7 ways iOS 7 shows us how Apple is changing

June 18, 2013

Anyone but Google

Apple has been efficiently removing any traces of Google from iOS over the last year. The introduction of iOS 6 saw the arrival of Apple's ill-advised Maps client instead of Google Maps, while YouTube was also moved off the home screen.

iOS 7 is an extension of that with the company revealing during its WWDC keynote that Google will no longer be the Internet search engine to power Siri, its voice assistant.

That honor will instead go to Microsoft's Bing, which will be used for all Internet searches requested by the iOS personal assistant.

It's not all doom and gloom for Google fans however, who will still be able to tell Siri to "search Google" if they really can't stand Bing. The updated version of Safari in iOS 7 offers a feature called "unified smart search field," which uses Google Search for automatic search terms and URL suggestions.

Retooled App Store helps kids, but is also a competitive response 

Children have been using their parents' iPhones and iPads for some time now, and this has become a market opportunity for both Apple and developers.

iPads and even iPod Touches have been found in various schools, colleges and universities while a glance at the "New and Noteworthy" shows that developers are constantly targeting parents and teachers.

This child focus got even bigger with iOS 7 with Apple announcing a new sub-section of the App Store for children.

"Now parents and teachers can quickly find apps that are perfect for children," said Apple's Eddy Cue. "Just visit the new Kids section for a curated selection of age-appropriate apps".

A cynic could well argue that this is less about opening up the iPad and other iDevices to children — after all, there remains the risk of hefty in-app purchases and there is no cast off section for children as Kids Corner offers in Windows Phone 8 — but rather about competition.

So it could be said that this move is Apple's response to Google, which recently opened up Google Play for educational apps.

China is a huge market

It took Apple some time to get both products and retail stores up and running in China but the iOS 7 announcement should indicate that the country is of the highest importance to those in Cupertino.

New additions see the inclusion of a Chinese/English bilingual dictionary, support for numerous Chinese characters and support for popular microblogging site Tencent Weibo.

This follows the company's move to integrate rival social network Sina Weibo on iOS 6.0. Both have huge fan bases, boasting over 500 million users each.

[For some context, Twitter and Facebook integration came to iOS on versions 5.0 and 6.0, respectively.]

Consider this, China's rapidly expanding economy and, in turn, greater cashflow for electronic goods, and it's little surprise that Apple is making all the right moves with China.

Apple is more exclusive than ever before

Tim Cook is continuing where Steve Jobs left off on keeping Apple as some kind of exclusive club where loyalty is rewarded.

That extends to devices. Apple has typically partnered with carriers to ensure that data contracts were more attractive on newer models than on older versions, and it seems that the desire to have users on only the newest products remains.

Apple revealed that the original iPad and iPhone 3GS won't support iOS 7, while even the relatively-recent iPad 2 finds itself with just two of the OS's features.

Given this, and the stat from Tim Cook that 93% of iOS devices run iOS 6, and you can see that Apple has little time or care for the older devices being left behind.

(Also read WWDC: Apple shows off sexy iOS 7, moves iWork to the cloud and Apple CEO Tim Cook rips Android fragmentation)                      

iWork punches a hole in the walled garden

Apple is famed for its "walled garden" approach but it appears that the company has relaxed that just a little with iOS 7.

Take iWork, for example, a productivity suite which has badly needed an update for some time both on Mac and iPad.

After pretty much three years of little change, iWork — which has been improved slightly over the months to play nicer with MS Office — can now be used in any browser, be that Safari, Google Chrome or even Internet Explorer.

You'll be able to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations in the browser with iWork for iCloud, which also supports Microsoft Office documents.

This is hardly Apple taking the open ecosystem approach that Google employs, but is a concession of sorts that Apple recognizes its users are not always on iDevice products.

The Jobs era is coming to a close

When the late Steve Jobs stepped down and Tim Cook took over, he was seen by many as a steady pair of hands that would continue Jobs' fine work, albeit with more incremental innovation.

That much is true, but Cook's influence should no longer be as understated. The Apple of 2013 is after all a slightly different beast under the guidance of Cook and uber-designer Jonny Ive too.

This was on full show at the iOS 7 unveiling. Jobs loved his skeuomorphism — a way of making icons appear real — and typography, but these have been cast aside in favor of translucence displays and a new sans-serif font.

Ive has reportedly also brought back some older ideas that never saw the light of day when the now-departed Scott Forstall controlled software.

How innovative is Apple?

Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller brushed off claims of the firm lacking innovation nowadays — his exact comments were "can't innovate anymore my ass" — but the question is likely to stick around in light of the new changes.

Just take a look at the latest goods. iTunes Radio, Apple's streaming service, looks more than a little like Pandora, while email and multi-tasking borrows in part from Mailbox and Palm's webOS, respectively.

iCloud Keychain is a distant cousin of 1Password and there are elements of iOS 7 that look similar to Windows Phone 8.

Of course, this isn't overly new — conspiracy theorists will tell you that the iPad also borrows heavily in design — but perhaps we shouldn't kid ourselves that Apple, however beautiful the products, is significantly ahead of its rivals for product design.


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