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iOS 7 is a radical departure from every generation of iOS that came before. Designer Jony Ive's influence is clear. All of the 3-D elements and natural textures that have given iOS its signature look over the years are gone. That means no wooden bookshelf in iBooks, no felt tabletop in Game Center, no leather-bound calendar and so on.
[ What's coming in the next version of Microsoft's phone software? Read Windows Phone 8 Rumors Sharpen. ]
The new operating system has a much more modern look thanks to cleaner lines, more use of white space, modern fonts, and a different color palette. There's no denying that it is a big departure, but Apple was sure to keep many of the platform's elements the same, such as the home screen layout and icon shape.
Apple added a new sliding gesture to a number of apps, including Safari, Messages and Email that make it easier to move between messages, in-boxes or open tabs. The gesture is activated by swiping to the right or left when viewing messages.
Further, Apple added a new control screen that is accessible via swiping up from the bottom of the screen. This control screen provides quick and easy access to the wireless radios, brightness settings, a flashlight and music controls. (Users of Google's Android platform will likely find it familiar.)
Lock Screen Notifications
The lock screen has a new look and feel to match the rest of the operating system. More important than the appearance, however, is the new support for notifications. iOS 7 allows users to see more notifications directly on the lock screen as well as to take action on those notifications. Further, notifications will sync across devices, so if you mark something on an iPad or Mac computer, it will be marked read on the iPhone as well.
Apple has made significant improvements to the way multitasking functions within iOS. Chiefly, multitasking is now supported by all apps available to the operating system. Previously, only select apps could function in the background while users were off doing other things. In addition to expanded support, iOS 7 is smarter about multitasking. It uses a new set of parameters to define when it should and shouldn't update calls in the background, all of which are meant to help maximize battery life while also making sure users have the most up-to-date information.
Apple showed off new integration between the iPhone and in-care infotainment systems. Beginning with 2014 model-year vehicles, iOS 7 will be able to fully connect with cars. Apple demonstrated how it would look to use iOS through a car's screen to make phone calls, play music or navigate via maps. At least a dozen car makers pledged support for the feature, including Chevy, Jaguar, Mercedes, Tesla, Ferrari and others.
Siri will be able to do a lot more than before, thanks to new integration with Microsoft's Bing search engine and Wikipedia. Siri is better at understanding natural language requests, and can interact with more applications on the iPhone or iPad. For example, users can request that Siri play back voicemails or read SMS messages. Siri also gets a new voice, both male and female, with support for both in French and German.
Apple's mobile browser sees a wide number of changes, many of which reflect changes being made in Apple's OS X Mavericks desktop operating system. The browser is much faster at rendering Java, and has a new look that lets people see more of the content on Web pages. It supports better keychain access for storing passwords and credit card information across devices, as well as better parental controls for managing content. Last, it has a new user interface for interacting with multiple tabs. It supports more than eight open tabs at a time, and lets users reorder and close tabs with the flick of a finger.
Music and iTunes Radio
Apple updated not only the iTunes store, but the general appearance of the music player with iOS 7. It has a cleaner, simpler look, but still offers plenty of features. Perhaps the biggest new feature is support for iTunes Radio, a new streaming service that will allow iOS device owners to create and listen to radio stations based on artists, songs and so on. iTunes Radio is ad free to subscribers of iTunes Match, but shows ads for those who don't. Apple has created hundreds of its own radio stations, but also lets users share their own.
iOS 7 will be made available to registered iOS developers later Monday. The full operating system won't be available to consumers until the fall, probably closer to when Apple launches the next version of the iPhone. Apple typically offers a new iOS beta every few weeks leading up to the final release.