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What's new with iOS7

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Hey there, Tech Savvy fans! Well, this week finds me on the road again in Duluth for the Minnesota Newspaper Associaion’s Daily meeting. This is a chance for the daily newspapers in the state to get together, share some ideas that are trending in the news industry and also get a feel for what is important in our communities.

This week I thought we could talk about something that is almost old news by tech news standards — iOS7.

If you haven’t heard yet, the much anticipated iOS7 was released last week for iPhones and iPads. It was released at the same time as the new iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c, the latest versions of iPhone.

The 5s and 5c to me are largely unexciting. The 5s was long speculated to be a “minor” bump in terms of updates and that proved to be true, with just enough changed to make it a coveted item for iFans. One of the most promoted functions was the addition of a fingerprint scanner to unlock your phone and approve iTunes purchases. This is built into the solitary button on the front of the screen. While a great idea, there have been confirmed reports of folks that have been able to lift fingerprints from glassware, etc, and transfer that and use it to unlock. There has also been a video circulating of someone who was able to unlock his phone with his cat’s pawprint and rumors of others using things other than pets and fingers to unlock their devices. Don’t use this as a failsafe for your device — it’s not top notch and there is enough room for error that it should be treated as a novelty and not a security solution.

The 5c was disappointing to me because it came in at a relatively high price point. It has basically the same specs as the 5 but without the outer aluminum case. You now have the option to choose between colored plastic backings. When Apple first released information about the 5c it sounded like the goal was to make that a viable option for those that are in the inexpensive phone market. Unfortunately they missed the mark, as these phones need to be somewhere more in the $50 range with a plan or under $200 unlocked. What this means is that Apple is not going to make inroads into taking any market share away from the emerging Android markets but just shifting their users from one version to another.

Long story short, there are still a lot of reasons that make an iPhone a reasonable choice but don’t let this version be the deciding factor in switching to iOS.

iOS7 is really the big story here, as it completely departs from every interface that iOS users have been accustomed to. You may have noticed in the past three weeks that all of your apps have updated and they are boasting big changes. Well, if you haven’t downloaded your new iOS7 update, you’re in for a bit of a shock.

The icons themselves are much brighter, almost neon in some cases, and while this doesn’t particularly bother me there has been negative feedback from some users. If anything I think it makes it easier to distinguish the icons from each other and the overly bright screen issue is easily fixed by adjusting the brightness settings.

The native apps also got a huge facelift and, depending on what other programs you’ve used, you may think they seem familiar. The mail is the most apparent — it now resembles Gmail’s layout and design, which to me is a great thing. The calendar also has a distinctly Google flair, but this is a prime example of where I really like the changes in the colors and design. The new colors make the calendar easier to read, and the scrolling interaction is a marked improvement to the previous version.

The App Store is also a little different, but I think they did a good job in the last update to make it a bit more of a stepped adjustment. Overall, this app has not changed apart from the way it looks.

Two of the most touted features that Apple pushed was the Command Center and the new Notification System for iOS7. The Notifications have changed to be more of a hub for everything you need notification on and I really like the change. There are three screens that you can scroll through when you pull your notifications down, a calendar, your emails and messages and other notifications from third party apps. What I like about this is that you can easily separate these notifications. For example, the majority of my notifications are email and I genereally ignore my third party notifications from games and such. This new update allows me to sort these at a glance and I like having the calendar side to it. It’s the closest thing to a widget iOS users have ever seen.

The Command Center is just that, a place where you can control some of your most used functions — turning your radios (wi-fi, Bluetooth, etc.) on and off, toggle your airplane mode and also activate your Do Not Disturb function. There are also music controls, with shortcuts to volume, and also shortcuts to your camera, the timer and screen brightness. For iOS users this is a huge step up from the last version, easier to access and for the most part these are typically the most used toggles we use.

One last feature that I really like about iOS7 is how you can close out your active applications. In the previous version you had to long hold the icon, it would shake then you would click the “x” to close it. In iOS7 all you have to do is double tap the button, then swipe up on the apps you want to close- it’s much faster, easier to access and keeps you moving on a busy day.

On the other hand, one should also keep in mind that the notification improvements, the way you close active apps and the functionality of the Command Center, while awesome additions to iOS, have been available for Android users for years. Like I said before, there are some valid reasons to stick with, or switch to, iOS. This could be familiarity, ease of use, or if all your other devices use it. iOS is a good system, and despite any shortcomings (Apple Maps), it’s not necessarily a bad decision to go with iOS. That aside, know what you want out of your device before you make a decision.

■ The Results Are In!

Thanks again for all your votes this week. In case you missed it, I was a participant in the first ever Fantasy Phone Draft, hosted by Verizon Wireless. I was competing with five other teams for the popular vote. I am happy to say that I finished in second place thanks to all your help. I was up against some really great teams, and we all had a lot of fun promoting our teams and trying to get the most votes.

Thanks again for all your help, I couldn’t have done it without you!