At WWDC yesterday, Apple announced their new operating systems for Macs and iPhones (and iPads, although we didn’t actually see any demos of how the new iOS would look or work on the iPad).
The new OS X 10.9 for Macs (known as Mavericks; Apple was running out of cat names and is switching to inspirational California locations for future version titles) has some great features and fixes. Multiple screen support for full screen apps will make life a lot better on my work computer, and I was happy to see them finally bring iBooks to the Mac as well. Their new Maps app for OS X also looks interesting now that Apple has fixed up a lot of their mapping issues, and the way you can send a map you’re working with on your Mac directly to your iPhone is pretty handy. It also has a lot of changes under the hood that should increase battery life quite a bit, great for people using MacBooks. iWork for iCloud is also going to be a game changer, as one will soon be able to read and edit Pages, Numbers, and Keynote documents right in a web browser, even on a Windows PC (and they also promised the long-awaited iWork for Mac update is coming too, which is good news).
The biggest news of the day, however, was the demonstration of their brand new iOS 7. This is a whole new iOS, laying the groundwork for how Apple’s Post-PC devices will work for the next half decade or more, but still familiar enough that those who have used an iPhone or iPad shouldn’t have any difficulty figuring out how to use it. Aside from some odd icon design choices, which will take some getting used to, iOS 7 is actually quite gorgeous. The stock icons are now flat rather than looking like buttons, but the operating system actually has more of a three dimensional feel than ever before thanks to its system of layers. In fact when you hold your iPhone at different angles you’ll be able to see the wallpaper underneath the icons using a pretty cool parallax effect (I can’t do it justice here, you have to see it for yourself).
It’s not all about the new look and feel though. Jony Ive has shown his talent by making the form fit the function. The new Control Center, for instance, is a translucent layer that you can swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone screen, giving you quick access to a number of important functions such as Airplane Mode, Do Not Disturb Mode, as well as making it easy to turn wifi and Bluetooth off and on. Android already had this function built into its Notification pull-down menu, but keeping this in a separate (yet just as easy to access) menu gives Apple’s Notification Center more space to read updates without having to scroll while also making one less likely to accidentally turn on Airplane Mode.
Another neat feature was the addition of OS X’s AirDrop to iOS. It will only work on iOS devices that became available in late 2012 or onward (so only iPhone 5 and future iPhones), but it’s still a nice answer to NFC file sharing. It means that you can send a file to any other iPhone user in the area (presuming they’re on a new enough device of course) using wifi rather than having to tap your phone against another phone to share a file the way you do with newer Android phones, and you can share with more than one person at the exact same time as well.
There were a lot of other new features, such as updates to Safari and Siri, improved multitasking (including automatics updates of apps in the background), and the new iTunes Radio that I won’t be able to use until they can get the rights to bring it to Canada, but the most important new feature for a Post-PC life was barely mentioned: FaceTime Audio. This means that anyone else with an iOS device can now make voice calls with each other through wifi, and if your device/plan allows FaceTime over the cellular network then you’ll be able to make voice calls with other iOS users over 3G and LTE data as well. This is very exciting news as almost all of my friends and family are now on iOS devices, and more are switching every day, so making calls to my friends and family who don’t live in Toronto will require dealing with regular long distance calls far less often (and those of you who haven’t switched yet, the new iPhone will probably be launched in the fall. ).
Overall, aside from some of the odd looking icons (which I’m sure will improve over time), iOS 7 looks like it will be an amazing new operating system for Post-PC living, and the 3 to 6 month wait (it’s supposed to come out at some point in the fall as well) is going to be difficult now that I know what’s coming. Until then though, iOS 6 is still a great operating system in and of itself, so I can’t really complain.