CUPERTINO, Calif. – One of the best things about Apple’s latest iPhones is the slick new iOS 7 software that runs the devices. But that souped-up operating system could end up hurting sales because the free software upgrade will also work on iPhones released since 2010, giving owners of the older models less incentive to buy Apple’s newest products.
Perhaps unwittingly, even Apple’s software boss Craig Federighi alluded to this potential problem while he was bragging about iOS 7 at the company’s unveiling of its new phones last Tuesday. He predicted that anyone who elects to install the software will feel like they’re getting an all-new device.
I understood what Federighi meant after I was able to see the iOS 7’s improvements in action on Apple’s two new iPhones, the 5C and the 5S. Although Apple announced iOS 7 three months ago, Tuesday marked the first time the company allowed reporters to experience the software hands-on.
Although the iPhone 5C is less expensive than its predecessor, the iPhone 5, iOS 7 almost made it look fancier than previous generations. As an iPhone 5 owner, I was feeling a bit envious until I remembered that I’ll be able to spiff up my device, too, when the software is released Wednesday. The operating system will work on the iPhone 4 and later models, iPad 2s and subsequent versions, and the iPod Touch that came out late last year.
iOS 7 looks much different than previous versions of the operating system because it no longer displays iPhone apps as three-dimensional, embossed objects meant to mirror their real-world counterparts. The icons instead are flatter and more colorful.
Any significant change in design typically upsets users familiar with the old way of doing things, but I suspect the complaints about iOS 7 will be muted unless there are some terrible bugs in the software that weren’t evident during the brief time that I was given to experiment.
I am fairly certain most people who download iOS 7 are going to be pleased. The software makes it easier to navigate around an iPhone and adds some compelling new features.
The additions include the ability to stream music through an ad-supported service called iTunes Radio and five free apps that used to cost anywhere from 99 cents to $4.99 apiece. The free apps are Apple’s photo-editing tool, iPhoto, and video-editing program, iMovie, as well as work-oriented apps called Pages, Numbers and Keynote.
The software upgrade also will make it easier to take better pictures on the iPhone and automatically sort photos into different categories to denote particular events. I particularly liked a feature that lets you control how the camera operates by toggling between options at the bottom of the screen with the swipe of a finger. After the camera is open, the choices include taking a square, panoramic or standard photo. The bottom-of-the screen controls also include an option to switch to video.
When taking a picture in iOS 7, photographers can also choose a filter to use as they snap the photo rather than waiting to touch up the shot later. When shooting video, shots can be zoomed in while recording.
The new system also makes it easier to see and scroll through apps more quickly by clicking twice on the home button. When this action is performed in iOS 6, the iPhone apps are spread across a row at the bottom of the screen. Do the same thing in iOS 7, and the apps are transformed into large tiles displayed horizontally across the center of the screen in an effort to help users do more multitasking on the iPhone.