Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Should you upgrade to iOS 7?

Just in case you missed it, Apple has released its latest update to the operating system for its iPhones and iPads. In fact, you may have noticed the little red dot or "1" on your Settings tab signifying that there is an update pending. Your phone may have already downloaded the 750MB update - even if you don't update it's sitting there taking up to 3Gb of space on your device (that explains where all the space has gone on Tracey's phone).

So what's to be done? Should you go ahead and just update? If so, what can you expect? Normally it's not a big deal, but this is the largest phone OS release that Apple has rolled out since launching the iPhone and to be honest, the feedback to date hasn't been great. Don't get me wrong, there are some fine new features which we'll cover later, but many people, me included, think it's too "different", has too many unnecessary changes and not enough upsides to overcome the downsides.

The problem of course is that if you're on an iPhone 4S or above, there's no "going back". Once you upgrade you're stuck there.

First Impressions


Despite my better judgement, I upgraded, since I needed to for obvious reasons. My first thought was that, in a fit of jealousy, my iPhone had dressed up as an Android to get me back for my previous unfaithfulness (see Did Apple Copy Android).

However, rather than seamlessly integrate the best of Android into their beautiful OS, it seems as if they've taken a step backwards, and frustrated millions of loyal users in the process.

I'm sure that many of my colleagues will pull my leg and call me a luddite, but I feel strongly that software companies have a responsibility to their users. We've invested a lot of precious time learning the way something works. If they go ahead and change it and make people re-learn stuff they already knew, they get frustrated (just like I did when I tried Windows 8 for the first time, but don't get me going on that). As they say "if it's not broken, don't fix it".

Stepping off my soap-box, let's talk about some of the positive new features first:

Pros

  • There's a new Control Panel which you can access from any screen by swiping upwards. It contains quick access to things like Airplane Mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, the Calculator, Camera and a cool new Flashlight app. It looks like a small child designed it and is hard to read due to the grey on grey color scheme, but hey, it's there.
  • The App Store has been upgraded with new features such as searching for Apps that are relevant to where you are. For example, if you are in Disney, it will bring up Disney related apps.
  • Siri is "less robotic" and can be a dude. Meaningless for me as she never understands a word I'm saying with my British accent (Google is much better here).
  • Self-updating apps. These can be turned on or off in Settings / iTunes and App Store
  • Multi-tasking. Apps can now automatically refresh themselves (i.e. keep running) in the background. Beware however of the impact that this can have on your battery life). The fix is to control which ones can keep running in Settings / General / Background App Refresh
  • Improved security - you now need to enter your password before disabling Find my iPhone and you can force your phone to erase your data after 10 failed passcode attempts (recommended, unless you have grandkids).
  • Notification Center, straight from Android. Swipe down to see all your apps notifications such as email, text messages, to-do's, etc (you can customize what you see here). 

Cons

  • Quick Search (which used to be available by swiping right or double clicking the center button twice) is gone. If you hunt long enough, you'll find it by swiping the screen from the center downwards
  • I find the Camera harder to access from the Lock Screen
  • Some users have reported that the new user interface and animations make them feel "seasick" (if this is the case for you, go to Settings / General / Accessibility / Reduce Motion).
  • Reduced battery life (here's how to increase your battery life)
  • Cheesy low-contrast black-on-grey color scheme (there is an option to boost the contrast). You can invert the colors, but then your icons and home screen look like your iPhone's been doing acid. 
  • Slow. Did I say, Slow, especially if you're on an iPhone4.

Should you Upgrade?

It depends on the sort of person you are and how you use your phone. If you just want to use it to make calls, send text messages and use a few apps, I'd recommend waiting, at least until Apple releases iOS 7.1 or 7.2 and irons out many of these annoyances and bugs.

If you're a seriously heavy user and don't mind a relatively frustrating new learning period, then you should probably upgrade, but first:

  • Make sure you've backed up your phone, either to iCloud or to your computer
  • Make sure you're connected to a good WiFi signal (if your phone hasn't already used up all your megabytes)
  • Delete any unwanted or unused apps
  • Update all the remaining apps to the latest version
  • If you have certain apps that are critical for your business, check that they'll run on iOS 7
  • If you're updating with a computer, update iTunes to the latest version
  • If you're updating without connecting to a computer,  make sure that you have at least 3Gb of storage space. Yes, 3Gb! If you're not sure, you can find it in Settings / General / About

Good luck and stay-tuned to TechnoRV for updates!