Ease of use hallmark of new iOS 7
WHEN Apple unveiled iOS 6 last year, it was admittedly a little disappointing. Even though Apple said that iOS 6 had over 200 new features, the mobile operating system paled in comparison with its rivals.
With the departure of former iOS chief Scott Forstall and Apple's stocks plunging, there were growing expectations for the company to come up with something dramatic and different this year.
Here's a look at the top features of iOS 7, which Apple unveiled at its Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco on Monday:
Apple's Control Center is similar to the quick settings or toggles that some Android devices have had for some time.
Control Center lets the user quickly access the controls - such as airplane mode, brightness level, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and media controls - and apps.
Users of iOS 7 can swipe up from any screen to access Control Center.
It remains to be seen if users can customise shortcuts and settings.
Previous iterations of iOS have been criticised heavily for the lack of a competent notification system. With iOS 7 and Notification Center, Apple levels the playing field with Google's Android.
Easily accessible from any screen (including the lock screen) via a swipe down, Notification Center collates all your notifications (e-mail, missed calls, to-dos and calendar) into one central location for easy viewing.
First introduced in iOS 4, multitasking has always been limited to certain apps to avoid draining the devices' battery life.
Apple has enabled multitasking for all apps with "great battery life", and is a step ahead of other mobile platforms.
The feature in iOS 7 is "smart" enough to learn and monitor the ways you use your apps. For example, if it detects that you use the Facebook app every morning during your commute to work, it will automatically update the newsfeed before you access it.
It also adapts to network conditions; it will update your apps when it detects a strong connection signal. Moreover, it schedules your updates intelligently at power-efficient times (when connected to Wi-Fi) to conserve battery.
To multitask in iOS 7, simply press the Home button twice to see preview screens of running apps. To quit an app, you just swipe it up and out of "preview". If this seems familiar, it's because something similar was implemented by HTC on its Sense 4 user interface.
The long-rumoured streaming music service from Apple, iTunes Radio, is designed to compete with the likes of Pandora, Spotify and Google Play Music All Access.
iTunes Radio is integrated into the Music app in iOS 7. Users can access Featured Stations inspired by their playlists.
The stations evolve according to your musical tastes and choices. The more you use the service, the more personalised your experience will be.
You can create and build your own playlists by searching for artists, songs or genres. As the world's most popular music store, iTunes has thousands of new songs every week, including exclusive tracks from up-and-coming bands or pre-release albums.
iTunes Radio is free, being ad-supported. The advertisements are removed if you are an iTunes Match subscriber.
The service works on the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV and computer.
For now, iTunes Radio is available only in the United States.
When scrolling through archives of photos, are you frustrated when you don't have any memories of where and when they were taken?
Fret not, Photos in iOS 7 aims to make it easier for you to organise your photos via Collections, Moments and Years.
A Collection contains photos that are organised into Moments - according to dates and locations. Year compiles all the shots and Collections taken in a particular year.
Sharing is a key function in Photos, where you can Airdrop (more on this in the next section), upload to iCloud, tweet or put the photos up on your Facebook page.
We know Android devices can transfer data via near-field communication (NFC), but Apple takes it a step further on iOS 7 with AirDrop.
Using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, AirDrop lets you share photos, videos, contacts and more, from any app.
Compared with NFC, AirDrop does not require you to "wander around, bumping your phone" to transfer data. Transfers are encrypted and secure.
The Camera app has been given a facelift. All shooting modes - still, video, panorama and square - are now easily accessible at the bottom of the screen. To switch between modes, you only need to swipe.
Filters have been added to still and square photos. You can preview the effect of each filter before taking a photo. You can remove a filter effect even after it has been applied.
Filters in Camera are available on iPhone 5 and iPod touch (fifth generation). Filters in Photos are available on iPhone 4 or later, iPad (third gen or later), iPad mini, and iPod touch (fifth gen).
Apple's default Web browser, Safari, received several refinements, such as a unified smart-search field, a new tab view, shared links and reading list.
The unified smart-search field not only hides itself to let you see more content on the display, but it also allows you to type a Web address or search term and let Safari suggest the closest match.
With the new tab view, you can see your open Web pages as tabs, which you can scroll through easily.
Apple's personal voice assistant, Siri, takes on a modern look, complete with new sounds and enhanced capabilities.
It can now carry out more tasks, like increasing the screen brightness, turning on Bluetooth and playing voicemail.
It has been integrated with more services, like Bing's Web search results, Twitter and Wikipedia.
The Messages interface has been given a major revamp, with a blue-and-white interface that is a departure from the green chat bubbles in iOS 6.
It utilises a swipe-right gesture to go from individual messages to an overview of messages, similar to what BlackBerry implemented in its BlackBerry 10 Hub.
Activation Lock is essentially designed to deter thefts of iOS devices. New features include the need to have an Apple ID and password to access and turn off Find My iPhone or to wipe a device.
Even if the device has been wiped totally, the Apple ID and password are required to reactivate the device.
iOS 7 is now available as a beta on the iPhone for developers. iPad support will be coming at a later date. It will be available to consumers this autumn, and the following iOS devices are eligible for upgrade: iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 and later, iPad mini, iPod touch (fifth gen).
This analysis appeared on technology-news website HardwareZone.com yesterday.