Short review of iOS 7 – the good (some nice new features), the bad (the new Calendar app) and some hints to get going

Overall

Despite my initial complaints and apprehensions about the appearance, I find I actually sort of like iOS 7 on my iPhone 5 and iPad 2 – except for the new Calendar app, which is really awful (see below for more on that, and a recommended alternative app).

But basically iOS 7 seems nice to me. There are some convenient improvements to the main apps, like Mail (some smart mailboxes),  Safari (a improved tabbed view), Photos (some nice, automatic organization), new Siri voices and features, improved multitasking, and some other new features as well. A more complete list is here.

I still don’t see the reason to redo all the colors and icons and aesthetics, but it’s not bad getting used to. It seems the whole web is moving more towards these lighter, simpler, flatter icons and user interfaces. Perhaps as time has passed, people more “just know” what to do, and so overly-heavy visual cues are becoming less important. After playing with it, it does feel lighter and more modern.

Two hints

  1. The contrast of the icons labels is reduced in iOS 7. If that bothers you (depending on your background image), you can go into  Settings > Accessibility and turn on bold text. That does help.
  2. A security hint! There are important improvements to Find My iPad and Find My iPhone which make it even more worthwhile to use, to protect your important data in case your device gets lost or stolen. To get maximum protection, you need to turn password lock on. Many people (perhaps most people, including me) never did this before because it seemed like a nuisance to have to enter the 4-digit PIN every time I unlocked my screen. But there is a setting in the password lock so you don’t have to do it every time. You can specify how much time has to pass before you have to re-enter the PIN. I set mine for an hour to see how that goes. You can set it for up to 4 hours. For the extra security it seems worthwhile.

Easy upgrading

Many sites have recommendations on tedious and elaborate precautions to take before upgrading. I really think the following is safe and sufficient enough for a quick upgrade:

  1. Connect your device to your computer and do a complete encrypted manual backup via iTunes. This allows a simple restore of everything, including passwords, automatically after the upgrade. If you don’t have a computer, and you are running iOS 6, just make sure you have a backup in iCloud first and then do the upgrade.
  2. If you haven’t been prompted already, check for the software upgrade inside iTunes and just do it.

Your device will be upgraded, everything will be restored to where it was, and you just need to go through a few simple settings pages on your iPhone or iPad. It’s simple.

The awful new iOS 7 Calendar

On the downside, I do want to mention the problems with the new default iOS 7 Calendar app, particularly on the iPhone.

  1. The worst problem is that the month view now takes up the entire screen. In iOS 6 on the iPhone, the bottom half of the screen conveniently shows the selected date’s events. In iOS 7, if you are in month view, you can no longer see at-a-glance what today’s events are without touching the date. It’s a waste of space and forces the user to “do more stuff” to get the same work done.
  2. This one just plain buggy. If you click on a date with an event, apparently it’s supposed to auto-scroll to the event time so you can actually see it. But many times that doesn’t happen, so you don’t see the events even if you touch the event date! You have to scroll up and down to find it. Very sloppy.
  3. In the single date view, there is a horizontal, scrolling list of dates at the top of the screen to slide through. But there are no indicators of which dates have events! There’s plenty of room there to include the event indicator dots, but Apple left them out. So in order to see where your other events are you have to (a) go back up to the month view; (b) click on a date with an event indicator; (c) then get back to the single date view; (d) then scroll the time until the event comes into view. In iOS 6 you could do all this at-a-glance, or just by touching each date in month view.

The iOS 7 Calendar app on the iPhone is a huge usability step backwards I think.

Fortunately there is an alternative! A really nice one too – the free Sunrise” Calendar app for the iPhone. The developer is responsive, and says they are planning an iPad version too. If you are using Google Calendars (and why not – Google Calendars are more compatible across more devices than the iCloud Calendar) then Sunrise is really nice, and syncs quicker than the iOS Calendar app.

If you want to switch to using Google Calendars it’s extremely easy to move your iCloud Calendar events over and then just turn them off to avoid seeing duplicates. You can continue to use Google Calendars in your iOS Calendar app if you prefer.

Sunrise is 500 times better than the standard iOS 6 Calendar app (it syncs instantly for one thing, while there is a noticeable lag with the standard app) and 1,000 times better than the awful new iOS 7 Calendar. It’s a great example of what the iOS 7 Calendar could have been. It has a clean, modern design, and a very thoughtful use of space that actually provides more info (even the weather) at your fingertips, rather than less, which is what the iOS 7 Calendar does.

It accomplishes the same “scrolling through months” that the iOS 7 Calendar app does, without having to do multiple touches to see the events. You have to try it. It’s very clever.  It’s also free.

Conclusion

If you have a compatible device, go for it.


Comments

Short review of iOS 7 – the good (some nice new features), the bad (the new Calendar app) and some hints to get going — 2 Comments

  1. The other app that I find really bad is the notepad. I use it quite a bit, but now everything that IOS7 thinks is a link (this means numbers which it thinks are phone numbers) are in yellow. On a white background, these are very hard to read. Bold, enlarged text, increased contrast does not help. What would? The ability to change note colors (you know like in sticky notes on the MAC) or the font color; or both.
    I find the phone dialing keypad to be hard to read too. Same thing.

  2. Totally agree regarding the new calendar. Miss the old one incredibly. Thank you for the Sunrise tip.
    Best,
    Mandy

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