Some of the more flashy features of iOS 7 like iTunes Radio, Multitasking, and Control Center have received a lot of the attention with iOS 7, but Apple has packed a couple of really neat features into AirDrop, Safari, and the redesigned App Store, that promise to completely change the way you use your iPhone.
The iPhone has always been great at capturing moments and consuming content, but when it comes to sharing something with your iPhone-wielding friends nearby, the only options have been to either turn your iPhone over to show the picture or map you’re looking at, or send the file to them through email, iMessage, or social media. Those options have worked just fine in the past, but when someone’s right next to you, all those extra steps feel like a ton of work.
So what can you share with AirDrop? Pretty much anything
AirDrop makes sharing content faster and easier than ever before on iOS by eliminating a lot of the extra steps on both the sending and receiving side of sharing. When you’re out on the town with friends taking pictures of each other, now you can just open your camera roll, select a picture, and choose to AirDrop it over to a friend’s iOS 7 device. And if your buddy doesn’t want any of the crap you’re trying to blast over, they have the option to decline. All the info is encrypted and you can choose to either open your iPhone to sharing with everyone, or contacts only.
So what can you share with AirDrop? Pretty much anything. Photos, video, contacts, map directions, and everything else with a Share button attached. AirDrop uses Bluetooth and Wifi to transfer files, so you won’t be able to send stuff to people three blocks away, but if you’re at a dinner with friends it’s a nice way to broadcast pictures of your Mt. St. Helens hike to everyone’s iPhone at once.
AirDrop is the most useful new way to share content in iOS 7, but it isn’t without its flaws. When you accept a AirDrop file from a friend your iPhone or iPad automatically switches to the appropriate app for the airdropped file. That’s convenient if you’re not doing anything on your iPhone at the time, but it gets annoying when you’re in the middle of sending a text or playing a game. We’d also like to some integration with AirDrop for OS X as well, to make file sharing from iPhone to Mac quicker, but maybe Apple will get to it with iOS 8.
We’ve got some good news and bad news with app discovery in iOS 7: it still kind of sucks, but Apple has made some promising improvements with the App Store redesign in iOS 7. One of the biggest new App Store features for iOS 7 is the addition of the Near Me section that displays popular apps based on your location.
Searching for apps in the App Store is still a pretty bad experience
In theory, if you’re in a new city you should be able to find some specialized apps for that area, and for the most part the feature works pretty well. In sunny Phoenix, the tab pulls up a bunch of local news apps and college themed apps as you get closer to Arizona State University’s campus. It has helped me find some apps I haven’t heard of before, but there’s not as much variety as I’ve hoped for thanks to popular apps like Instagram, Weatherbug, and more frequently taking up spots on the list as well.
Searching for apps in the App Store is still a pretty bad experience. Running a search for an app like “Blur” brings up over 270 results, and your only option is to scroll through each app card to find what you’re looking for. It’d be nice of Apple to add sorting options to App Store searches, but alas, you won’t find them here yet.
Apple is still working on better discovery options to add in the near future, like the new Kids section that will help parents find appropriate games and educational app for children.
Once you have managed to find an app you love, you never have to be bothered with updating it again thanks to the new automatic app updates feature that downloads in the background on iOS 7. It’s pretty nice to never see red badges on the App Store icon, but there can also be some drawbacks to automatic app updates if you cherish some app features that might get scraped in the future.
iOS 7 gives Safari some of its biggest new features in years, and boy has it needed them
iOS 7 gives Safari some of its biggest new features in years, and boy has it needed them. Apple finally eliminated the separate search and address bars at the top of the app in favor of a unified smart search field that lets you type in direct URLs, or search for specific terms. Third-party iOS browsers like Chrome have had unified search bars for quite sometime, so while the feature isn’t very innovative, it’s a very welcomed addition seems how Safari is the only browser Apple allows to use the iPhone’s full hardware.
Private mode has also received a bunch of improvements. Rather than having to go into the app settings to activate Private Mode each time you want it for a few minutes, you can now switch over from the beautiful new tab view that displays all of your open webpages in a neat new scrollable column. Switching between Private and Regular Mode also brings up a prompt asking if you want to close all your current pages, to help you keep your private tabs where you want them.
Apple has also made it easier to find and open links friends have shared on Twitter with the new Shared Links feature. If you’ve added your Twitter account information to iOS, you can access all your friends links through the Shared Links section under the Bookmarks tab. If you want to cut out the inane ramblings of your friends on Twitter to get down to the juicy stuff, Shared Links is a nice new way to save some time on the fast-paced social network.
Check out all our great iOS 7 reviews here.