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