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A closer look: iOS 7 Control and Notification Centers

updated 07:35 pm EDT, Sat June 15, 2013

The new Control Center is one of the feature highlights of iOS 7

In addition to a wide-ranging design overhaul of iOS in the iOS 7 beta, Apple also highlighted that iOS 7 also contains a number of feature enhancements as well. This is no mean feat. The resources required to pull off a complete UI overhaul while at the same time developing new features for the operating system to extend its functionality in the space of 8 months is impressive. One of the most significant of the functional enhancements is the new iOS Control Center, which brings with it quick access to range of most used settings and other utilities.

For me, this, enhancement was right at the top of my list for my most wanted feature enhancements in iOS. I honestly don't know why it took so long to arrive, especially as Android users have long enjoyed its benefits. For Android switchers, this is often cited as a reason for why Android is more functional than iOS. In some ways though, the ability to swipe to access functions gives the illusion that it is faster than tapping on the Settings icon to access the same functions, when it probably isn't for the most part in reality.

What makes Control Center work so well is the way that key settings and utilities are laid out and the way its interface works. A quick swipe up from the bottom of the iPhone display initiates the Control Center, but importantly, it doesn't take you out of the home screen or from an app, or even the Lock screen, when it is initiated. Using a skeuomorphic frosted glass effect (no skeuomorphism has not disappeared entirely from iOS), users still have a strong sense of the current content without being forced to switch out of it all together to get to frequently used settings or utilities.

Control Center allows you to quickly toggle Airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, Screen orientation lock settings. You can now also quickly adjust display brightness from the same location as well as music playback including volume, play, pause and song skipping. AirPlay connectivity as well as the new AirDrop sharing function can also be accessed here, while frequently used utilities including the flashlight, Clock, Calculator and Camera app can now be launched from Control Center as well. That's a lot of added quick access functionality, but it is very easy to use.

The only drawback is that the frequently used utilities are not currently user definable. That might still come when iOS 7 is finalized in the fall, or it might be something that Apple looks at for the next version if iOS down the road. Although Control Center may be Android-like, Apple's implementation always is top notch. By comparison, Samsung's TouchWiz implementation to quick access settings bombards users with a confusing array of functions, while stock Android only offers quick access to brightness, Wi-Fi, Airplane mode and Bluetooth, as well as shortcuts to battery usage and wider system settings.

Apple has also given the Notification Center first introduced in iOS 6 a complete design overhaul, but it has also refined its functionality. It has added three tabs to the interface so now you can see not only the day's notifications, but also all notifications from any day that have not been attended to, as well as missed notifications from the past 24 hours only. Default (but adjustable) notifications include the day and date, the weather outlook in plain English, Calendar events and appointments, Reminders and the Stocks widget. As previously, users can also configure which apps they would like to receive from in the notification center - for example, you can receive notifications of new Shared Photo Streams if you choose, while the new background app update function iOS 7 results in notifications of recently automatically updated apps. A useful quick peek at the next day's activities is also presented.

While the new look and enhancements to the Notification Center are excellent, the way Android displays notifications in the top bar of the display is still something I would like to see Apple implement. Apple's Lock screen notifications are good, but in some ways I actually also prefer the way that Windows Phone handles these, with a simple graphic summary of notifications by type and number, rather than by displaying a preview of the full notification. 'Glanceability' in iOS 7 is still not quite there. These are relatively minor gripes and more the side of 'nice to have' rather than almost essential like the new Control Center.

By Sanjiv Sathiah

by MacNN Staff




  1. tomzzz

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-16-06

    Does anyone know why the icons on thos screengrabs mostly include the current iOS6 version of Calendar, Mail and App Store icons?

  1. DiabloConQueso

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-11-08

    With the exception of the App Store one, they look similar but not the same.

    The ones in the screengrabs above look pretty "flat" to me. The ones on my iPhone still have a bit of shading and depth to them.

    Also, beta software, maybe.

  1. Lifeisabeach

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 05-25-10

    "In some ways though, the ability to swipe to access functions gives the illusion that it is faster than tapping on the Settings icon to access the same functions, when it probably isn't for the most part in reality."

    Um, WHAT? That is completely absurd. Swipe up; tap; dismiss. How can that not be faster than opening Settings and digging for the toggles?

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Airplane Mode is "tap Settings app, toggle switch, hit Home button."
    So, no slower.

    I never switch off wifi or Bluetooth.

    I don't mind either way, though.

  1. bdmarsh

    Junior Member

    Joined: 02-17-06

    looking forward to the new control center, while some settings weren't too hard to access, others like brightness are slow to access on the iPhone (iPad wasn't too bad). I do switch off Wifi for a particular carrier app (which allows quick & easy access to usage & billing, but only works direct - no wifi)

  1. Cold Warrior


    Joined: 01-01-01

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    Airplane Mode is "tap Settings app, toggle switch, hit Home button."
    So, no slower.

    I never switch off wifi or Bluetooth.

    I don't mind either way, though.

    unless you're in an app, then it's home button to close app, swipe to settings (if not on its screen where you launched the previous app), ..., home button to close, swipe to app you left, tap to open.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    True. But I don't usually need to access Airplane Mode from within an app.

    Of course, that means I need to unlock the phone first to even get to the Home screen, which is no longer the case. So I guess it is an improvement.

  1. FireWire

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 10-03-99

    I was disappointed that the new option didn't include support for profiles, where one could load multiple settings quickly, like when I have to conserve battery by turning off 3G and Location services. I had my hopes up also for the support of multiple users, where we could enable a guest mode with limited access. Go ahead, borrow my phone for a call, but you can't read my sms or see my pictures.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    FireWire: my guess is that you're likely to see a "profiles" feature first on the iPad (which is far more likely to be shared) than on an iPhone. Apple's solution to the issue of multiple users of an iOS device so far has been "get your own device." :)

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    I concur. A cellphone is inherently NOT a multi-user device.

    We may see user accounts on an iPad eventually, maybe even in iOS 7, but not on iPhone.

  1. wrenchy

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 11-03-09

    Originally Posted by chas_mView Post

    Apple's solution to the issue of multiple users of an iOS device so far has been "get your own device." :)

    Yeah I hear you. That is a really useful feature that I enjoy regularly on my Android Tablet. Friends and family are always borrowing my Nexus 7 Android Tablet. They enjoy all that Android Goodness with no access to all my personal data. They are always having a blast with it. The multiple user option is a wonderful thing Google has baked in with the latest Android version. :D

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Can you really make a living off astro-turfing, wrenchy?

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