Apple iOS 7 borrows heavily from Android, Windows, and others

Consumer Reports News: June 11, 2013 08:08 AM

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Apple today unveiled its upcoming iOS 7 mobile operating system, which includes a more-elegant-looking interface and a unique poison-pill approach to thwarting device theft.

In the fine tradition of platforms pilfering features from one another, the new OS also borrows from Android's interface to provide easier ways to switch apps, share content via the cloud, and change settings. And, as expected, iOS 7 will mark the debut of Apple's Internet radio service, though few details are yet available.

Announced at Apple's Worldwide Developers conference in San Francisco today, the new mobile OS is available now in a beta version for the iPhone 4 and later phones, iPad 2, iPad mini, and the newest (5th generation) iPod touch, though older models will not have access to some of the newest features. The full version, and the devices that will come with it, will be out "in the fall," said Apple CEO Tim Cook.

The details:

Easier to see. Promising the biggest changes to mobile since the iPhone was introduced, iOS 7's interface now sports new Windows-like sans-serif fonts that float over a more dynamically colored background to make what you're reading prettier and easier to see. App icons, too, have a more rounded look and, as on Android and BlackBerry, now shows you a view of each app rather and simply and icon of it.

In the Weather app, you can now pinch the screen to see all your locations at once. The calendar interface is cleaner, and automatically goes into week display when the device is tilted on its side. You can also pinch out to go from a day view to a week view. App icons now have a sleeker-looking appearance, as well, with corners that are more rounded.

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Easier app and control access. To unlock the screen, you now slide your finger up from the bottom of the display. Swiping your finger up again pulls up the Settings menu, where you can access controls for Wi-Fi, Airplane Mode, screen brightness, the built-in flashlight app, and more.

Apple Maps improvements include the ability to send directions to your iPhone directly from your desktop, a benefit Android users have been enjoying for years. You can also jump to the Maps app directly from a locked screen. Within Maps, you'll be able to see how long it will take you to get to your destination—again, Google Maps is already there.

Smart app updates. As on Android, apps of your choosing will now be able to automatically update themselves without those annoying prompts. And you'll also be able to search for apps according to their popularity at your location.

Easier to share. A feature called AirDrop has been added to iCloud to let you share pictures in Photo Stream more easily with others who are not on your iTunes account. AirDrop will enable other users, with your permission, share photos on your Photo Stream as well.

A smarter Siri. Siri voice command will now allow you to change phone settings. For example, you can activate Bluetooth or turn off Wi-Fi. Also, Siri can now control Twitter, Wikipedia, and Bing. Siri also has a male voice option, as well as the ability to speak German and French.

A smarter camera. Live photo filters, like those on Android phones, let you select a variety of photo effects while the camera is engaged. And you'll be able to quickly toggle between video and camera controls. Photos taken with the device camera will now be organized into Moments based on location and time, like the Events feature we've seen on the HTC One. But unlike in Events, you'll be able to easily group Moments into larger chunks, such as several days instead of several hours.

Stop, thief! Activation Lock, iOS 7's new anti-theft device, seems to be what some lawmakers have been calling for: According to Apple, if a thief tries to turn off the Find My iPhone app or wipe the device, it will become disabled. Only actions taken by the rightful owner can bring it back to life. It's not yet known how Apple will do this or which (if any) any current Apple devices will be able to benefit fully from Activation Lock.

Pre-empting Pandora. iTunes Radio, now available only on computers, will be built into the iTunes Music app. As with services such as Pandora, you will be able to stream music you don't necessarily own from various channels.

UPDATE: When it debuts in the fall, this mobilized version of iTunes Radio adds the ability to tag and purchase songs streamed from its stations and create custom stations. It even alters its repertoire base on your listening history and past purchases from iTunes. Apple promises exclusive "first listen" premieres from top-selling artists.

iTunes Radio will be completely integrated with Siri, allowing you to tag, make purchases, and even alter streaming preferences by voice command. iTunes Radio will be ad-supported and free service. But subscribers to Apple's $25-per-year iTunes Match users get iTunes Radio ad-free.

We'll have more on iOS 7, including Apple's new music service, in the coming days.

Mike Gikas

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