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Apple dates iOS 7 with flat UI, Control Center and more

Final details and release date revealed for your new iPhone and iPad OS... coming 18 September

iPhone 5 running iOS 7

Apple has announced its release date for iOS 7, its latest mobile operating system, coming to your iPhone and iPad on 18 September. That’s only a week away

At its town hall event today, Apple’s CEO Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi took to the stage, announcing that iOS 7  would be available to download by the public 18 September.

iOS 7 is perhaps the biggest change to Apple’s mobile operating system since the introduction of the iPhone, bringing with it a number of new apps, features and functionality as well as a completely new look. Here’s everything you need to know.

Design – new animations, icons and Flat UI

iOS 7 sees Apple’s mobile operating system receive a significant visual overhaul, thanks in part to the influence of Jony Ive, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design. It’s a far cry from the faux-textures and introduced by the previous Senior Vice President of iOS software, Scott Forstall.

On a superficial level, iOS 7 is far more bright and colourful compared to iOS 6 with heavy use of neon colours in icons and across different elements of the operating system, but it’s the more subtle design touches that make it truly great. iOS 7 relies heavily on transitions and blur effects to give a sense of perspective. For example, if you swipe up from the bottom of your device’s screen, you’ll bring up Control Center, which blurs out the app or home screen behind it, from this you know that Control Center hasn’t taken you anywhere different within iOS 7 but merely sits on top of whatever you were working on.

Not all transitions and effects are strictly for practical purposes, though. On more modern devices, a subtle parallax effect is employed on the home screen, using the device’s built-in gyroscope to shift the background underneath the icons and give the illusion that they’re ‘floating’ on their own separate layer. Likewise, the quick zoom that occurs when you tap on an icon and launch an app isn’t exactly useful, but is a nice touch.

Effects and transitions aside, iOS 7’s design is staggeringly different to iOS 6. Everything is more or less in the same place, but gone are the obvious skeuomorphic buttons, replaced by simple text labels and basic line-drawn icons. It’ll take a little while to get used to what can be be tapped on and what can’t, but the learning curve here is still relatively small, especially if you’ve been using iOS in one form or another for some time.

New apps and features – Control Center, AirDrop, iTunes Radio and 200 more

A radical redesign may be the most noticeable aspect of iOS 7, but there’s plenty of new apps and features that makes this release the most significant one in years.

On the new features front, Control Center is perhaps the biggest. Activated by wiping up from the bottom of your device’s display from any app (a reverse Notification Center, if you will), Control Center gives you quick access to a number of key settings and controls as well as a way to quickly launch those all-important utilities that are often used but never easy to get to. The feature itself has been requested for a long time and implemented in one form or another as a jailbreak tweak, but its implementation iOS 7 certainly feels like the best way of doing things.

Elsewhere, AirDrop takes the sharing technology introduced with OS X Lion on the Mac and brings it to iOS. Essentially, AirDrop allows you to select a number of supported files and wireless transfer them to another iOS device in seconds. Device support is limited at best here and, as yet, communication between OS X and iOS isn’t possible, but transfers themselves are incredibly snappy.

Almost every app and feature has been overhauled in iOS 7 without exception, but a few seem to have got a little more love than others, notable Camera, Notification Center and Photos. Camera now features a number of easy-to-access shooting modes including iOS 6’s Panorama and the new, Instagram-a-like square format. These are switched between by swiping on their name below the viewfinder. Cooler, though, is the live photos effects filters which can be previewed in the viewfinder before you take the shot and changed later on almost instantly.

Photos now has a new organisational structure; grouping photos by date, geotag location and, on a more granular level, location. Apple calls these Moments, Collections and Years – we bet you can guess how the last one works.

Finally, Notificaton Center has taken a turn for the better, introducing a new ‘Today’ view which takes on Google Now with a range of intelligently constructed sentences that give you a brief of the weather, Calendar events and more on the current day.

Release date and compatibility

As expected, iOS 7 will be released to the public on Wednesday 20th September, alongside the new iPhone 5S and 5C. The new mobile operating system will be available for free as an OTA (over the air) update to the following devices:

  • iPhone 4/4S/5/5S/5C
  • iPod touch (5th generation) 16/32/64GB
  • iPad 2
  • iPad with Retina display
  • iPad mini

Despite the wide range of devices that are compatible with this update it’s worth noting that not all features will be available on all devices. As with iOS 6, Panorama format photography is available on all devices except the iPhone 4. Live Camera filters are only available in the latest iPod touch models and the iPhone 5, 5S and 5C, although filters in the Photos app are available on all devices except the iPad 2.

After this, feature support tends to get a little more patchy; AirDrop between iOS devices is only available on the iPhone 4S and above, iPad mini, the fourth generation iPad and the latest iPod touch models. As with iOS 6, Siri is only available on the iPhone 4S and above, the iPad mini, iPad with Retina display (3rd generation).

In short, if you really want to make the most of iOS 7, you’re going to want to be running it on at least an iPhone 4S, if not an iPhone 5, and a up-to-date iPad or iPod touch. Apple’s strategy of gradually staggering out features for its older devices isn’t a new one. iOS 6 offered limited support for the 3GS and iPad 2 and it seems the former has been phased out altogether for this release, leaving the iPhone 4 as the iOS device with the least feature support.