With iOS 7 freshly installed on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, it’s time to verify that essential settings are configured properly and that you are up to speed on the most important changes. Work through this pre-flight checklist to ready yourself for your first few days with iOS 7. I’ll point out items that have moved in iOS 7 and talk about a few gee-whiz, sexy features later, but first, let’s take care of the two essentials: Lock screen security and signing in to important accounts and services.
Get Centered -- In iOS 7, besides the camera, two control screens can be opened from the Lock screen: the new Control Center and the iOS 7 version of Notification Center. Because a passcode is not required to open those screens, you should make sure that you are cool with those items being available to anyone who picks up your device. If you aren’t, you can remove them from the Lock screen via the Settings app.
Indicated by a subtle dash-like lozenge at the bottom of the Lock screen, Control Center slides up from the bottom of the screen in response to a swipe up (if you have trouble with this gesture, start with your finger literally off the bottom of the screen). Experienced iOS users should find Control Center’s icon-driven features self-explanatory, including switches for Airplane Mode and Do Not Disturb, AirPlay options, and (on some models) a flashlight button. These controls seem generally innocuous, but if you want to keep a toddler from playing with them, for example, shut off that option in Settings > Control Center. And if you’re not a fan of Control Center in general, perhaps because it pops up while you’re while playing a game, you can disable it within apps as well.
To avoid accidentally toggling an option in the top row of Control Center (such as Bluetooth), get in the habit of closing Control Center by swiping down from above it on the screen, or just tapping above it.
Access to Notification Center from the Lock screen isn’t new, but when you swipe down from the top of the screen, you now have access to three categories of what’s-up data. The Today view helpfully combines key notification types, like the weather forecast and your morning agenda, and it can even mention if you’ve double-booked your schedule. The All view shows, well, all your notifications, and the Missed view is great for catching up on a pile of previous notifications. Tap Settings > Notification Center for lots of fine-grained control over Notification Center, both on the Lock screen and off. If, for example, you love that Notification Center can show calendar events but don’t want those to appear via the Lock screen, you can shut that off. Tap Settings > Notification Center and then work with the options for Calendar.
More Lock Screen Options -- To tweak a few additional Lock screen behaviors, visit Settings > General > Passcode Lock, and consider the switches under Allow Access When Locked; the image below shows the options on my iPhone; different devices have slightly different choices. While you’re on the Passcode Lock screen, if you aren’t happy with the complexity or frequency of your Lock screen passcode, now is a good time to adjust it. (And, if you are lucky owner of a new iPhone 5s, with a passcode set up, you can turn on the Fingerprints feature.)
In case you’re wondering, the Camera app is always available on the Lock screen, so you can’t prevent someone from taking photos.
ID Your Apple ID -- In Settings > iCloud and in Settings > iTunes & App Store, check your iCloud and iTunes logins to make sure you are signed in with the accounts that you want to use — many people have ended up with multiple Apple IDs, and it’s easy to end up with your accounts in a muddle.
While you are on the iCloud screen, make sure all the switches for individual iCloud services are set the way you want them. In particular, I strongly recommend turning on Find My iPhone, partly because it can be handy for finding a misplaced device, but more because it now renders the device useless to a thief by requiring your Apple ID to erase or restore it (see “iOS 7 Locks Stolen iPhones to Prevent Resale,” 18 September 2013).
Although you probably won’t see it immediately after iOS 7’s launch, keep an eye out for an iCloud Keychain switch. iCloud Keychain is designed to securely store and share your Web login credentials and credit card information between Safari in iOS and Safari on a Mac running OS X 10.9 Mavericks.
While you’re on the iTunes & App Store screen, look in the Automatic Downloads section and confirm the settings for downloading new content. In particular, pay attention to the new Updates switch in that list. If it’s on, new versions of apps will automagically download without your having to remember to retrieve them via the App Store app. However, this makes it more difficult for you to learn about what’s new in an update, or decide not to get it. A recent update to the Google Authenticator app, for instance, deleted users’ stored settings, and while Google pulled the update immediately and released another update that fixed the problem for affected users within a week, it still caused significant consternation for some TidBITS readers. If you do enable any automatic downloading and you have a smallish data plan, take note of the Use Cellular Data switch; keep it off to make updates download only over Wi-Fi.
Check What Downloads over Cellular -- In addition to limiting some iTunes Store downloads to Wi-Fi, as noted in the previous paragraph, you can keep data costs down by monitoring your usage and shutting off unwanted cellular activity. Visit Settings > Cellular and scroll down to access various options, including checking your usage details and shutting off cellular access for individual apps. At the bottom of the screen, note the System Services item, which reports on cellular usage for different background tasks in iOS 7, so you can tell if some background process has gone haywire. We haven’t seen any excessive data usage in iOS 7 betas, but we will be watching carefully (“Mysterious iOS 6 Cellular Data Usage: A Deeper Look,” 24 October 2012).
More Credentials -- If you’ve upgraded an existing iOS device to iOS 7, your various accounts are probably set up correctly, but it’s worth checking anyway, and it’s absolutely essential when setting up a new device! First, make sure you can access your usual networks and devices by verifying that you have an active Wi-Fi connection and that any Bluetooth devices you use are properly paired.
With that done, check the apps and services that you use regularly to ensure you are logged in, or can log in if you want to. Open Settings and scan the entire list (at the left on an iPad) for account-based options. Of course, there are the settings in Mail, Contacts, Calendars, but don’t forget about Game Center, Messages, Twitter, Facebook, and — new in iOS 7 — Flickr and Vimeo.
Now, go beyond what appears in Settings. Do you use Dropbox or some other file-syncing service? Make sure it’s working! Is your email arriving? Calendars updating? You know the drill.
Where’d It Go? -- Your device is secure and your accounts are set up. Good! Now it’s time to get oriented, and learn which features have disappeared or moved in the switch from iOS 6 to 7:
Search: You no longer search for apps, tunes, contacts, and other data by swiping the first page of the Home screen to the right, to display the Spotlight search page. Now, to access Spotlight, you swipe down from anywhere on the Home screen. Well, almost anywhere. Start too high up, and you’ll open Notification Center instead. Start too low, on the Dock, and nothing will happen. The options for customizing what types of data appear in search results (plus their order in the results) are still available in Settings > General > Spotlight Search.
Quit an app: You might want to quit a misbehaving app, to get a fresh start. (Particularly until iOS 7 app updates arrive, it’s more likely you’ll see frozen apps.) As before, double-press the Home button to access the Multitasking bar. Unlike in iOS 6, you now drag up on a preview image — rather than pressing and holding the icon until it wiggles — for the app that you want to quit.
Playback controls on the Multitasking bar: Previously, you invoked the Multitasking bar and then swiped to the right to access playback controls. In iOS 7, these controls, including volume and AirPlay, live in Control Center, available by swiping up from the very bottom of any screen.
Start Genius in the Music app: Apple never can seem to get comfortable with the layout and interface in the Music app, and iOS 7 gave the company yet another chance to make adjustments. This time, in keeping with the look of iOS 7, Apple has done away with the inscrutable atom icon for creating a Genius playlist, which isn’t a bad thing. Now, to make a Genius list, first start playing your seed song and then tap the word Create at the bottom of the Now Playing screen; then in the menu that appears, tap Genius Playlist. Similarly, the enigmatic buttons for repeat and shuffle have been replaced by textual buttons; tap Repeat to choose from Repeat Off, Repeat Song, and Repeat All. When you tap Shuffle, it highlights and changes to Shuffle All.
Take a panorama in the Camera app: If your device previously supported Camera’s Panorama mode (iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, and the fifth-generation iPod touch), you may have become accustomed to tapping Options then Panorama before slowly sweeping your device across the view to take a super-wide shot. Forget about that, because in iOS 7, you swipe the textual control bar to switch to Pano and then tap the round, white shutter button. Tapping items on the mode control does not work — you must swipe, but you can also swipe anywhere on the image. (The new iPhone 5s and 5c also support Panorama mode, but Apple did not add the mode to any additional older devices.)
Siri Web searches: By default, Web searches in Siri now use Microsoft’s Bing and show the top results within the Siri screen, rather than dump you directly into Safari. Wikipedia and Twitter searches also report results within Siri. If you prefer Google’s results, which appear in Safari, just use Google as a verb, or say “Search Google for…” Alas, the Voice option in the Google Search app remains more accurate and far faster than Siri in iOS 7 (which, if it doesn’t improve from the iOS 7 betas, has gone downhill).
Share: The Share button has been around for a while. In its previous incarnation, it looked like a box with a swooshing arrow coming out of it. You tap it to access various sharing options, like putting a photo on Facebook or sending a PDF as an email attachment. It can also lead to a Print command. In iOS 7, the image is stripped down, retaining the arrow, but otherwise looking entirely different. You can see the iOS 6 and iOS 7 versions of the button below, on the bar found at the bottom of the Safari app, along with the similarly adjusted next/previous arrows and the bookmarks/history icon and tab icon.
Real-life visual metaphors: There’s a fancy word for this: skeuomorphism. The iOS 6 Calendar app, with its stitched-leather desktop blotter look, and Game Center’s green felt look are skeuomorphic, though not functionally so. The pre-iOS 7 Home screen app icons, which are shaded and shadowed to look like buttons you could press on a physical device, are also skeuomorphic, with their look giving a real-world clue as to how to use them. (For some thoughts about when skeuomorphism can be helpful, see “Ebooks, Footnotes, and Skeuomorphs, Oh My!,” 4 June 2013.)
Skeuomorphism is largely gone in iOS 7, with the interface focusing on content, not on a representation of the world in the pre-electronic era. Most of the purely visual skeuomorphs won’t likely be missed — how many people have stitched-leather desk blotters today? — but you may long for some of the more functional skeuomorphs. In particular, it can be difficult in iOS 7 to know what to tap, since many buttons are now just words without outlines, and the flatness of the interface eliminates the use of visual depth to indicate that controls move when tapped or swiped. If you’re confused, tap everything.
Must-know Features -- It’s playtime! Let’s look at a handful of iOS 7 features that I can’t resist sharing. There are many more changes in iOS 7, but let’s focus on a few that are immediately useful, outrageously cool, or demo fodder:
Dynamic Type: Apps that use iOS 7’s new Dynamic Type, such as Apple’s Contacts and Mail apps, can now show text in smaller or larger sizes, with typographic details like font weight and letter spacing adjusting appropriately, based on your slider setting in Settings > General >Text Size. To access even larger sizes, tap General > Accessibility > Larger Type, turn on the switch, and drag that slider to a larger size. (For more on iOS 7’s accessibility features, see “Peering at iOS 7 for the Vision Impaired,” 19 September 2013.) You can expect many more apps to support Dynamic Type in the future. The images below show the Contacts app with the smallest Text Size setting (left) and the largest Large Type setting (right).
Home Screen folder changes: Folders can now have multiple screens and can hold an unlimited number of apps (up from a paltry 12!), giving you significantly more control over how you organize your Home screens. Plus, Apple’s Newsstand app, which is itself sort of a folder, can finally now be placed in another folder. You can see it at the upper left with its new iOS 7 icon in the image below; note how its wood-shelf look has been dropped in favor of entirely abstract “shelves.”
Parallax: A visual effect where a stationary object appears to move because of a change in the viewer’s location, parallax is now a daily experience in iOS 7. To experience parallax on the Home screen, tilt your device slowly back and forth while watching the app icons appear to move slightly over the wallpaper behind them. Trippy. (If you can’t see it well, switch to wallpaper that has fine detail, like a close-up of a leaf or photo of a person. Apple’s new dynamic wallpapers, which move slightly in the background, don’t work well for demoing parallax. Visit Settings > Wallpapers & Brightness to configure your wallpaper.)
Another place to see parallax is in Safari’s new Tab view. On the iPhone, tap the tab button at the lower right to view your tabs (or add a tab by tapping the + button). Once you have a few tabs loaded, tilt the device forward and back to see the effect.
FaceTime Audio: Having a bad hair day? To talk to someone on another iOS device running iOS 7 via FaceTime without seeing them or worrying about looking at the screen, there’s now FaceTime Audio, which you invoke by tapping a phone icon in the FaceTime section of someone’s contact info. Of course, you could use Skype, or Google Hangout, or place a normal phone call on the iPhone, but FaceTime Audio may become the default voice call service for those of us in the Apple ecosystem, especially once it’s supported in Messages in Mavericks. On the iPhone, FaceTime has also been split out into its own, separate app, though it’s still available in the Phone app.
Apps Near Me: At the bottom of the screen in the App Store app, tap Near Me to try this neat feature, and keep it in mind for the next time you are traveling, in a museum or on a hike, or anywhere where there might be an app that’s relevant to your specific location. I live in a spread-out suburban neighborhood in Ithaca, with plenty of pastures and a lot of woods, about 5 miles from Cornell University. Tapping that icon in my home office showed me three apps, two for local publications (the Ithaca Journal and the Cornell Daily Sun), plus a transit app from my county’s bus service. On a visit to the nearby Ithaca airport, a fourth app, for Cornell Dining, joined the offerings.
AirDrop: This technology has been in OS X for bit, enabling quick Mac-to-Mac file sharing using peer-to-peer Wi-Fi, in case options like file sharing, messaging, email, or Dropbox don’t work for you. (We’ve never run into a need for it.) In iOS 7, AirDrop appears as a new sharing option, so you can send contacts, notes, Safari links, photos, map locations, and more to another nearby iOS device. Alas, of the currently released iOS devices, AirDrop works only with the iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s; fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini; and the fifth-generation iPod touch. You can enable it from within Control Center.
With the above list of notable features soaked into your brain, you’re good to go with iOS 7. But, although this article is a great start and enough to help you maintain your geek cred the first time you show off iOS 7 to a friend, it’s far from a complete tour of what’s new in iOS 7. Despite passionate lobbying from others on the TidBITS staff, I’ve not said anything about iBeacons (“The Promise of iBeacons in iOS 7,” 18 September 2013), most changes in Safari, call blocking, new Siri commands, and much more. Look to additional TidBITS articles for more about iOS 7 and how you can put it to good use.