We have now all had a couple of weeks to play with the latest iPhone operating system, iOS7 – which is available to download for all iPhones version 4 or higher, or iPads version 2 or higher.  If you want to check it out you will find the download in general> software update.  It’s also available for the iPad Mini and 5th generation iPod touch.

Should you upgrade? Well, only if you want to, and you will get the most out of it with the more recent devices – for example, the iPhone 4S won’t support AirDrop or the new camera filters, and the 4 still won’t have Siri, with similar restrictions on the larger screens.  Also, it’s possible that it may make your older device less stable, and also that it won’t be easy to roll back to earlier operating systems if you need to either, so maybe don’t rush if you aren’t sure.  It runs like a dream on the 4S though so far as I can see.

If you are going to upgrade, make sure you are in wifi range as it’s a huge data-sucking download.  And it will take a while and eat lots of battery too – sat at home, phone plugged in to charger, and you doing something else for a bit, is the recommended set up for this operation!

Certainly iOS7 is a radical overhaul of the previous version, both visually and under the hood as well – far more than an update, it’s actually completely new on both fronts.

Redesigned icons for iOS7 -can you spot the new flat designs (vs the ones not yet updated)?

Redesigned icons for iOS7 -can you spot the new flat designs (vs the ones not yet updated)?

The appearance has changed dramatically with a big shift from previously ‘skeumorphic’ design of apps and buttons, where things were meant to look like the old-style, analogue version of what they did – like the leather and paper bound imagery of old iCal, and the whirling gears of the general system preferences.  Artistically the old buttons were far more detailed and intricate, and the new ones have been heartily criticised for being childish and naïve.  I have to agree that some of the new ‘flat’ icons seem very under-designed – the Safari icon in particular is horrible.

Remember though when the original iPhone launched in 2007, touchscreens were a novelty – people wailed about the lack of actual buttons to do things.  So, Apple had to give us icons that looked like buttons, and had a three dimensional appearance that reminded us of clicking away on our Nokias and Blackberrys.  Perhaps now the iPhone user-base is sufficiently come of age to cope with the idea of flatness, and the idea that everything is truly operated by a touch rather than a tap.

And whilst some of the actual application buttons look rather like they were designed for pre-schoolers the overall appearance of the operating system in use is actually beautiful and responsive.  The flat planes work in layers, giving you a very intuitive feel for the hierarchy – notifications on top of applications on top of backgrounds.  There is a translucency which visually bleeds detail to exploit every pixel of your screen, so you get glimpses of your content sliding behind headers as you scroll, and the colours of your lock screen are influenced by the image you choose as your wallpaper (or choose an included dynamic wallpaper).  The layers also exhibit parallax, altering in their relationship to each other as you tilt your phone.

These touches are very subtle but remarkably coherent.  Apple’s Senior VP of Design Jonny Ive has talked a lot about simplicity and clarity, and none of the changes in how applications work and work together require any significant learning curve from the previous versions.  The way you switch from one app to another for example, the first time you see it you just think, ‘oh ok, that’s nice!’  In use the only thing I have found marginally frustrating is accidentally opening the new control centre by mistake, by swiping too near the bottom of the screen (especially on the iPad)

Now of course the new OS was really designed, and of course ships with, the new range of iPhones announced at the Apple WDC in September – and therein lies a degree of frustration for Spanish Apple fans – we can’t get them yet!

I was actually in London the day of the new phone launch as it happens but had work to attend to, and didn’t fancy camping on the pavements along with the die-hard fan-boys who were first in line.  None of us actually knew the extent of the stock shortfall at that point of course, or that all the stores would sell out of the coveted 5S within an hour or so of the doors opening.

I made it to the store early on the Saturday, 24 hours after launch, and was permitted to touch a 5S – the shiny gold one no less.  And yes, it is gorgeous to behold, in all its iOS7-ed glory.  Clearly this is the device it was made for, and runs most beautifully upon.

It also looks great on the new 5C, the slightly cheaper and lower spec and very colourful alternative choice.  Not exactly the ‘budget iPhone’ the world was hoping for though, judging by the UK prices.  There’s plenty of UK stock of the 5C incidentally in all the stores I visited.

But so far a week later there is NO release date set for Spain, either in-store or for online ordering.  No online chatter either about when it may be, except that Spain will hopefully be one of the ‘100 countries’ it will be available in ‘before Christmas’.

So, you’d better start being very very good for Santa!


Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, October 4th 2013

©Maya Middlemiss, Casslar Consulting SL

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