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Apple's WWDC 2013 Keynote - The Unveiling of IOS 7 (Gasp!)

It’s too early to make a final judgment call on how intuitive and innovative iOS 7 actually will be but that has not stopped designers, developers and even consumers from critiquing the hell out of the new mobile operating system. After seeing a live stream of the keynote and test-driving the beta version available to developers I feel entitled to my own premature judgment of “the biggest change in iOS since the introduction of the iPhone.”

Design and Interaction

Welcome to the flat club, Apple, we’ve been waiting for you.

The new design is a pleasant surprise. My only complaint is how long it has taken Apple to adopt the trend of flat design that has already been pioneered by Windows and, to some extent, Google. At first glance it strikes me as a more colorful version of Windows 8.

A deeper look within the beta release revealed a style that is flatter but also distinct from competing mobile OS’s. There is still depth – shadows behind icons, layered menus using semitransparent backgrounds – but it appears as subtle details instead of skeuomorphism throughout. Stock apps, such as the Calendar, iTunes, Maps, etc. sport a light, minimalist look that focuses on utility and relies heavily on white space. Straightforward interactions and tasteful animations complement the simple visual design to deliver a highly intuitive experience.

Old apps will need revamping to fit in with the new look of iOS 7.

Fresh features

A healthy serving of new features will ship with upcoming release of iOS this fall. Here are some of the most impressive enhancements iOS users can expect.

Activation Lock – Theft deterrent that requires you to enter you iCloud credentials in order to unlock your phone after a reset.

Auto-Updates for Apps – Updates now download in the background instead of manually through the updates tab. No word on whether this is an optional feature or not.

Control Center – New settings menu for easy access to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, volume, and other frequently used settings. Accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen and available from the lock screen.

Siri Improvements – Recognizes new commands like returning calls, controlling settings, changing music, with the potential for predictive travel with cars purchased in 2014 that incorporate Apple’s iOS.

Many more useful features popped up in the keynote and on Apple’s iOS 7 landing page

1,500 New APIs

Yes, that many. Apple announced developers would gain access to new APIs bringing improvements to games, location data, background downloading, and like a thousand other things. There’s quite a bit of excitement over this in the developer community but that excitement is intermingled with the realization that these fancy new APIs are not backwards compatible.

Developers will have to fill in the gaps if they are building apps for iOS7 that are also required to function on devices running iOS 6 or earlier. With time this will become less of an issue.

A comprehensive API list and iOS 7 beta are available to iOS Developer Program members in the iOS Dev Center.

With the improved UI, new features and plethora of APIs the final release of iOS 7 brings much-needed upgrades to iOS developers, designers and consumers.

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