Sept. 22--Without spending a dime -- or standing in line at an Apple store -- I have three brand-new iThings this week.
No one has ever accused me of being patient, so as soon as iOS 7 was live on Tuesday afternoon, my iThings were plugged in and downloading the new operating system. And let me tell you -- I like iOS 7 a lot.
You'll first notice the visual changes -- a new system font (Helvetica Neue for you font nerds) and a much brighter home screen, thanks to the new, more colorful app icons. You'll notice new animations everywhere, including an expanding motion when you open apps or folders. It looks and feels smooth -- and both are an improvement over past versions of iOS.
Features? Whew, I'm still finding them. I'm getting to know an improved Siri, who sounds more human now; she (or he, if you want) can now search Twitter or open control panels.
I'm really digging the changes to the Safari mobile browser too; moving between open pages (more than eight if you want!) is now done through a Rolodex-ish vertical scroll, and if you want to dismiss a page, all you need to do is swipe it off the screen.
There are a ton of other things to like, and I'm going to be discovering more each day. But I thought I'd ask you guys, via Twitter, to see what you like about the new iOS. These are the consensus responses:
Swipe-up control panel
Slide your finger up from the bottom of the screen and you'll find new control panel that gives you quick access to some helpful basics -- toggles for Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; sliders for screen brightness or volume of whatever media you're playing and quick-start buttons for your flashlight (a steady-on mode for the camera's rear-facing flash), timer, calculator and camera.
Pandora, it's time to worry -- iTunes Radio seems to be a hit. Accessed through the Music app, Apple's streaming music player seems to have a monstrously large selection and does a good job -- so far, anyway -- of picking interesting stuff when you're listening to a station that's built around a specific band.
And, of course, there are helpful links to the iTunes store should you come across that song you've never heard before, but it's not all about selling tracks to users; the bands that I listen to tend to occasionally stretch out, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a 14-minute version of Umphrey's McGee's "In the Kitchen" pop up in my player.
If you didn't believe me, Pandora, check this out: One of my Twitter friends said he had already deleted Pandora from his phone in favor iTunes Radio.
This option has always been available, but iOS 7 made it much, much better. Double tapping the home button brought up icons of running apps in past versions; with the new OS, you also see preview screens to go through; it allows you to move between open apps very quickly. A related thing to watch: If you have background app refresh turned on (Find it at Settings > General > Background App Refresh), you're going to notice a pretty hefty battery drain.
You can disable the background operations for particular apps or turn all of them off; that won't change the multitasking function, but you will notice some of those apps take a little extra time to refresh when you return to them.
A couple of updates ago, iThings users finally got the ability to group apps in folders. The drawback? You were limited in the number of apps for each folder, so people like me were stuck with having multiple folders for, say news apps or games. But with iOS 7, those limits are gone; there are now pages within the folders, so we can put as much stuff as we want in each one.
With any update, there's going to be some disappointing stuff as well. I haven't read of any serious iOS 7 bugs yet, but there was one thing about the update that really bummed me out.
I'm a freak about the weather, and I was really hoping that Apple would take the time to make its Weather app worthwhile; after all, that was promised in all the discussions about iOS 7 leading up to the release.
What we got instead was pretty much just a change in the app's layout -- no new information, no radar and no live app icon. My advice? For a simple, clean weather app, download Yahoo's Weather! -- it is what Apple's app should be.
But if that's the only thing I have to gripe about after using the new iOS for a few days, we'd have to say that the Apple folks largely delivered what they promised -- a whole new experience on our trusty old iThings.