iOS 7 review

Andy Vandervell




Our Score:



  • Fresh, modern and slick
  • Camera app is outstanding
  • Effortlessly simple


  • Few new, essential features
  • Mainly playing catch-up to rival OSes

What is iOS 7?

iOS 7 is the most serious update to iOS since Apple opened the App Store. Let that sink in for a moment, because it's important. iOS and the iPhone may have been a catalyst for a revolution in smartphone software and hardware design, but it's the App Store that's made the iPhone a success. "There's an app for that". It's a catchy line.

But as the App Store flourished and became the bedrock of the iPhone's success, iOS floundered. It began to look staid, old-fashioned and short of ideas, particularly compared to the fresh new look and experience offered by Microsoft's Windows Phone. Designs that made sense in the advent of touchscreen phones slowly began to look anachronistic.

Worse still, Apple's moves to improve and augment iOS became hopelessly disjointed. The disastrous Apple Maps was the catalyst for change and the ousting of former iOS chief Scott Forstall, but the likes of Find My Friends, Cards and the Podcasts app were unheeded warnings.

Apple bills iOS 7 as "the mobile OS from a whole new perspective". The antidote to growing unrest among even ardent Apple fans. Can it live up this billing and will it add value to the recently luanched iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C?

What's Next: iOS 8 release date, rumours, features, apps and news

See iOS 7 in action in Apple's iOS 7 video showreel:

iOS 7: First Impressions

That "new perspective" line is an interesting one. It's typical Apple bravura, the kind that drives its fiercest critics into a wild rage. And it's easy to see why because, look past the new modern veneer, and the core iOS experience remains very much intact.

You have a grid of apps and app folders; you swipe left and right to reveal more apps; tap on icons to open apps; go to the App Store to download more apps… it doesn't feel like a "new perspective".

iOS 7

There's two ways to read this, as Apple failing to innovate or Apple playing to its strengths. Whichever narrative you prefer doesn't change the first impression that iOS 7 is a refreshing, vital, but very comfortable update. It's an old, familiar friend who has thrown off the cardigans and had a shave.

Key to this is the new visual style. There's been much pontificating on the topic of 'flat design' vs the 'skeuomorph' approach of previous versions of iOS. It's quite a boring debate really, but Apple has ripped away the worst offences of the latter-day Forstall-era. Some tiny hints remain, such as an almost paper-like texture to the Notes app background, but they're appropriate rather than hackneyed.

More to the point, everything about the visual style in iOS 7 feels modern, fresh and effortless. The familiar tropes, such as slide to unlock, remain, but with none of the baggage. Anyone who upgrades their existing iPhone or iPad will, for a short time at least, feel like it's been given a new lease of life.

Key to this is the sense of 'levels' that pervades iOS 7. This is where that 'new perspective' line begins to resonate, even if it's a bombastic way to describe a simple effect. Overlays have a subtle translucency that just hint at what's below, without it ever becoming a distraction, while the new 'parallax' wallpapers move slightly as you tilt the screen.

iOS 7 4

Also key is the way OS moves and reacts to your prompts. Apps now appear to expand from the icons, while the screen fades in and out when you lock and unlock the phone. Apple has adopted the 'cards' app switching approach of the now defunct Palm OS, where double-tapping the home button shows previews of open apps. None of this is groundbreaking stuff, of course, but the cumulative effect all helps to make iOS 7 a pleasure to use day-to-day.

The sights and sounds are improved, too. There's a new set of default backgrounds, the introduction of 'dynamic' moving wallpapers (a mixed blessing, really), and a whole new set of ringtones and alert sounds. The old ones remain, but the new ones subtly hint at the modernity of iOS 7. The old sounds are tucked away in their own section earmarked 'Classic' - a very polite way to put it.

In purely aesthetics terms, then, iOS 7 is a huge success. It looks and feels great, but there's a good deal more it needs to do convince the doubters. Read on as we delve deeper into the new features and redesigned native apps.

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September 18, 2013, 9:13 pm

is there going to be such an depth look at other phone operating systems?
I use my phone for phoning, texting, emails, and maps/internet on occasion, plus listen to the radio, music and occasionally watch videos.
Is there really any difference between the different options? I ask this sincerely as my phone is falling to bits and I'll soon have to face this dull choice. Windows phone so far as I can tell at least looks a bit more functional.. ?


September 19, 2013, 3:36 am

At last, a fair iPhone/iOS vs. others/Android review from TR. Reading that 5S vs. S4 piece pictured the 5S and iOS 7 as the 2nd coming of Christ.

iOS 7 is a very good upgrade, but it (along with the 5S) will not convince people (like me) that have switched to high-end Android-based phones, to switch back to the iPhone.

Maybe if iOS 7 had killer features, instead of mostly playing catch up, but as your review pointed out, I just do not see them, and iOS is still as closed/restrictive as ever.

Once you have tasted the freedom and flexibility offered by Android, it is hard to go back.


September 19, 2013, 3:31 pm

Can you perhaps list a few examples of what this freedom and flexibility gives you in practice? I'm curious.

I'm about to start using a Nexus 7 (second gen.) tablet and I have been using an iPad 2 for two years. Will be an interesting experience to see how locked in I've been… ;)

funny bunny

September 19, 2013, 11:07 pm

Let me tell you wat's new and so cool about this update. So my friend updated his iPhone 5 to i0S7• He goes like ''dude no iPhone user will ever switch to any other phone now.i0S7 is so cool'' n I'm like ''Really, so what's the coolest feature?" He tilts the phone & the icons move a little and he goes like see? I'm like "see what?" and he goes ''the wallpaper". I couldn't hold my laugh. Like "Seriously"!!! So this is the point where Apple has brought is users to while trying to maintain their so called standard n premium look. Lol.


September 20, 2013, 1:00 pm

I think this debate between iOS and Android will never stop but it comes down to personal preference. I have been using both platforms for the last 4 years. At the end of the day, ios is very much functional and stable with virtually no crashes. Android is more playful and crashes quite often ( I have the S3 and Note 1). It is just like choosing between a flashy car with bells and whistles and a high end sedan that might be having less of the new technologies but is good at doing what it is supposed to do well. That is how i see the iOS and as long as it is stable and has the programs that i need i will have a soft spot for it.
By the way I find iOS 7 refreshing, and it gives a new life to my iphone 5.

Larry E

September 22, 2013, 8:17 pm

Most important for me, especially on the tablets, is you don't have to put up with that crappy iOS keyboard anymore. The Swype and SwifyKey apps are great keyboards, but the Dragon Voice dictation on Swype is spot on and makes it REALLY easy to dictate long emails or 2-3 sentence texts.


September 23, 2013, 8:02 pm

Alright. I think Apple might open up a little more when it comes to keyboards in the future. We'll see.

Anyway, dictation is built-in for text input in iOS too. And you can also download Dragon Dictation if you wish. But you mean it witks well in conjunction with the custom keyboards avaliable for Android?

Larry E

September 23, 2013, 9:53 pm

Yeah, I've tried iOS voice input and Dragon's separate tool, but the experience was so horrible, it made me want to type less on the iPad and head over to my PC when I needed to send an email over 1 paragraph.

The Dragon dictation is built into the Swype keyboard. The voice input on SwiftKey is pretty good, but if you do a lot of typing, I'd suggest going with Swype.

Both keyboard creators have been begging Apple to let them port to iOS to no avail. Maybe soon, we'll be able to welcome iOS to 2009.


September 24, 2013, 7:48 pm

Keyboards would be a great example, but also the ability change pretty much any app as the 'default' app. You don't like the default browser? Any action requiring a browser be used can be switched to FF, chrome or dolphin easily.
Same goes for music, you can use any player (and even use a file explorer if you want) to open up automatically when an action requiring one is launched. This gives you much more flexibility as to which format you can eventually read too by default (e.g. FLAC)

Launchers would be another great android features. Nova and Apex are the two biggest ones and they let you customize pretty much anything in the interface (default actions for adding apps, opening them, the way your folders look, how they display information, etc.)
Lastly, I would say widgets are a great feature, especially on tablets where screen estate is not so much of an issue. They show instant information about anything you want without having to actually open the app. It could be weather, email, magazines, etc.

When I open up someone else's phone and I start using it, you really realize how I've personally tweaked so many things in android and that I have really formed habits around these customizations. They fit best what I do with my phone, not what someone else thinks I should be doing it.


October 27, 2013, 12:30 am

I have an android and love all the customizations but I hate the UI. Ilove the design of ios7 30x more than android. Its more simple and enjoyable yhan the cluttered and random ui of android

Peter Williamson

November 25, 2013, 1:24 pm

al those things you mention can be done on almost any modern phone.
Some do some things better than others.
I have Windows Phone and am very happy with it. I have found an App for every use I want(so far).
Droid and Windows phones can do anything the iPhone does, many of them for much cheaper cost and some can do things the iPhone cannot do(NFC, cordless charging)
Go to a shop, have a play, ignore the salesman, chose what YOU want.


January 2, 2014, 3:38 pm

IOS and Android both have there pro's and con's, I love IOS on my 4S because if its design and it's fast enough.


January 26, 2016, 9:59 pm

So, where are we now two years later? :)

I have been using SwiftKey for quite some time on iOS now and like it a lot! The implementation of third party keyboard hasn't been totally worry free on iOS, but now it's working pretty stable I think. I have also had some issues with third party keyboards on Android so…

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