Apple officially announced the next version of their mobile device operating system at the Worldwide Developer Conference on June 10th. The rumors of a redesigned interface proved to be true, as iOS 7 showed off a completely reskinned interface that features a more muted color scheme with “flattened” elements, a marked departure from the infamous “lickable” buttons and widgets of previous iterations. The new look was also backed by many updates to interface mechanics, expanded multitasking, redesigns of some of the built-in apps, and the launch of Apple’s own streaming music service, a direct competitor of similar services like Spotify, Pandora, and Google’s Music All Access.
What this means for you:
If you have an iPhone 4 or iPad 2 or newer, then the OS update will be automatically pushed out to you when it is released this Fall. Aside from the new look, iPhone users will enjoy the new “control center” function – a slide-up widget that allows you to access commonly used iPhone settings like toggles for Wifi, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode. The expanded multi-tasking capabilities will now grant the ability to all apps to work in the background (iOS 6 restricted this capability to a handful Apple apps only) without significant drains on the battery, so content-based apps can grab content as it becomes available (push-based) versus when requested by the user (pull-based).
If you are an Android user, you may be scratching your head and wondering why it’s taken Apple so long to bring features like the above to the iPhone. To be fair, Apple has been focusing their energy on a foolproof OS, which sometimes means making compromises on capabilities, but with an eroding marketshare and Samsung hot on their heels, the gloves have come off in the smartphone wars. For a full list of features, you can visit Apple’s iOS 7 website.
If Forbes is writing about it, then it must be entering the mainstream, right? According to their calculations, the latest jailbreak for the iPhone’s iOS 6 has been installed over 7 million times since its release last week, which is roughly equivalent to about 2% of the overall iPhone population, and that number is likely to grow over time to 10% according to Jay Freeman, the administrator of the “unofficial” jailbroken iPhone app store, Cydia.
“Jailbreaking” (similar to “rooting” in the Android world) is basically a process that removes the restriction of installing apps from a third-party app store not controlled by Apple. Apps found at Cydia commonly enable iPhones to do things that normally wouldn’t be possible under Apple’s strict programming and content guidelines, such as (before iOS 6) multitasking or something as simple as setting Google’s Map app as the default mapping application when you click on addresses on your iPhone.
What this means for you:
The explosion in popularity of smartphones and tablets has infused cultures everywhere with elements of hacking and tinkering as people become more comfortable with customizing the phone rather than just using “as directed”, right up to the point where they hit the limitations of the device, and in the case of the iPhone, the (sometimes arbitrary) limits set by Apple. Over the years, jailbreaking, once considered arcane and only for the most foolhardy hacker, has now become something simple enough that you could walk your grandmother through the process.
Let’s be real – jailbreaking your grandmother’s iPad is probably not necessary, but if she could do it, then surely you can do it. And if it means being able to finally get rid of Apple’s miserable Maps application and return to trusty Google Maps once and for all, jailbreaking starts to look a lot more inviting. In the end, jailbreaking is about deciding whether Apple’s vision for how you should use your phone or tablet meets your needs (which it does for the majority of Apple customers) or whether you are really ready to “think different.”