Technology Brief: iOS 7

On September 18, 2013, Apple released iOS 7, a highly redesigned version of its mobile operating system. iOS 7 is compatible with the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, fifth generation iPod Touches, and the iPad 2 and newer (fourth generation iPod Touches and first generation iPads are not compatible). It also ships as standard with the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s.

ISC recommendation

Information Systems & Computing (ISC) believes that it is reasonable for most iOS users with an eligible device to upgrade to iOS 7.

ISC and others groups across campus have tested iOS 7 and have not discovered any compatibility issues with various University systems and many current University apps, including a suite of apps and services listed here.

Users of the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2 should strongly consider remaining with iOS 6.1.x indefinitely. Even though some user experience elements in iOS 7 on those devices are disabled or simplified to allow for better performance, speed and responsiveness are still significantly degraded in comparison to iOS 6.1.x.


iOS 7 contains the most significant interface changes to iOS since its initial release. A user of June 2007's iOS 1.0 would easily recognize iOS 6.1. This is no longer true with iOS 7: icons are flattened and interface elements are simplified. Apple states that "the interface is purposely unobtrusive" but ISC believes that the changes will be initially jarring to many users. This extends from the simple appearance to very different motions and interactions of elements. For example, apps expand from and retract to their icons rather than the center of the screen and pages slide over each other rather than a continuous scroll. While much of the commentary on iOS 7 has focused on redesigned icons and rejection of skeumorphic elements, it is these changes in the basic metaphors of the interface that may prove to be the most important part of the redesign.

Notable new iOS 7 features include:

  • Control Center, which allows swipe-up to quickly use or switch commonly-used functions such as Airplane Mode, Bluetooth, and Do Not Disturb.
  • AirDrop, file sharing over Bluetooth or WiFi, is now available on iOS, a little over two years after debuting in OS X 10.7 Lion.
  • Safari has been redesigned to allocate as much space as possible to web pages themselves, eliminating buttons and bars when possible.
  • The Camera and Photo applications both have expanded social sharing options and, in a nod to the success of Instagram, the ability to shoot photos in a square aspect ratio.

Additional iOS 7 changes:

  • Improvements to Siri
  • Revamped Notification Center with a new calendar view and new tabbed notifications
  • App switcher for multitasking now displays full snapshot views of recently used apps
  • Changes to the home screen (springboard), including multi-page folders and new launch animations
  • Changed access to search, now accessed by swiping down on the apps.
  • More robust Settings, including additional notification center options
  • The Mail app has additional mailbox views with shortcuts to unread items or attachments
  • Photos now features "Collections" and "Moments" to organize photos
  • App Store offers the 'Near me' and 'Wish list' features
  • Calendar list (or agenda) view can be accessed through the magnifying glass

A few features have been removed

  • Double tapping the home button is no longer a shortcut to control center features

Not all features will be available for all devices. More information on iOS 7's features can be found at Apple's iOS 7 page.


Upgrade notes and best practices:

  • Upgrading to iOS 7 requires iTunes 11.1.
  • ISC recommends updating all apps immediately prior to upgrading to iOS 7. In a survey of 220 actively maintained applications, over 40% have been updated since Apple declared iOS 7 frozen on September 10th.
  • Since the iOS 7 download can be up to 1.3 GB, Apple requires using WiFi or iTunes to download iOS 7.
  • The upgrade to iOS 7 should not erase any information on the device, but doing a backup with iTunes before applying a major iOS update is always advisable.
  • The upgrade process takes approximately 30 minutes.

Please note that an active network connection is needed after installation for upgraded devices to reactivate. In previous releases of substantial iOS updates, cellular vendors' activation servers have been overwhelmed by devices checking in after the software has installed. For those who rely on their iPhones heavily, it may be wise to wait a week or so before installing the update, as their iPhones may be unusable until the activation can be performed successfully. Keep in mind that similar difficulties likely will arise after the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s are released on September 20.

For further information

Product notes on the iPhone 5c and 5s are here.

--Michael McLaughlin, Ted Moskalenko, and John Mulhern III, ISC Technology Support Services

Print This Page Share:
Date Posted: August 21, 2013 Tags: iOS, New and Noteworthy

Was this information helpful?

Login with PennKey to view and post comments