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On Wednesday, Apple released the latest version of its iOS mobile operating system. First unveiled in June, iOS 7 represents the biggest visual refresh of the software thus far. It’s a change prompted by the company’s design head, Jony Ive, and perhaps also Apple’s competitors (see “Apple’s Mobile OS is All About Ive”).

The software is available as a free download for anyone with a recent model iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Apple’s servers were swamped today, but after a number of failed attempts at downloading it onto my iPhone I was able to get it up and running this afternoon. What follows are some early thoughts after spending some time with iOS 7, in the order at which they occured to me.

First Thought

Oh no, what happened to my phone? It looks like it took an acid trip but left my old wallpaper behind. Lines and fonts seem thinner, and overall everything looks brighter and flatter. That’s expected, based on what Apple showed off in June, but it still feels rather stark on the phone right in front of me. In some ways, iOS 7’s style cues remind me more of Android or Windows Phone than past versions of iOS. It’s a little scary, but I think I like it.

Second Thought

Wait, not everything is flat! IOS 7 includes a parallax effect, which uses the iPhone’s accelerometer to give the icons on the display the illusion of depth when you tilt the device. At first glance, I thought this was cool. At 20th glance, it is nauseating. Fortunately, there is a way to make it stop (look for “Reduce Motion,” hidden within “Accessibility” in the iPhone’s “General” settings).

Third Thought

I didn’t realize quite how pervasive the skeuomorphic touches were on the old iOS, but now that they’re gone my iPhone seems somehow colder and less welcoming. The calculator utility no longer looks like a “real” calculator; the voice memos utility has shed its old-timey microphone. The new look is fresher, but also more sterile. Perhaps this will this ultimately prove less gimmicky and distracting, though.

Fourth Thought

Finally Apple made it easy to access important settings (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi) and controls, such as for music, whenever you need them. They can be found in the new Control Center, which you can access by swiping up from the bottom of the display. It took years for Apple to make this happen, but it’s nicely designed and will save me a lot of tapping around on the phone.

Fifth Thought

The remodeled camera app is nicely done, with some enhancements, like the ability to take square photos, while still keeping it fairly simple to use. It’s laughable that Apple is just now including filters to adjust the look of photos, but I do like the ability to see all the filters “live” with the camera’s subject shown in nine little filter squares on the screen so you can easily pick among them.

In Sum

At the moment, I feel a little disoriented by iOS 7, but it’s clear that a lot of time and care went into building it. A lot of the changes truly put the focus on what the iPhone can do, rather than how “real” it looks while doing these things, which is a trick Apple relied on for far too long. I’m excited to spend more time figuring out what kind of new tricks are under the hood.

If you’ve got iOS 7 running, let me know what you think in the comments!

18 comments. Share your thoughts »

Credit: Apple Inc.

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