iOS 7 brings hundreds of improvements to our iOS devices, so it’s no surprise that Apple wasn’t able to preview all of them at WWDC. Don’t worry, though – one of the best things about using beta software is digging through every corner of the operating system to find those features that haven’t been publicized. Everybody and their grandmother has been combing through iOS 7, the TiP staff included, to uncover as many features as possible. So, without further adieu, here’s what we’ve found.
1. Lock Screen & Home Screen features
The first round of features I want to discuss have a direct effect on how a users interacts with the home screen or lock screen of a device running iOS 7. First of all, if you’re anything like me, you’ve got more than a few group messages going at any one time. With so many people talking at once, it’s very easy for notifications to build up on your lock screen before you’ve had a chance to look at them. Apple seemed to notice this as well, and has made it a bit easier to sort through the list of messages by dimming the rest of the notifications on your lock screen when you select one to view.
Also on the lock screen, if you ‘snooze’ an alarm, your lock screen will display a running countdown that lets you know how much time you’ve got until the alarm goes off again. Definitely useful during that precious “five more minutes” in the morning!
Moving on to the home screen, the first thing you’ll notice is that the clock icon changes with the time. Look closely and you’ll see that it always displays the current time, down to the second! This is super cool because it’s the first time Apple has used a live application icon and could indicate greater home screen functionality down the line.
Another frequented home screen feature, Spotlight Search, has gotten a bit of a makeover. Instead of swiping over to the right from your first home screen, all you have to do to pull up Spotlight Search is pull down the icons on any home screen page – so, basically the gesture to open Notification Center, you just have to start it a bit lower on the screen.
Now, we can’t talk about the home screen without talking about home screen wallpapers. Apple has added a really cool parallax effect to the wallpapers that makes them shift and move a bit when you tilt your device. What the WWDC presenters failed to mention was that, if you set a panoramic photo as your wallpaper, this parallax effect will actually pan over the image! Note: to get this to work, you have to set the panoramic pic as your wallpaper through the Settings application. If you do it through the Photos app, it’ll force you to scale the image – this nuance is probably just because the software is still in beta, and should be smoothed out by the time iOS 7 is released.
And finally, you can now put Newsstand in a folder (hallelujah!) and have a folder on your dock.
2. New features in Settings
The Settings application is the foundation for iOS 7′s many great new features, and the Settings app is always one of the best places to look for juicy new features. This year is no exception. As far as privacy is concerned, Apple has amped up security for the microphone (see what I did there?). You now have the ability to control and limit what apps have access to your device’s microphone, and you’ll be alerted when an app is trying to access the mic in much the same way that iOS 6 alerts and asks permission when an app wants to use the camera. For those with the beta, you can check this out in Settings>Privacy>Microphone.
Next, there are a couple cool new Accessibility options. There are some enhanced hearing aid options, mono audio, and controls for subtitles and captioning. Furthermore, you can opt to reduce motion, toning down that parallax feature I mentioned above.
As far as multitasking is concerned, you can control which applications are allowed to run and/or update in the background with a new function called Background App Refresh. This is great news because background apps can be a real battery drain, so having the ability to limit what apps can draw power from your phone should give customers much more control over their batteries.
What’s more, Apple demoed a new feature in the Music and Videos applications that displays all your purchased items, whether they’re in the cloud or downloaded to your device. This is something I definitely do not want, so I was very pleased to discover you can turn this feature off in the settings for Music and Videos respectively.
And finally, both Flickr and Vimeo are now built right into iOS, with options to download the apps and log in to profiles right in the Settings app the way iOS 6 dealt with Facebook and Twitter.
3. New features in iOS applications
- Notification Center: The App Store now sends notifications right to Notifications Center to tell you when apps have been updated, since iOS 7 now updates apps automatically (unless you turn this feature off, which you can do in the Settings app). Also, Apple got rid of the Stocks widget, the Facebook and Twitter widgets, and greatly reduced the presence of Weather in Notification Center. This is one change I am not happy about!
- Game Center: Game Center now supports turns.
- Compass: There’s now a multi-directional level built right into the Compass application, which received a pretty significant redesign.
- Phone: Tiny circular contact pictures now sit next to each of the members of your phone’s Favorites list (unless you turn this feature off in the Settings). Also, when you press a button on the keypad when dialing a number, the white color of the button disappears to reveal a small section of your home screen wallpaper – a nice touch!
- Camera: The Camera app now permits zooming in and out while recording a video. It’s also possible to redeem iTunes gift cards with the camera.
Okay, well that’s everything we’ve managed to find so far. If you’ve discovered anything that we missed, definitely let me know in the comments section below or on twitter @TiP_Jake. And, if you’re unimpressed by the iOS 7 features we’ve been covering for the past few days, don’t get too bummed. We’ve barely had time to discover everything this software is hiding and, as this is only the first beta, there’s bound to be a few more great features that crop up as we near the public release this fall!