Customize Your iOS 7 Experience

Are you due for a change or should you skip this update?

By Kevin RR Williams

TECHNOLOGY "Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes," sang Bowie. Do you enjoy change just for the sake of change? A woman might paint her nails a different color each week; this provides a new color scheme with which to mix and match. Many people are apprehensive about technological changes though; to them it suggests a new learning curve and an uncomfortable vulnerability. (Why can't we go back to landline phones with answering machines?) Change — I don't even like to carry any in my pocket, except for when handing it to a cashier to minimize the coins received in return. Now Apple has released the "biggest iOS change since the original iPhone." Like it or not, it's here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Do I Need to Upgrade?

Apple pioneered the notion of operating system updates when it entered the mobile phone business back in 2006 and began treating phones like computers rather than throw-away devices. Generally, iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices receive at least three years of iOS updates. Prior to this business model, if a phone didn't have a particular feature, we simply had to buy a new phone or wait until our phone carrier offered us a free one after two years. Now we have become a bit spoiled by iOS updates. We might expect backwards compatibility with devices over four years old.

With each new operating system upgrade, it seems Apple boasts hundreds of features, while prominently demonstrating less than a dozen. Subtle, evolutionary iOS changes were greeted with open arms by most users because the interface essentially looked unchanged. The radical changes apparent in iOS 7 have slowed adoption rate. In fact, a vocal minority has started an online petition. Of course when you purchase new Apple mobile hardware, you can't avoid the new interface. But if you are sporting an iPhone 5 or earlier, or iPad less than 5th generation, the iOS 7 upgrade may have provided reason for pause. Loyalty aside, users wonder what features are really needed and how to disable behaviors they don't actually want.

Here's a reality check. Are you currently able to make and receive phone calls? If you have a smartphone, are you able to take decent photos and access the Web when required? The new iOS features are not required to accomplish these basic tasks. Over time, as software developers include features that require code within iOS 7, some of these apps will cease to function. In the interim, most apps will work with iOS 6 and 7.

What to Expect

In the transition, as developers are getting used to coding for the iOS and 64-bit architecture, expect an increased number of random non-catastrophic crashes (app quits). Usually, you can just tap the icon and pick up where you left off.

Everyone who is capable of upgrading to iOS 7 will immediately see a difference even if they just keep using their device for the same tasks. The interface has been sterilized of simulated leather, felt and shiny glass. This is probably most apparent in the Calendar. New features are depreciated depending upon the model. On an iPhone 4, iOS 7 might bog down the slower processor — if you have enough space to install the update; on par with the iPad 2, neither has Siri to begin with. The iOS update for this antiquated hardware lacks Panorama, Camera filters, and AirDrop, but you didn't have them in the first place, so will you really miss them?

iOS 7 Compatibility Chart
Device Features iPod Touch (5th Gen) iPhone 4 iPhone 4S iPhone 5 iPad 2 iPad with Retina Display iPad Mini
Control Center
Panorama - - - -
Filters in Camera - - - -
Filters in Photos
Square, video formats, swipe to capture
Multi-tasking
Notification Center
AirDrop - - - iPad (4th Gen) only
iTunes Radio
(Available in U.S only)

Though the iPhone 5 production is being discontinued, some carriers may still be offering an iPhone 4s for free with contract. This gains compatibility with nearly everything except AirDrop. If you're holding an iPhone 5 or 5th generation iPod Touch, you can experience all the major iOS 7 features unencumbered. Some features are only available with new hardware purchases. These include the free iWork apps, faster processor, and Touch ID.

Flicking My Thumb Up at Biometrics

Customize Your iOS 7 Experience

Through a succession of distinct finger presses, Touch ID captures a print for fast logins. This comes in handy when paired as a Bluetooth automobile device. Keep the home button clean; collection of grime or debris can interfere with fingerprint recognition. A firm consistent press both unlocks and launches Siri, ready for voice-activated dialing, transcribing and checking email, text messages or tweets, setting reminders, verifying calendar activities and more. Other Siri-enabled versions of the iPhone require disabling the passcode to do the same or use of third-party hardware to access Siri via Bluetooth.

It's possible to store up to five Touch ID fingerprints. Experts say no two fingerprints are alike, even on opposing hands of the same person. The book, Human Cloning Science, Ethics and Public Policy states, "The fingerprints on a person's left hand are not identical to the fingerprints on the right hand, nor are the fingerprints of identical twins identical." However, after registering my right thumbprint, I discovered that my left is also capable unlocking my iPhone. Is this an Apple glitch or are my right and left thumbprints identical? The chance of this occurring is nearly 1:80 billion.

How to Make iOS 7 Less Annoying

    Customize Your iOS 7 Experience
  1. Improve Legibility: The Retina display renders crisp text, but honestly, on such a small screen, it doesn't help legibility much if your eyes cannot discern 4-point text — especially with the default thin fonts. Though the screen has been taller since the iPhone 5, it's the same width as prior versions when displaying Web pages and other content. This can provide a slight advantage when pages fit to width in landscape mode. Fortunately, Apple has included some options to improve legibility. Go to Settings > General > Text Size. Move the slider further to the right. Then go to Settings > Accessibility > Bold Text. Enabling requires restarting. Bold text will appear within apps that support it. On Web pages, click Reader (the four parallel lines preceding the unified search and address bar). This presents black text on white background with the default system font for optimum legibility.
  2. Limit Control Center: This swipe-up screen provides instant access to common settings without hunting through Settings. However, the sliding finger keyboard trick that temporarily switches between numeric and alphabetic keyboards, can pull up Control Center. If this is too annoying, Control Center can be set to work only on the home screen. Go to Settings > Control Center > Access Within Apps. Disable.
  3. Tame Notification Center: This swipe-down screen displays current calendar with upcoming events and recent alerts or notifications. Since Apple has opened up access to third parties, you could receive quite a few notifications. It's also possible to see them in the locked screen. You might not require the same type of notifications on your computer, iPad and iPhone if they are frequently in proximity to one another. If this is too much information, you can disable or customize "Today View" and "Notifications View." For example, you may wish to limit audible alerts to your iPhone and visual alerts to your iPad. Go to Settings > Notification Center. Toggle "Notifications View" or "Today View" with a tap to disable. Alternatively, to remove items from Today View, tap to toggle various notifications below. At the bottom of the screen are all the apps with access to Notifications Center. Tap each one to refine alert options.
  4. Keep Your Location Private: New mobile devices and cameras include GPS. This improves the accuracy of maps and allows images to be embedded with the location in which they were taken. This might be useful if you are on vacation snapping many photos and later need to determine where they were taken. However, strangers don't need to know the location where photos of your children were taken or kitchen food shots that are uploaded to a blog. By default, apps alert you when they wish to access your current location the first time they are used. Following a new iOS upgrade the nuisance alerts might be quickly accepted. You can review which apps have access to private information. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. Tap to toggle it off or on for all apps. Some apps might not operate if disabled. For more control, beneath this option is a list of all apps that access private data. Disable access for Camera to prevent identifying meta data from being included in subsequent photos.
  5. Automatic Software Update: An annoyance from prior iOS versions is the badge alert over the App Store icon. As developers fine tune the iOS 7 experience, it seems some are releasing updates on a weekly basis. Visiting the store, reading what changed, entering your password to update has become a chore in itself. Now it's possible to automate the process. Have apps update in the background. Go to Settings > iTunes & App Store > Automatic Downloads. Toggle "Apps" and "Updates" to on. You can also enable automatic Music or Books downloads. A summary of updated apps is then presented in the Notifications tab, allowing you to visit the App Store at your leisure to read about the new features.
  6. Minimize Keyboard Errors: On Siri enabled devices, you can tap inside a text entry field, press the microphone on the keyboard next to the spacebar and dictate text. For better formatting, you can even voice punctuation like "comma," "open paren," "closed paren," and "period." However, ambient noises can interfere, causing transcription errors so typing can't be eliminated entirely. When tapping on the keyboard, are there phrases you frequently use? They can be stored with abbreviated shortcuts. For example, "omw" can spell out "On my way." Save as many as you need to make composing messages easier. Settings > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts.
  7. Extend Battery Life: Faster data speeds can drain your battery more quickly. A genuine Mophie Juice case can double battery capacity, if it's worth $100+ to you. Another solution to gain a bit more life out of your battery is to disable the fastest data speed. Go to Settings > Cellular > Enable LTE. Disable to limit data to 3G speeds (though some carriers will label this 4G in the upper left corner of the display). Turn it on only when needed.
  8. Find My iPhone: Having the best mobile phone in the world does you no good if you can't find it. One the first things to do is download Find My iPhone from the App Store. Register your phone for those occasions when you're wondering whether you left it in the car, at work or it fell between the seat cushions in your living room. If your iPhone is lost or stolen you can remotely have it display a high-pitched pinging sound, display a message, disable functionality, or perform a complete data wipe ("bricking" it) from iCloud.com.

How to Teach Siri to Pronounce Names

Siri is out of beta, which refers to a pre-release test version. The latest mobile operating system includes the first official version. It and has artificial intelligence (AI). So she (or he, depending upon your iOS 7 voice preference) is supposed to know when you wish to phone a spouse, parent or child. This requires you to select the appropriate "relationship" on the contact card in the Address Book. Just say, "Phone my wife" or "Send a message to my daughter." When you have more than one of either, you'll need to edit the relationship field to read something like "1st wife" or "redhead." What about nicknames? Suppose you call someone "Jackie" when their actual name is "Jacqueline." Perhaps the name uses foreign language pronunciation. For example, in the name, "Carrillo," the double-L is pronounced like a "y."

By using a combination of phonetic spelling and a new training feature, you can teach Siri how to pronounce unusual or alternate names. For "Jacqueline Carrillo," edit the card to include "Jackie" in the phonetic first name field. You can also spell "Carreeyo" with a "y" in the phonetic last name but this rendering is depreciated in the current version of Siri. Press the home button to activate Siri and say, "That's not how you pronounce, "Jac-que-line Car-ri-l-lo." Siri will prompt you to say the first name and select from four choices. Speak, "Jac-kee." Then Siri will prompt you to say the last name and select from four choices. Speak, "Car-ree-yo." If none of the options are pronounced correctly, ask Siri to try "again." In some cases, when Siri cannot interpret a command, it may ask you to teach it how to pronounce the word.

How to Add Photo Albums

There are potentially hundreds of ways to organize photos. This is apparent with each iPhoto upgrade. A user might prefer to organize images by date, location, people, or custom albums. It seems that whenever Apple developers decide upon a new way of organizing their photos, the method is introduced to everyone else as the best. Chronology may not be as important to you as a custom category. Regardless, in iOS 7, Apple has decided that viewing pictures by date is the new "black." You can create albums on the mobile device and sync to iCloud. To import albums from your desktop computer, use iTunes to prevent duplicates. Plug the device into the registered computer; click the device menu; press the Photo tab, and click the checkbox for the desired album before pressing "Apply."

Which Model Should I Buy?

If you already have an iPhone 5 or recent iPad, you likely don't need to replace your device. The first-generation iPhone as well as the first- and second-generation iPads had lousy camera resolution. High-resolution photos are enormous though. Add to that the new Burst Mode and video with larger images in apps required to support Retina Displays and an iPhone with just 8 Gigabytes of storage is quickly retired. If you want to run iOS 7, particularly on a newer device, 16 GB is the new minimum, though 32 GB or more provides room for larger photo albums, more music and several videos.

Take a look at your current capacity. Settings > General > About > Available. If you have less than about 3 GB available or are close to reaching capacity, iOS 7 may need to be accompanied by a new device. For example, if you have a 32 GB mobile device with 5 GB available under iOS 6, you will soon be deleting apps and photos to manage space. Perhaps it's time for 64 GB.

  • Colorful iPhone 5c: In terms of features, it is essentially the same as the original iPhone 5 but with a plastic body. If you like color and perhaps don't usually use a case, this is the low-price option in 16 and 32 GB configurations. Some carriers have slashed the price of the 16 GB model to $50 on contract.
  • Forward Thinking iPhone 5s: It has a faster A7 processor, M7 motion coprocessor, 64-bit architecture, better camera, and Touch ID. Capacities range from 16 to 64 GB. Will you "feel" the difference in speed? Probably not for most tasks. However, if you require more than 32 GB, the iPhone 5s is your only option. Both my iPhone and iPad have 64 GB storage.
  • Free iPhone 4S on contract? It is speculated that the 4s will be retained for developing countries where even an up-front fee of $50 presents a barrier to adoption. This model, though still quite capable, is over four generations behind. Years ago, Apple stressed the difficulty of developing new technology with backwards compatibility. At that time, it was announced that Apple would limit testing to about three generations. Occasionally, older devices benefit from updates too. But generally, features are depreciated and performance is sluggish. The iPhone 4s may have another year or so worth of life. Already, it is a vestige of a smaller screen size. If Apple introduces a phablet in 2014, some developers may discontinue support for iPhone 4s. My rule of thumb is to only upgrade gadgets when needed and purchase the latest and greatest (within reason) to enjoy at least three years of future updates.

Ready For the Upgrade

You cannot go back to iOS 6.

If you currently have an iOS device but are thinking about getting new hardware, perhaps you should first apply the new iOS 7 software update and give yourself a couple of weeks to get used to it. Be forewarned that this update is one-directioinal. You cannot downgrade to iOS 6, so your test drive must have a certain destination. Plug your device into some constant power so as not to drain the battery. Settings > Software Update > Download and Install.

If you decide to replace your hardware, have an iPad and wish to purchase an iPhone or visa versa, use the same user name and password during setup. This gives you access to previously purchased apps. Your mail, contacts, and bookmarks will also be synchronized. If you already have an iOS device and are using the free 5GB of backup iCloud storage, don't expect to receive an additional 5GB. The free allotment is not issued per device, but one per Apple ID/user. You will need to pay for more storage.

At the October 22, 2013 Media Event, Apple announced thinner iPads that, of course come with iOS 7 preinstalled. They have Retina displays and have been upgraded to the same A7 processors as the recently released iPhone 5s in capacities up to 128 GB. Interestingly, the 16 GB entry-level iPad 2 is still being sold. Are you due for a new hardware upgrade? The new iPads will begin shipping in November, 2013. If history excites you or you're interested in a more comprehensive look at the iOS evolution, see The Verge article entitled, iOS: A visual history. So now, what have you decided? Have you already upgraded your iOS/hardware or do you plan to do so?

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