visual but there are a host of new functions that have impressed me over the past few months of using the iOS 7 beta.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of every iOS 7 feature, but a highlight of some that I feel were done well and are immediately useful. And before you upgrade, you may want to get your iOS device ready for the new software with these steps.
I mentioned earlier today that even though I generally use Google(s goog) Android devices, iTunes Music has already found a place in my daily life. I’ll be canceling my Google Play Music All Access trial before the $9.99 monthly charge kicks in because I find iTunes Radio much better for me. Music tastes vary so your experience could differ, but iTunes Music won’t cost you anything to try; it’s free with iOS. You’ll find it in the iOS 7 Music app. Choose a preset station or create your own based on artists or songs you like.
An Improved Spotlight (if you can find it!)
Gone is the “swipe left from the home screen” action to search on your iOS device. Apple moved the search feature to above the home screen; sort of. If you pull down from the top of the screen, you’ll get the new Notification Center. So how do you get to search? Pull the home screen itself down and a Search bar will appear at the top of the screen. Enter a search term and iOS will scour your device for any matches in Apps, Mail, Contacts, Music, Calendar events, Videos and more. It’s not quite a true Universal Search because you can’t search the web from here. Still, it’s quite good; and fast on my iPhone 5.
Better application updating
In the App Store settings, you can now tell iOS to automatically update your apps as needed. That’s better than getting a numbered badge to indicate there are updates available. Don’t worry, the Updates section of the App Store is still there. And if you set iOS up for automatic updates, this section offers a history of what was updated — and when — automatically. Even better: Once an app is updated, a small blue dot will appear next to the app name on your home screen so you know you have a new version of the app.
Yup, this feature may have been lifted from Android but it’s well worth it. Access the new Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of your display. Regardless of what app — or even if your phone is locked — the new Control Center pops right up offering quick access to highly useful functions: Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb and Rotation Lock. You can also control screen brightness, any music that’s playing or tap buttons for AirDrop or AirPlay. Lastly there are four icons for specific apps: Flashlight, Clock, Calculator and Camera.
Super app switching
It’s another “borrowed” feature — this time from webOS — but the multitasking interface is totally revamped and much better. Each open app is a card and you can see three at a time. The app cards show the app in its last state; they’re not actively updating. Slide these around and you can quickly see all of your open apps; tap one and you’ll jump right in. Want to close an app, or two or three? You can do that by dragging the app cards up and off the screen; up to three at a time if you want.
Apple says there are 200 new features in iOS 7, so there plenty more to explore and enjoy. This handful are among my favorite updates so far. It’s easy to think that the software is simply iOS 6 with a fresh coat of flat paint but I think that’s a short-sighted observation. The more I’ve used iOS 7, the more the update has impressed me.