It was a big day in the realm of tech Monday. While the gaming industry converges in Los Angeles this week for E3, further north at the WWDC keynote event, Apple unveiled a parade of updates across their whole stable of hardware and software offerings. Announcements include: iOS 7's major features and graphical overhaul, the moniker rebooted "Mavericks" OS X 10.9, and the long awaited and surprisingly redesigned, Mac Pro, with much, much more...
Arguably the most highly anticipated news from WWDC was the announcement of iOS 7, with rumors of a freshly flattened and simplified graphical interface proven true. The new iOS 7 is characterized by a flattened iconographic language partnered with slimmer-modern typography, brighter colors, parallax transparency, and the removal of previous accents of skeuomorphism (e.g. leather address book). The redesign adds up to what Apple's Tim Cook called, "the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of the iPhone" and we don't disagree.
"Harmony", "hierarchy", "simplicity", "beauty", and "clarity" are all cited by Apple's architect of design, Jonathan Ive, as motivation for the modernization of Apple's mobile operating system. It's hard not to see a little bit of Google Now and Windows Phone here, but it's ultimately a wholly Apple experience still "instantly familiar" and comfortable for anyone using the current OS, perhaps the most colorful Apple announcement since the original Apple iMacs.
Beyond the graphical overhaul, iOS 7 offers a bevy of upgraded features, all which will be available this Fall:
Multitasking: Press the home button twice and all open apps are listed in full preview in a cards-style presentation which should be recognizable to anyone who has used a current Android device. Swipe up to remove any open app, tap to return to use in full mode. iOS 7 is also coded to learn from user behaviors, with regularly frequented apps (think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) continually updated in the background, even before the app is launched. App updates are made more intelligently, happening only when the device is on and connected to a Wi-Fi network to conserve battery life.
Notification Center: The new Notification Center is now accessible from the lock screen, with a notification tray presenting a "today", "all", "missed" view of all incoming notifications from the phone, calendar, mail, and photos feeds.
Control Center: Swipe up from the bottom of any screen and users will now have access to activate/deactivate common controls like Airplane mode, Wi-Fi, brightness, music controls, Airplay connectivity, camera launching, and a new built-in flashlight feature.
Camera: Noting the iPhone is the most popular digital camera used today, Apple took special care in updating the built-in camera with an obvious nod to the vibrant Instagram community. Square photos and live photo filters are now baked into the Camera app, with all applied filters removable at any time. Photos are presented in a Flickr-ish layout, divided by date, location, activity, or by stream.
Unlock Screen: Slide to unlock is now operated upward, instead of across.
Siri: Siri has a new male voice to choose from to accompany a redesigned interface with a sound wave graphic in listening mode. Siri's response time is quicker at answering queries, utilizing the services of sites like Bing, Wikipedia, and Twitter for information, while tasks such as returning calls, playing voicemail, turning off Bluetooth, and controlling iTunes Radio can be activated by Siri's voice command controls.
App Store: imagine you're visiting New York City and near the Museum of Modern Art. With a geographically aware update, the iOS 7 App Store's "Apps Near Me" is now smart enough to offer the MOMA app, alongside other nearby relevant offerings using geographic coordinates. Also, making life a little easier, apps are now automatically updated.
Weather: looks suspiciously similar to the recent excellent Yahoo! Weather app, with animated rain, snow, sunshine, and wind backgrounds.
Mail: If you've ever wanted iOS Mail to look and work more like Google's Gmail, you'll be happy with a cleaned up, modernized UI.
Safari: Apple's mobile browser sees a major overhaul, with a unified smart search field, full screen view, 3D-style open tabs interface, Twitter URL timeline view, and Reading List tab. A new Password Generator produces unique and hard-to-guess combinations for safer account settings, in addition to under-the-hood performance gains.
The Completely Redesigned Mac Pro: Twitter was ablaze this morning about the Mac Pro's new design, a professional model upgrade eagerly anticipated for what seemed like years. The cylindrical design is a wide departure from the previous "aluminum cheese grater" desktop model, now just 1/8th the size. Inside Apple modernist turbine design (or waste basket, as some have nicknamed it), the Pro is powered by next generation Intel Xeon E5 processors with up to 12 core configurations, ECC DDR3 memory running at 1866 MHz, and a super fast PCIe flash storage. Six Thunderbolt 2 ports ensures all the peripherals you need have a place to connect, while graphics duties are powered up by dual AMD FirePro GPUs capable of supporting an insane three 4K resolution displays.
OS X Mavericks: Apple puts the big cat names to rest and starts anew with "Mavericks", a nod to the Northern Cali surf breaks spot. Besides the name and super high resolution Retina display background, OS X Mavericks upgrades Finder features like full-screen capability, CPU management (called "Timer Coalescing"), tagging for better file management, Finder tabs, cross-device synchronization, and independent handling of multiple displays. There's no longer a primary or secondary display, with each screen having it's own menu bar controls, with the Dock accessible from every screen used/connected.
New Apple Airport Extreme and Updated MacBook Airs: While the Mac Pros ditched the angles and went completely cylindrical, the new AirPort Base Station and new AirPort Time Capsules share a striking resemblance to large modernist salt shakers. The AirPort Extreme Base Station is priced at $199 and Time Capsules iterations in 2TB and 3TB are priced at $299 and $399, all three equipped with upgraded 802.11ac Wi-Fi, resulting in up to 40% faster data transmissions than previous models. Inside 6 antennas — three for the 2.4GHz band and three for the 5GHz band — keep signals strong and fast. This one is on our short list of future upgrades.
The new MacBook Airs look the same as previous models on the outside, but see a significant overhaul within, thanks to uber-efficient, fourth-generation Intel Core processors, faster flash storage (45% faster; up to 512GB capacity), and 802.11ac Wi-Fi compatibility to connect to the new Airport Extremes. Battery life is now rated up to 9 hours for the 11" model (starting at $999), up to 12 hours for the 13" version (starting at $1099).
iTunes Radio: And finally, there's Apple's personalized streaming internet radio service, a music player which folds in 200 genre-focused stations and listeners' own music libraries into one experience to fine-tune customized broadcasts. Stations can be built around specific songs you like, similar to Pandora, with adjustments made by tapping "Play More Like This" or "Never Play This Song".
Siri can also be verbally prompted to play a favorite song, switch to a specific genre, or even answer which artist is currently playing. A history and wish list feature keeps tabs on your favorites and those you'd like to purchase later, but individual streaming songs can't be gathered like services like Rdio, making iTunes Radio more about music discovery and iTunes connected convenience than anything revolutionary in the streaming service category.
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