In Part 1 of the series, I explained what caused me to go back to the iPhone after using an Android phone, the Samsung Note II. In Part 2 of the series, I explained the iPhone 5s from a hardware standpoint.
In this part of the series, I’ll be touching on the latest version of iOS, iOS 7, and how it compares to previous versions and Android.
Fresh New Design
When I first saw iOS 7 demoed during the WWDC keynote, I thought I hated it. In fact, I felt even more glad to be on Android. However, upon seeing iOS 7 in real, I found it to be a breath of fresh air. Simple, clean, and way better in design over iOS 6, and I’ll admit, I liked it much better than Android as well. The fresh new design is very uncluttered, simple, and fun to use. I feel like I’m back on an iPhone, yet I have an entirely new iPhone experience than before.
There’s a few areas in the design I wish Apple would refine. The icons for Photos and Game Center don’t make any sense, and I wish Apple would loosen up a little on pastels. However, all in all, especially closer to shipping time, iOS 7 has refined itself into a very clean, crisp interface that is stunning.
iOS 7 really makes use of layers and “hierarchal” design. For example, when I tap to go into a folder, I move “in” and “out” of the folder instead of just having the folder pane drop down. Similar with navigating through the calendar. I find the use of layers and hierarchal design very clean, simple, and sensible.
Folders have improved as well in iOS 7. One big pet peeve I had with folders before was not being able to fit enough apps in there. With iOS 7, I can finally use fewer folders for my apps, allowing me a cleaner looking home screen all around.
iOS 7 doesn’t have an app drawer like Android does, but Spotlight is very handy for launching apps (so is Siri). If Apple ever wanted to add an “All Apps” flyout to iOS, it’d be an interesting and probably handy feature if implemented correctly.
Apps finally update automatically on iOS 7, so like Android, I now no longer have to worry about keeping my apps up-to-date. With my unlimited data plan with T-Mobile, even updating apps over cellular no longer worries me.
iOS 7 also features a neat visual feature called the Parallax Effect. When I tilt my iPhone, the app icons tend to move, conveying a sense of 3D space. It’s interesting to see in person, and a nice visual touch. Some find it makes them a little nauseated, but even one who is prone to nausea and vertigo, I haven’t experienced an issue with it yet, and if I ever do, a switch in Settings disables it.
iOS 7 also includes new ringtones, as well as polished up existing tones. I’ve found both to be fun to use. The new tones freshen up my phone, as well as the old ones sound better than ever and feel great to have something familiar back.
iOS 7 features something I found handy with Android, and I’m glad iOS 7 offers it. It’s Control Center. By swiping up from the bottom of the screen, I can toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, access my camera, a flashlight, etc. It basically offers me all the convenience I had in Android’s strip of icons across the top of the Notification Center, plus a lot more. I’m thrilled Apple added Control Center to iOS 7.
Improved Notification Center
iOS 7’s Notification Center has improved, although I had no issues with the Notification Center in iOS 6, as well as I felt notifications were a little better in iOS over Android anyway unless I turned to third party lock screen replacements.
In iOS 7, Apple separates notifications to an “all” or “missed” category. I find the “missed” category helpful for checking at-a-glance which notifications I’ve missed. iOS 7 has also added a “Today” view, which is similar to Google Now. While I never really used Google Now on Android, “Today” view in iOS 7 is handy. I glance at it once each morning when turning on my iPhone. I’m able to see the weather forecast, check the stock quotes, as well as see my current schedule. It’s very handy. It could use a few refinements, however. For starters, the Calendar icon doesn’t blend in with the Calendar app icon, plus for the next day’s events, it just mentions how many events there are coming up. It doesn’t give me any solid idea of what the events are. If Apple ironed out these couple of kinks, “Today” would be even more useful.
One thing Apple removed in Notification Center I really miss. I miss being able to update my social networking statuses from Notification Center. I wish Apple would add the feature back, as well as add a button to send iMessages like they did in the Notification Center in OS X Mavericks. Siri works for this as well, but sometimes I’d simply rather type out my responses.
iOS also still doesn’t have the ability to display widgets, which is an area Android is a little handy on. However, I don’t think iOS should just copy Android in terms of widgets. Doing so would clutter up the home screen, as well as reduce performance. What would be handy is for Apple to add a tab in Notification Center for displaying widgets, then developers could develop widgets that could be added to the widgets layer in Notification Center, linking to their respective iOS apps. Doing so would allow me to see all my widgets at-a-glance, not clutter up the home screen, and improve performance. Maybe one for iOS 8.
Multitasking has improved in iOS 7. It now supports a greater range of multitasking like I had on Android, as well as performance and battery life is still preserved in iOS 7. Multitasking now displays a screen shot of running apps similar to what I had in Android. I’ve found multitasking in iOS 7 to be a breeze to work with and vastly improved over previous versions.
iOS 7 also features a new gesture which replaces the need for a back button like in Android. In many apps, I can now swipe left to right from the left edge of the screen to go back to the previous screen. I’ve found this extremely handy, and it’s the ideal, natural replacement to not having a back button on iOS. iOS 7 in general has ironed out a lot of quirks I had with it in very natural, simple ways. I’m impressed.
AirDrop is also new to iOS 7, allowing me to share pictures, contacts, etc., with nearby friends running iOS 7, without resorting to NFC or email. While I never used NFC on Android, and while I haven’t used AirDrop yet on iOS 7, I may try it out this Christmas when my family is over and I need to share contacts with other family members. I sounds fun to try, but I just need some people to try it with. Sharing files between an iPhone or iPad may be handy as well, which I can try when my iPad Air arrives. Now if only Apple would add support to AirDrop files between OS X and iOS, it’d be even more handy.
Safari has improved in iOS 7, getting speedier, as well as simpler with its unified search bar and improved Safari table view. While little things, I’ve found Safari to me more pleasant to use on iOS 7 than ever. I see no reason to resort to third party browsers.
Another feature I like in iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks is iCloud Keychain. In the past, managing passwords has been very clunky, as well as hard to remember. With iCloud Keychain, I’ve been upgrading passwords on sites I use frequently with more secure, random passwords. Having them stored in iCloud and synced between devices helps as well. It’s another area Apple has made security transparent while improving it.
Improved Camera and Photos Apps
Even though the Note II’s camera apps packed a lot of features, I’ve found the hardware camera on the iPhone, especially the iPhone 5s, to still be superior to the Note II. iOS 7 also has refined their camera app, offering fun live filers, panoramas, “square” photos for posting to places like Instagram, as well as have improved organizing photos into collections and years. While I haven’t had a chance to test all of these features out, and while I still have no plans to ditch my DSLR for special shots, I’ve found iOS 7 and the iPhone 5s’ new improvements to the camera hardware and apps make the iPhone still a wonderful camera to have in one’s pocket. I see no reason to own a point and shoot.
iCloud Photo Sharing look fun as well, although again I haven’t tested it out. I can see it handy for sharing photos with other people, and maybe come Christmas or at some church events, I can finally give it a spin.
My last iPhone, the iPhone 4, didn’t have built in turn-by-turn directions or 3D flyovers in iOS, so I never got to really test them. Now that I have the iPhone 5s, it’s fun to test them out. While my city doesn’t fully take advantage of 3D flyovers yet, I’ve visited a few places on 3D flyovers, and it’s fun to look at. Turn-by-turn directions baked into the phone are nice to have as well, although there’s still a few maps issues Apple needs to resolve in my area. I am keeping Google Maps on hand as a spare GPS app just in case I need more critical directions, and Scout and Waze are good third party apps as well.
One last feature I’ll mention in iOS 7 is iTunes Radio. It’s a neat feature, although I haven’t used it extensively. Apple’s now offering the ability to stream music to its iTunes users, similar to Pandora. Since I don’t listen to a ton of music, I don’t use this feature often, but it does help to listen to some hymns on there to keep my ear brushed up on songs I need to practice for church (I also use Spotify for this purpose). Since I have an album on iTunes, I’m curious as to how Apple pays royalties for iTunes Radio. If any of my songs are featured, I’m wondering if I get paid a streaming fee on them, or only when someone decides to purchase the song (since Apple makes it simple to buy songs from iTunes Radio, another great way to drive more music sales).
All in all, iOS 7 is fresh, clean, feature packed, and I’m glad I’ve moved from Android back to iOS. It still could use a few additional features, but that’ll just give me something to look forward to for iOS 8.
In the last part of this series, I’m going to explain why I left AT&T behind and joined the T-Mobile “un-carrier” revolution. Join me tomorrow for the details!