The big tech news today is the the new version of Apple’s iOS for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch has launched for download today. We’ve had a quick look at the beta, in particular its accessibility features here and will do a full review in the coming weeks, but what are the critics saying about it already?
Macworld has had a look at the accessibility features:
The Accessibility screen gets a number of tweaks in iOS 7, including one major new feature called Switch Control. This feature lets someone with physical or motor challenges use a connected accessory to sequentially highlight items on the screen and activate the desired item. Under this heading, you can configure switches; tweak signal timing, stabilization, and scanning; and toggle audio and speech feedback.
Also in the Accessibility screen, under VoiceOver, there’s a new Use Sound Effects option. Instead of the Use Phonetics on/off toggle of iOS 6, you now get a Phonetic Feedback feature that lets you choose between Off, Phonetics Only, and Characters And Phonetics; and the Braille screen gains a bunch of new options. The Rotor feature gets a few additional items (sounds, hints, handwriting, and containers), and there’s now an option for Large Cursor.
Back on the main Accessibility screen, the Larger Type setting replaces iOS 6’s Large Text feature, and it now offers a text-size slider rather than a list of numeric text sizes. And the On/Off Labels feature adds little On (|) and Off (o) icons to on/off sliders across the OS.
Under the Hearing section, a new Subtitles & Captioning entry lets you enable, and choose the style for, closed captions. In the Guided Access screen, when this feature is turned on, you can now enable the Home button triple-press shortcut directly. (You can still enable it at the top level of Accessibility under Accessibility Shortcut—formerly Triple-Click, which adds an option for the Switch Control feature.) Apple has removed the Enable Screen Sleep feature, as well as the Incoming Calls setting, which on iOS 6 determined whether incoming calls would default to an external speaker or a headset.
CNet describes what the changes have done from a design point of view:
Gone are the skeuomorphic interface elements that make icons and apps look like leather or paper or felt. Gone, too, are the 3D bubble-shaped icon effects. Flat graphics and a dappled, pastel color scheme bring an elegant look. New zooming animations feel sleek as you open and close apps. When you move your phone or tablet, 3D parallax effects make your wallpaper appear some distance behind the icons. The design takes some getting used to and not everyone will agree, but I like it. It makes my iPhone feel new and — like a new wristwatch — makes me want to keep looking at it.
Apple has tried to reinvigorate most of the included apps and whether they have succeeded is an open question. Techradar took a look at Safari for iOS:
Apple’s mobile browser is very different, especially on iPad: the white interface chrome is semi-transparent, so the colours of underlying web pages show through. It’s a nice idea but we sometimes found it annoying, the browser switching from yellow to white to grey as we swapped tabs. We’re not sure about the iPad’s redesigned bookmarks view either, which presents your bookmarks and folders as an icon grid instead of a list.
Both iPhone and iPad versions of Safari have a single integrated address and search bar, and bookmarks are supplemented with the reading list and shared links from your Twitter feed if you have Twitter integration enabled.
Tab switching now takes place in a 3D stack of cards, from which you can also toggle Private mode, and in a nice touch the address bar offers not just search suggestions but preloading of the first suggestion on the list (you can disable this in Settings > Safari > Smart Search Field).
The Verge sums up the critical mass of thinking best:
Apple’s on a mission to convince buyers that it’s still relevant, still innovative, still interesting. iOS 7 is full of big, sweeping changes to that effect, and there’s real power in making something look fresh and bright, but in the end the new visuals don’t offer much change under the surface……..iOS has always been an excellent operating system, and iOS 7 remains an excellent operating system. But if Apple’s goal was to match the power and flexibility of its rivals, iOS 7 feels very much like the beginning of a project rather than its conclusion.
iOS7 is available as a free download on all compatible devices including the iPhone 4 and above (with features missing from the 4 and 4S), iPad 2 and above (with features missing from the 3 and 4), the iPad mini and the iPod Touch 5th generation.