iOS7 is the biggest update to iOS since the operating system was released in 2007. While Administrators will be most interested in the new MDM options, the change in visual style will be the difference that is most immediately obvious to teachers and students.
Likewise, a number of iOS features — most notably Spotlight, AirPlay, and multi-tasking — a have been moved, changed, or are accessed by using a different gesture which will result in additional training for your users.
iOS7′s Design Language
Apple's latest OS update takes its cues from competitors who have set the bar for mobile operating system design in the last few years.
iOS7′s unlock screen is taken directly from Samsung's Touchwiz Android interface, a UI element which was also borrowed by Mircosoft for Windows 8. iOS7′s multi-tasking “card” interface is borrowed from Palm's defunct WebOS operating system, a version of which has been utilised in Android since 4.0.
But despite all of the patent wrangling between the largest players in the industry, iOS7 is an acknowledgement that companies are slowly perfecting and consolidating touch screen user interface elements. It suggests to me that touch screen operating systems are maturing and coming up with similar solutions rather than iOS 7 borrowing concepts from other OSs.
It's technological Darwinism.
iOS7 now feels much more at home on Apple hardware. The minimalist UI now sits happily on the similarly refined iPad tablet.
Gone is the skeuomorphism — an attempt to replicate physical objects on a 2D screen – replaced instead with a minimal interface which takes many of it's design cues from Android's Holo design language and, dare I say it, bears striking similarities to Windows 8′s UI.
Buttons are no longer acceptable in iOS7, instead text on a white background is used to suggest action or function. For most, this change will be a minor hurdle to overcome, but for younger students I worry that differentiating between the main text of an app and the user interface will be more difficult.
While the visual differences in iOS7 may be significant, the core of the operating system represents a refinement rather than a radical update. Commonly used features are now more accessible, and elements that previously felt tacked on — I'm looking at your notification shade — now feel part of the operating system.
What Your Teachers Need to Know About iOS7
Changes to Screen Mirroring Options
The screen mirroring and AirPlay options are now more accessible in iOS7. A single swipe up from the bottom of the screen opens up a toggle menu from which the screen mirroring options can be accessed. This is a nice improvement, but may cause some confusion initially as the AirPlay menu was previously accessed by double pressing the Home button which now only displays the multi-tasking menu.
The multi-tasking screen — which displays your currently “running” apps, and gives the option to close them — is available in the same way as iOS 6. The interface, however, is very different.
Previously running apps were displayed as icons, now they are now shown as thumbnails with a snapshot of the last activity in the app.
Apps can be closed by swiping them up and off the screen.
Swiping down the centre of the home screen opens Spotlight search. In iOS 6 Spotlight was accessed by swiping to the right on the home screen.
The Notification shade — accessed by swiping from the top of the screen with one digit — now contains much richer information than iOS 6′s equivalent.
Air Drop is a neat little feature that allows files to be transferred quickly between iPads and Macs and will simplify staff and students transferring files between each other. In my testing I struggled to transfer files between my Mac and iPad, but hopefully this is just an individual problem.
Update: I've just had it confirmed that currently only iPad to iPad Air Drop is supported.
The new font, used through out iOS 7, is for someone with less than brilliant eyesight like myself a strain on the eyes. For students with special learning requirements you will want to adjust the font settings in the accessibility options. Settings include: increasing the font size or making it bold, increasing the contrast, and reducing the number of animations.
Also available is a Guided Access mode which allows you to restrict the iPad to a specific app to prevent minds wandering.
Over the coming weeks we'll be continuing to explore iOS 7 in detail and go through the new Apple Configurator and MDM management features. If you'd like to keep up to date with our articles consider following us on Twitter or Facebook, or grabbing our RSS feed.
If you’d like to know when our guide to deploying iPad and iOS 7 in schools iBook is released, pop your email below.
What do you think of iOS 7 so far? Let us know in the comments.