Apple’s iOS 7: New features (and gripes), privacy, and just finding your way around

September 19, 2013

Apple’s newest operating system, iOS 7, is now in the hands of consumers across the world, and is receiving feedback from the company’s most important critics — the armchair ones.

Plenty of folks rushed to get the update when it came out Wednesday. Analytics firm Chitika found that iOS 7 users generated a little over 18 percent of iOS traffic in North America in the 24 hours after the update went live. That’s a slight lead over the last update, iOS 6, which made up around 15 percent of the traffic.

As for sentiment, the Twitter analytics firm Topsy found that sentiment for iOS 7 is, overall, good — though users were definitely upset Wednesday afternoon when Apple’s slammed servers kept some from getting access to the updates.

For those who managed to get through the download process, there are plenty of little changes and tricks to discover — and plenty of things that seasoned Apple users will have to rethink.

Finding your way around: There’s a lot to like here. For one, there’s a new control center that gives you access to key settings such as the option to enable WiFi, Bluetooth, and Apple’s Do Not Disturb feature. Plus, you can do things like control your music, turn on your camera flash to act as a flashlight, or access the timer, calculator or camera. This is similar to what Android users have had in their phones for a while, but it’s nice to have the option come to iOS.

Searching has also changed in iOS 7. Instead of swiping over to the left of your homescreen, you now swipe down from any point on the main screen. Just don’t go too high: swiping from the very top of the screen will still get you the notifications center.

Protecting your privacy: Apple’s also made some changes to its privacy menu, and there are some settings that users may want to check before they start using the system in earnest.

Over at ZDNet, Jason D. O’Grady has compiled four items worth taking a look at for privacy reasons: location services, location-based iAds, diagnostics & usage and frequent locations. If you’re not comfortable with sending any of these data to Apple, you have the option to switch them off. The same goes for ad tracking, which can be accessed through the privacy menu’s “Advertising” section.

The privacy menu is a good one to get familiar with for any Apple user, since it lets you look at which apps want access to your location, contacts, photos, calendars, reminders and Bluetooth sharing. Apple’s also added a part of this menu that lets users know which apps would like to access your microphone, adding yet another thing you can control on an app-by-app basis.

Other features and gripes: This is certainly a divisive update — things have changed a lot and look much different than what Apple users expect to see. There are simply going to be users who don’t like the new font, or the brighter color palette or the flatter look of the system.

A lot of those are subjective, though concerns that certain icons or fonts may be too difficult to read at a glance are understandable. If being able to read things on the iPhone is a big problem for you, consider heading to the “General” settings menu and adjusting the font size.

One feature that some may find particularly helpful is the option to turn on automatic app updates, though the iTunes & App Store menu, so that you won’t have to authorize the free updates that come with apps you already have. That’ll save you some trips into the App Store app, which should make Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) happy, for one.

Many of the changes Apple has designed to make things simpler — something the company has accomplished for the most part, though it will take some time to adjust.

Clarity, after all, is what Apple has said drives its design philosophy for this system.

“I think there is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity, in clarity, in efficiency,” Ive says in Apple’s official video introducing iOS7. “True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter and ornamentation. it’s about bringing order to complexity.”

Of course, the iOS 7 launch is more or less the prelude to the big event of the week, which is the launch of the iPhone 5s and 5c on Friday. Some analysts predict that Apple will sell between 6 and 8 million units this weekend, according to Apple Insider, though more conservative estimates start the range at 5 million — the same as the sales figures for the iPhone 5.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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