iOS 7: A 90-second primer

Everything you need to know about Apple's new mobile operating system

(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Apple's new mobile operating system, iOS 7, is now available to download for the iPhone 4 and above and the iPad 2 and above. (Go to: Settings > General > Software Update.)

iOS 7 will make iPhone owners feel like they're "getting a new phone," said Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe. Here's why!

The entire interface was given a pastel-colored facelift, which has designers critically divided. On newer phones, there is something called a "Parallax effect," which makes icons "pop" in three-dimensions over a background photo, if you so desire.

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Functionally, there are two major changes you should know about:

  • Swiping "up" from any screen will call up the Control Center, a translucent dashboard that has toggles for WiFi, volume, screen brightness, and other nifty tools like a flashlight app.
  • Pulling "down" from the top calls up a Notification Center, which has information like Calendar appointments or missed phone calls.

You can also share files (like photos) directly with nearby devices using a feature called AirDrop, which requires WiFi.

The app-switcher (press the Home button twice) is another big improvement, giving users a glanceable snapshot of what your open applications are actually doing, like what song is playing.

Your apps are now defaulted to update automatically in the background. However, keeping this option on all the time will drain your battery.

Good news for folks with stalkers: iOS 7 lets you block calls and texts from specific people.

In terms of default apps, Safari is remarkably smoother, and so is Apple's Camera app, which now has an option to take Instagram-ready square photos. The new Weather app is very pretty, and iTunes now has a Pandora-like option that lets you listen to the radio. And Maps and Siri are a litttttle better — but not by much.

iOS 7 on anything older than the iPhone 4S is a bit slow, which is something you should consider if you're thinking about downloading the update. Let us know what you think about it in the comments.

And if you have another few minutes to spare, check out this video:

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