iOS 7: Flat Icons, 3D Look

As Apple CEO Tim Cook prepared to announce iOS 7 today at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, he boasted of recent figures showing that 93 percent of iPhone users currently run the latest version of iOS, far outshining Android’s stats. And after seeing a glimpse of iOS 7 during the live video stream, I expect 100 percent of users will make the upgrade come fall when the software is available for install.

“Installing iOS 7 is like getting a new phone, but one you can already use,” said Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi.

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While I figured Apple would create something tasteful, I wasn’t overly excited about rumors of a “flatter” operating system. It didn’t sound inherently innovative to me, and I also worried that losing the skeuomorphic design would take away from the intuitive interface Apple is famous for.

But as Apple unveiled the new operating system in a demo video, it was hard not to get excited as eye-grabbing images flashed across the screen of an interface familiar yet completely transformed. While elements of the new interface are indeed flatter, iOS 7 also has achieved more depth. Transparent layers in pastel and neon tones along with a UI motion response that moves the screen’s images as users shift the device in their hand create an ethereal, multi-dimensional effect (I can’t wait to play with the 3D effect!).

The layering and transparency take on the background colors and environment, and when you open and close icons it zooms in and out creating more movement on the screen. 

Aside from the new look, Apple has made many big functional changes with a complete overhaul of Safari, a quick access Control Center, increased Siri capabilities, and improved Calendars and Notifications. The App Store will automatically update apps in iOS 7. While I will find this convenient, for some it is an uncomfortable push in the direction of less user control.

Here are some of iPhone Life's favorite new features of iOS 7:

  • Safari's tabs scroll vertically and are no longer limited to just 8. When you read articles, you can swipe left and right to easily scroll through pages;
  • iOS 7 has greater multitasking capabilities aimed at preserving battery life. It notices patterns of use, and will update according to when your apps are powered up and connected to a network;
  • The App Store will have new search features, letting you search for apps for specific age groups and for ones tailored to your location. The latter will be a big boon to users as well as local app developers;
  • Siri now has male and female voice options and is available in French and German;
  • AirDrop lets you share pictures and files instantaneously with people on your same Wi-Fi network;
  • Control Center will finally allow you to swipe up from the bottom for quick access tools including airplane mode, a flashlight, Wi-Fi meter, brightness, and music controls.

Losing the skeuomorphic design was a success and helped the company achieve a younger look while remaining sophisticated. Now I’m just mad I have to wait until the fall to use it!


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Donna Cleveland is the editor in chief of iPhone Life magazine. After a stint as a newspaper reporter, she became web editor at iPhone Life, where she continues to pair her penchant for storytelling with her love of Apple products. Donna holds a masters degree from the University of Iowa School of Journalism & Mass Communication. She also co-hosts the feminist podcast Women & Radio.