updated 01:30 pm EDT, Tue September 10, 2013
On track to 'become the world's most popular mobile operating system'
Apple's head of software engineering, Craig Federighi, demonstrated the new iOS 7 today as part of the company's iPhone rollout. In addition to showing off features previously seen at the Worldwide Developers Conference (including parallax wallpaper, full-size photo viewing and organization, an easier-to-reach Command Center, revamped search and improved Siri functionality), the audience was treated to a number of new ringtones not previously announced. The company also introduced new camera software, Touch ID compatibility, and the fitness-oriented CoreMotion API.
The biggest change in iOS 7, apart from numerous efficiency upgrades and the introduction of a CoreMotion API for various fitness apps and hardware to take advantage of, is the new look. The more colorful, flatter design -- which makes greater use of white space and translucency while eschewing shadows and the "skeuomorphic" look -- is seen to complement the introduction of the greater case color options of the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s. In addition to the demonstrated features, iOS 7 also has a new Notification Center, improved multi-tasking, a new version of Safari, AirDrop sharing on the latest models, and the introduction of iTunes Radio.
The new iOS 7 has also been augmented with dramatically improved camera post-processing software, improving low-light shooting and auto white balance among other features. Apple significantly improved the camera in the iPhone 5, and the new iPhone 5s looks to show off once again that photography is a major area of development with Apple. The new Camera app lets users add real-time effects to photos and video, and offers a "square" format along with better organization.
The new iTunes Radio (US only for the time being) is part of a completely redesigned music feature, offering 200 stations and favorite songs as well as new artist discovery based on what the user already has in their own iTunes library. In addition, FaceTime has been enhanced to also offer audio calls rather than just video calling. Under iOS 7, apps from the App Store will be automatically updated in the background, and the store now has a way of showing the most popular apps in an area based on the user's location. The software will be available in English, French, and German at launch, with additional languages being added later.
The introduction of the expected fingerprint sensor (now known as "Touch ID") in the iPhone 5s also reflects a new feature in iOS 7, as the software will encrypt and store the fingerprint data locally (no sending of data to Apple's servers) and has support for multiple authorized fingerprints. Security has also been enhanced with a new Find My iPhone Activation Lock, which requires the users' AppleID and password before anyone can deactivate Find My iPhone, erase the device or reactivate a device after it has been remotely erased.
The updated OS is compatible with iPhones starting with the iPhone 4, the iPad 2 and later models (including the iPad mini), and the fifth-generation iPod touch. It will be available to all eligible hardware on September 18. In addition, the iOS iLife and iWork apps for iOS, just recently updated for iOS 7 compatibility, will be free for download with any new iPhone, iPad or the fifth-generation iPod touch purchased after iOS 7 becomes available. The iPhone 5c will be available for pre-order on Friday, September 13 and will appear in stores about the same time as the 5s, on September 20.