Little Things After a Month With iOS 7

It’s officially been over a month now since iOS 7 got into the wild. There was tons of outrage in the first week or so, but it seems like for the most part people have calmed down. There are lots of little things worth mentioning that people don’t focus on that have improved/hampered the experience though.

The Flagship Features

The bulk of this post is dedicated to lesser discussed features but there are two “tentpole” features Apple was pushing that have been life changing. Control Center finally gives quick and easy access to toggling Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode and Do Not Disturb, as well as quick access to a flashlight, timer, calculator and camera1. This has personally led to me being much more diligent about turning Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on/off when I am not using it. I am also using Do Not Disturb for the first time.

The other game changing flagship feature has been Background Refresh, which allows apps to learn habits and then run their refresh in the background. So podcasts get downloaded automatically, and tweets get downloaded before the app is opened. It’s been a great combination of what appears to be speed improvements, as well as removing the “crap, I forgot to refresh the podcast app before I left for work this morning” moments.

The Good Little Things

Spotlight was moved from being accessed to the left of the first home screen to something that is pulled down from any/all home screens. This makes it a lot easier to use because it’s available no matter which home screen a user is on. It doesn’t seem any faster or better, but it’s certainly easier to get to.

While a timer is running, the time left is displayed on the lock screen. This seems like such an obvious thing it doesn’t make sense that it wasn’t there before. But it really makes timers that much better.

Push Notifications look a lot nicer in general, but they also have a little hand attached to them so they now come with three actions. The actions to launch the app that sent the push notification still exist by just clicking the notification. Pre-iOS 7 the only way to get rid a notification before it vanished on it’s own was to awkwardly swipe right-to-left and it didn’t work very well. Now the little handle and be grabbed and dragged upward to quickly hide the notification without removing it from notification center. The other sweet addition is that pulling down on the handle reveals Notification Center, so if the notification is truncated, a user can read the entire notification without affecting it’s read/unread status or launching another app.

A section was added to the main Settings screen called “Cellular”, and it offers a bunch of settings related to the cellular radio/service. The best part of this section though, is the ability to see exactly how much data each app has consumed. Prior to this, it was impossible to know how much data certain applications use. Apps that download files, like pod catchers make it easy to have an idea. But this insight is very helpful in determining which apps slurp up data. So far the information has been very revealing.

The Bad Little Things

The built-in Mail application brought some nice new features, like Smart Mailboxes, including a global unread smart mailbox. Unfortunately the overall style for iOS 7 has removed certain touches, and instead of indicators being a white number inside a blue circle, the indicators on a row are just skinny non-bolded numbers. Because the VIP smart mailbox features a info button, it’s sometimes hard to quickly glance and see which mailbox(es) have unread messages. It’s a poor design decision that could easily be rectified to make unread messages jump out more.

In the most recent iOS 7 update (7.0.3) Apple added the ability to turn off the “zooming” animation that is used when apps are launched/closed. The problem is that they rolled this option into an existing option under Accessibility called “Reduce Motion” that was used to turn off Parallax2. This seems like a lazy move by Apple to just get this in there as quick as possible, and the smart money is on them breaking these options out later. I personally don’t mind Parallax, but wanted the zooming motion gone, so I activated “Reduced Motion”, but I am in the minority. Most people prefer it the other way, no Parallax, but still zooming.

The last small gripe pertains to the way photos are managed. Apple added a timeline-style for viewing photos, where they are grouped by year, weeks and eventually individual days. This is an OK way to find photos from a specific date quickly, but when a person takes a lot of one off photos they won’t always remember when they took what. Then there is the Albums view. Camera Roll is where pictures go that are saved from apps or taken with the camera. Other albums can be created and pictures can be added to these.

For some reason though, these albums are just like “tagged” photos that aren’t ever really moved from the Camera Roll. This means that if photos are removed from the Camera Roll they get deleted on the phone. I honestly don’t remember if this is how it worked on iOS 6 (they didn’t have the ability to move stuff to albums at all I don’t think), but it seems silly to have albums but still have to have all the photos in Camera Roll. It almost seems like they want users to put every photo in an album or none at all.

  1. Brightness, audio playback controls and volume were already in the app switching “tray” on iOS 6 []
  2. A new 3D effect added to the home screen []