Apple’s iOS7 for iPhone 5s: The verdict so far

A customer examines a display version of the new iPhone 5s, displaying a mock-up of the new iOS7. Picture: AP

A customer examines a display version of the new iPhone 5s, displaying a mock-up of the new iOS7. Picture: AP

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It’s been five days since Apple launched their latest operating system, the iOS7. The new operating system has been hailed by the company as the single biggest overhaul of the iPhone since the handset’s introduction in 2007.

But iOS7 has not been met with the same fervour of previous Apple product releases. Many users with iPhone 5 handsets and older models have reported problems downloading Apple’s flagship software; a third of tweets about iOS7 (a topic that has been trending since Wednesday) were complaints.

Screenshots of the iOS7. Picture: Reuters

Screenshots of the iOS7. Picture: Reuters

Other users have been more complimentary of iOS7, praising its new, colourful interface and a number of new features. Taking a look at the iOS7’s key features - and the complaints that some of them have drawn - offers some insight into what Apple have gotten right, and what they still need to work on.

NEW FEATURES

New-look interface

It seems appropriate to start on the first thing you’ll notice about iOS7. The interface has been given a radical overhaul: colours are brighter, and icons for several functions have been given a facelift. Some users have complained that the new interface too closely resembles the rival Android interface (inverting the colours makes the similiarity even more apparent). But most gripes, you suspect, are simply a result of the removal of the familiar features Apple customers have become so used to.

AirDrop

Pretty much like Bluetooth, but presumably a little faster. The AirDrop function allows iOS7 handsets to share files and information. Needless to say, AirDrop is no use for iPhone users without iOS7.

Control Centre

A new-look control centre presents another significant visual change to the iPhone. By swiping up from the bottom of the screen, you can bring up a variety of useful shortcuts: screen brightness, Wi-Fi, a torch, a calculator, Bluetooth and music controls, among a few others. Some have voiced disappointed that the shortcuts can’t be customised, though. In broader terms, the Control Centre typifies the phone’s improved shortcuts: many functions are more easily accessible, and only require a single swipe where a proper browse was required on the iOS6.

Siri

Apple has made several improvements to Siri, the iPhone’s in-built assistant. More voices have been added, and it can draw information from a much wider database (it can access Bings and Wikipedia for your queries). It has also taken on additional tasks such as playing back voicemails and adjusting screen brightness. Helpful if you drive frequently and require a hands-free iPhone 5s.

Photos

Few complaints about the iOS7’s much improved camera function. It now employs many of the fancy photo production touches of many rival camera apps, so now you can apply filters and crops to images, before or after the picture is taken. Photos and videos can also be grouped based on the time or place in which they were taken.

Safari

Safari has undergone a revamp, with the most noticeable feature being its improved tabbed browsing and an address bar that disappears when not in use. You can also prepare a ‘reading list’ to allow offline viewing of links you’ve saved. It also puts together a list of links that friends have shared on Facebook and Twitter into one handy category.

Fingerprint scanner

Installed to replace the oh-so-laborious task of entering your password to authenticate purchases, the fingerprint scanner has already been beset by - ironically enough - security issue and bugs. More worryingly, a group of hackers, The Chaos Computer Club, have reportedly breached the iPhone 5s’s Touch ID successfully. Apple are set to release a software update to address the scanner issues.

FaceTime Audio

Apple’s attempt to grab a piece of the market currently dominated by Skype, the curiously-named FaceTime Audio enables iPhone users to contact far-flung relatives free of charge, so long as the handset on the other end is also an iOS7-enabled iPhone.

PROBLEMS

Lockscreen hack

iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 handsets installed with iOS7 are vulnerable to being accessed when locked. Key functions can be accessed - even if the phone is locked with a password - including texts, emails, photos, Facebook and Twitter.

App issues

Several apps that work perfectly fine on iOS6 experience bugs when handsets are upgraded to iOS7. Audio apps seem particularly susceptible to glitches.

Battery drain in iPhone 5

According to tests conducted by Ars Technica, a US tech site, battery life on the iPhone 5 drains at a much faster rate on iOS7 than on iOS6. The same is true of all other Apple products, including other iPhones and iPads, but the gap in performance for the iPhone 5 is much more dramatic. You can, however, offset this somewhat by going to Background App Refresh and turning off apps that refresh themselves constantly, despite the fact you might only use them now and again (Google Maps, for example).

Slow download speeds

Users attempting to download iOS7 encountered multiple problems, chiefly long download times (up to 12 hours) and error messages. This may have been due to the volume of people attempting to download the new update at the same time last week, but many are of the mind that Apple should have been better prepared.

THE VERDICT

Aesthetically, iOS7 takes some getting used to: the ‘flatter’ appearance of the icons has not gone down well with a lot of Apple devotees, and the bright icons are not universally loved either. But the complaints are not limited to superficial things. The battery drain problems reported are of great concern for a handset that already lacks stamina. Moreover, the operating system’s security issues are a major embarrassment for Apple, and the fact that they’ve yet to provide much comment beyond “we take security issues very seriously” suggests that iOS7 was a bit rushed. Software updates will go some way to alleviating many of these teething problems, and once that happens, iOS7’s range of useful, clever upgrades may yet find an appreciative audience, in time.

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