The Top 11 New Features in iOS 7

With tons of new features on tap, iOS 7 brings updates o-plenty to Apple’s Mobile OS

Please note that while this article was being written, Apple released iOS 7 Beta 2. This article contains comments and issues on both beta releases.

Introduction

It’s summer, and as such every young geeks fancy turns to thoughts of new techy goodness from the top tech companies of the world. In like fashion, Apple’s WWDC and its opening keynote presentation often heralds the introduction of not only new hardware but the software that drives it. This year was no exception.

During Apple’s streamed WWDC Keynote, Apple’s leadership team introduced us to a number of really cool features that would be coming in iOS 7. There are a number of different changes and I’ve had a chance to play with it for a week or two. Its different, that’s for sure; and the OS has a number of new features that are sure to be of interest to a great many people.

So, without further ado, here are what I feel are the top 11 new features in iOS 7. Please note, however, that the mobile OS also a bit buggy as of Beta 1, so I’ve got a section at the end where I’ve listed some opportunities for improvement as well.

IMG_0006Control Center

I was hoping for something like Control Center when I wrote my Top Must have Changes in iOS 7 blog post in May of 2013. The new feature puts some often used toggle switches (Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, DND and Rotation Lock along the top, Flashlight, Clock, Calculator and Camera along the bottom) at your immediate disposal. I also gives you access to brightness and music controls You also have access to AirDrop and active, Bluetooth connections in case you want to send a quick file or manage an active connection.

Control Center slides up from the bottom of the screen, and is (or will be) available from any app or screen on your iDevice. All you have to do is swipe up from the bottom. I’d still like to see the ability to customize this just a bit. I’m never going to use the clock; and I’ve got access to Camera thru the Lock Screen, and I never lock my screen rotation, so me actually using those 3 shortcuts is unlikely and an unfortunate waste of functionality and space.

 

Notification CenterIMG_0007

The revamped Notification Center is a bit problematic. To get access to it, you swipe down from the top of the device screen; and like the Control Center, its available on the Lock Screen, too. I like the idea of a Today screen that gives you specific information about today, but its very long and scrolls too far down the device, if you ask me. For example, Stock information used to be a crawl across the bottom of the device and Notification Screen. When you have a long watch list like I do (3 indexes and 7 symbols), the list is really long, and takes up way too much room. Apple either needs to give me the option to have it list or crawl, or not display it at all.

Its not all sunshine and daisies, though. Make sure you check out the Bugs and Issues section at the end…

 

iTunes Radio

IMG_0018Apple’s long awaited Pandora competitor, branded iTunes Radio is probably one of the biggest and most anticipated features in iOS 7. Built into the Music App, iTunes Radio is the newest music option that the user has available to them, next to Playlist, Albums, Artists, etc.

The service allows users to stream ad-supported internet radio to their iDevice from anywhere you can get an internet signal. You get music from the three big music labels, and iTunes Match subscribers can listen to music without ads.

You can create your own stations, purchase songs through the iTunes Music Store as well as see what you’ve previously listened to through the service. The service will be available not only on your iDevice, but on your PC and Mac as well through an updated version of iTunes, and through Apple TV.

As some may remember, one of the big holdups in the service was the ability for users to skip songs. iTunes Radio users can skip up to 6 songs per station, regardless of whether or not they are iTunes Match subscribers or not. Skips should reset every hour the service is used.

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Industry In-Fighting is Really Starting to Tick Me Off

Enough already, will ya?!  I want interoperability!

apple_1351488311_540x540Attention computer vendors everywhere – I use your software tool it because it solves problems for me, not because it makes you money, or it looks cool, or any other reason other than it solves problems for me. So when you either don’t allow something to work OR if you reduce functionality – i.e. make something stop working that was previously working before, all you’re going to do in the long term is lose a customer.

Case in point – the latest update to the Mail, Calendar and People ModernUI app in Windows 8 removes Google Accounts from its syncable and supported accounts list. This is driving me nuts, because I spent a good 3 years in the Android camp before switching back to my iPhone. Unfortunately for me, my “master PIM account” is my Google Apps account.

This is a problem in an iPhone world because Google and Apple don’t’ work and play well together as they used to do. Both companies are busy having a “smartphone measuring” contest, trying to figure out whose smartphone is bigger, better, faster, etc.

I’ve got the same problem with Google and Microsoft over in the Windows 8 camp. Google recently removed Exchange ActiveSync support from its Google Apps suite. If you’re using a non-Google tool to sync PIM data, you may soon be out of luck. What this means is that if you have an Android Smartphone and a Windows 8 tablet, you can’t sync your contacts from Gmail to your Windows 8 tablet with Windows 8 Mail. An email program without your contacts in it is useless.

If you have an iPhone, you might be able to use CardDAV and CalDAV, but…oh yeah… Windows 8 doesn’t support those either. Apple is also dropping support of EAS from Mail.

So what we have here is a RETURN to the non-interoperability of 2007-2009 before both Google and Apple announced support for Exchange ActiveSync and everybody worked and played nice together.

From a vendor perspective, this is Google, Apple and Microsoft trying to lock users into their paid services. From a consumer perspective, this is a giant pain in the @$$.

Now, more than ever, until everyone decides that it’s politically correct to work and play well together, consumers must pick and choose their tools wisely. If you want all of your information to sync where and when you want it, you’re likely going to have to choose compatible tools.

In other words, due to the fact that it’s becoming increasingly harder to use off-vendor devices and service together, you aren’t going to be able to mix and match devices any longer. If you want to use an iPhone, you’re likely going to have to work with a Mac computer and an iPad tablet. If you have an Android smartphone, you’re going to be tied to Gmail/Google Apps and an Android tablet. Same thing for Windows Phone and Windows 8/RT.

All of these vendors have software and SaaS products to sell you and they want to insure that they hook you, and keep you in THEIR camp, in THEIR ecosystem. This is going to do nothing more than widen the gaps between vendors, their services and tools and firmly draw lines in the sand that users are going to have to cross.

This is going to create some very interesting opportunities for 3rd party developers who might be able to setup sync and consolidation services – think The Missing Sync and Plaxo – but both of those are having their own issues and problems to get around. All of this may do nothing more than narrow and eliminate choices for users as vendors like MS, Google and Apple try to lock them in. it’s going to be an interesting couple of years before this is all worked out. We may end up back with interoperability, but don’t think that it’s going to be for free… if it comes back, users are going to pay subscription and licensing fees.

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Explore your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch files with i-Funbox

Apple has always advocated letting the OS and the device (computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.) manage where it wants to put files. Many Apple advocates continually ask me why I care WHERE the computer puts data as long as its, 1. Backed up, 2. Available to my programs. The Windows Camp, coming from a DOS point of origin, is exactly the opposite. Serious Windows users want near total control over where and how their data is organized. This is one of the reasons why many Windows users will appreciate i-Funbox. Its an iDevice tool for Windows and Mac.

IFB01

i-Funbox allows users to take Total Control of you iDevice’s file system. With it, you can manage files on your iPhone or iPad just like you do in Windows File Explorer. You can easily transmit files and folders to your computer with the app’s optimized file transfer and browsing. I-Funbox now fully supports iOS 6.x as well as Asian/ Long filenames.

You can install and backup all of your applications, This is especially important if you’ve got a custom app that you want to install, like something for work, which may be unsigned. You can also access an app’s sandbox area, giving you access to application created documents as well as the ability to upload audio or video to 3rd party players. You can also export iTunes managed content. The nicest part of all of this is that using the app doesn’t require an installation of iTunes.

The secret sauce is that i-Funbox makes your iDevice function like a USB storage drive. You get access to the storage you need when you need it, as well as all the other benefits. This is a great app and its free price tag, no jailbreak or iTunes required status make this a must have for just about any iDevice owner. Novice users need to take caution, however, as the average user isn’t meant to access the file system directly and you might move or delete something that you shouldn’t.

Download i-Funbox for WindowsDownload i-Funbox for Mac

 

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Apple’s Low Cost iPhone – Good or Bad Idea?

Apple LogoBelieve it or not, this isn’t as slam dunk as you might think it is…

Emerging markets are a big deal.

In areas like China, Korea, parts of Africa, etc., where there are untapped consumers just waiting to buy a smartphone, the right device at the right price can sell and sell very well. Low cost, low margin phones are intended to make money in volume sales.

According to an article published on TUAW, former Apple CEO John Sculley agrees that Apple needs to produce the low cost device, which for many in those markets, is the only computing device they will own. While Sculley acknowledges that there’s “nothing wrong” with the current iPhone, he also acknowledged that Samsung is very good at what they do, and implied that Apple needs to figure it out and provide a competing product.

Sculley agreed that Tim Cook is the right person to lead Apple at this time due to his operations experience. Apple’s decision to cut its product update cycles to 6 months instead of 12 will require solid supply chain experience, and that’s right up Cook’s alley.

While its still unknown if a low cost iPhone would make an appearance in either the US or Europe, there seems to be a shift in thought in the smartphone arena. Lower cost, unsubsidized devices seem to be the direction that the world wants the industry to go. That being the case, I suspect that we’re going to see a number of exciting changes over the next year or so.

Whether or not a low cost iPhone is a good or bad idea is going to be validated by Apple’s financial and stock performance. The markets seem very fickle right now, with Apple stock jumping 3-5% over the past couple of days on news of component order cancellations and their 2013 product pipeline, respectively. Until the world decides that Apple knows what it wants to be when it grows up, I’d expect a great deal of fluctuation in their stock price and speculation in the news regarding the company’s viability in a post-Jobs era.

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The iPhone Cometh to T-Mobile

I saw an article today that indicated that T-Mobile USA would finally start selling Apple products in 2013. This makes a great deal of sense considering that T-Mobile has been doing a great deal of spectrum refarming, moving support for their HSPA+ network to include the iPhone compatible, 1900mHz band.

A short while ago, I wrote an article for BYTE indicating that despite the spectrum refarming, T-Mo USA would never, ever, EVER carry the iPhone. The big reason wasn’t frequency compatibility like everyone thought, especially with the spectrum refarming. The problem for tiny T-Mo was the huge device subsidy fees, as well as the device quotas that Apple would require of them. Sprint paid well over $1.0B USD to carry the iDevice.

In order to eliminate the need for a subsidy, T-Mo will carry the device, but charge the customer full price for it. Meaning that the T-Mo branded iPhone will likely cost between $650 to $850, depending on the amount of onboard storage. The voice and data plans will cost the customer a lot less as a result; and will be classified under T-Mo’s Value program.

The iPhone isn’t the only device that will go full price on T-Mo. All of their devices will go that way in 2013. Many T-Mo customers may choke on that, but in order to soften the blow, T-Mo will setup installment payments over 20 months if users can’t handle the full down stroke at contract start. While this may look like a device subsidy, it isn’t, and will still save users money over the 20 month installment period, according to T-Mobile USA.

The only thing really up in the air is when T-Mo will actually offer the device. T-Mo’s spectrum refarming should be completed by May 2013; and they may roll the device out nationally then. Apple tests the iPhone on every carrier LTE network before they allow the carrier to enable LTE support. T-Mobile won’t launch their LTE network until the second half of 2013; and as such, I’m guessing that Apple and T-Mobile USA will likely support the iPhone 5S (or 7th generation iPhone), making their inaugural announcement on stage, with Apple in September or October of 2013.

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APP is the world’s first motion picture to feature your mobile as a second screen

2CFILM, a newly founded film company, recently launched its first project. Named APP, the project is actually a motion picture that involves the usage of your mobile as an additional screenYour device will be fully synchronized with the movie in order to receive extra content while watching the movie in your beloved cinema.

APP will be the first film in a series of similar titles produced by 2CFILM to feature this technology. Good news is that this technology will be brought by an application based on  SyncNow® digital watermarking developed by Service2Media and Civolution for iPhone and Android devices.

The movie is about obviously an app that becomes autonomous and dangerous. Nothing new on the narrative side, but the good thing is that the audience will be able to follow a parallel storyline via the app on their mobile phone while still watching the movie. Overall you will get a new dimension of the movie right in your pocket. APP is due for release in the Netherlands on 24 February 2013, and will be distributed by Just Film Distribution.

The partnership between 2CFILM, Service2Media and Civolution  will not end here. They will bring this technology not only in cinemas, but also on DVD’s, television and online TV channels. As Edvard van ‘t Wout, Founder, 2CFILM, states:

App is our first step on to the international stage with our new approach to film, creating commercially-successful films that fit with how today’s audiences consume content and which resonate with the modern world.”

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Mirror your iDevices through AirPlay on your Mac or PC

The new Airserver application is the one we’ve all been waiting for. Airserver allows you to use your computer for AirPlay, i.e. as a monitor for your iDevice, using your iPhone as the controller.

AirServer lets you play your games, display your photos, videos and play itunes music on your phone and all through your Mac or PC. Another benefit is the Mirroring feature which means you can launch any application on your iPhone 4S, iPad2 and mirror this to your monitor in landscape or portrait and in real time. Dig it? It gets better. Post Processing allows you to enhance the quality of the image mirrored by changing focus, contrast, color  sharpness etc. If you like friendly competition, enable the app, choose split screen and play your friends!

AirServer is incredibly easy to use and comes in a single-user license which enables you to install the application on up to five Macs, you just sit back and launch it. In terms of iOS, your Mac needs to run Tiger (OS 10.4) or any later version, with your iOS device running on iOS 4.2.1 or later and connecting via the same Wi-Fi network.

For those without Apple TV, AirServer is a must. The iOS experience just got better.

Download AirServer for Windows | Download AirServer for Mac

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Transfer music and video files from iPod and iPhone with Ease

Have you had a problem with your computer or hard drive, lost all your music, then connected your iPod to your computer, hoping you could do a two-way transfer? Unfortunately, when you do that iTunes won’t let you copy your previous music library to your computer. That’s where Sharepod comes in. With Sharepod, you can copy music you have stored on your iPod to your computer with a simple drag-and-drop interface. You can arrange by track, by album or by playlist.

Sharepod is a simple, single-executable application that doesn’t need installing. So whether you are at home or a friend’s, it is easy to download, open and have your iPod connected within seconds. As well as iPod to PC sharing, Sharepod allows you to copy music from your PC to iPod without the need for iTunes. This is a great if you have multiple computers and want to use your iPod with all of them, instead of connecting your mp3 player to just one device.

Sharepod is a great freeware application for transferring music from your iPod to other computers and back again. If you have multiple computers in your home network or want to share music with friends, there is no simpler way to do it than with Sharepod. Sharepod fixes the universal problem iPod users have when trying to connect their device to secondary computers.

Download Sharepod

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