Tomorrow, millions of current iPhone and iPad owners will be prompted to update iOS with a tap. Friday, millions more new iPhone buyers will start receiving their already updated rainbow pastel plastic iPhones in the mail. In those two days, the world will be introduced to iOS 7. And how it responds is more crucial to Apple’s future than any phone could ever be.

Before the new iPhones were announced last week, we took a look at just how important iOS 7 was to Apple’s future. It’s worth revisiting, below, on the eve of its debut.

Before you download the new software — which will be pushed to iOS users sometime during the day (we got the iOS 6 notification on our devices around lunchtime last year on the East Coast) — there are a few simple things to do ahead of time in case there are bugs. The last thing you’d want is to have your pictures, music and other files wiped along the way.

There’s going to be a lot written about the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C (if that’s what they end up being called) tomorrow, both here and elsewhere. And when they ship, sometime later this month, there will likely be crowds of people mobbing Apple Stores around the world. But unless those people were paying close attention to Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference, they have no idea what they’re buying.

An iPhone’s not just an iPhone, no more than a sandbox is a bunch of lumber nailed together as a square. It’s what’s inside, and how you interact with it, that counts. iPhones are just an iOS delivery system. And iOS 7, which will launch either tomorrow or concurrently with the the new handsets later this month, is the most important package Apple’s sent in a long, long time.


To download iOS 7 worry-free, the first step is to back up your data via iCloud. Apple actually backs up the most important data (if using iOS 5 or later) automatically, but the feature has to be enabled. To set this up, visit Settings > iCloud > Backup & Storage. This will back up your iPhone on a daily basis as long as the device’s screen is locked, on a Wi-Fi network and connected to power.

But before you download iOS, we suggest doing a manual back up. To do so, follow the same steps as above (Settings > iCloud > Backup & Storage) and then click “Back Up Now.”


It will take a bit of time to do a full backup, so just sit tight in the meantime. For those with a ton of data you might not be able to complete the backup — you’ll have to either transfer files (photos, etc.) via an Apple connector to a computer, delete a few apps you haven’t used in awhile, or make room elsewhere.

You’ll probably run into the same issue when trying to update iOS 7 if your device is near storage capacity, so you might want to clean house now.




A Splash of Color

While white is a predominant theme in iOS 7, this is not a monochrome OS. Color accents are almost always visible.



The New Home Screen

For the first time since the original iPhone, the overall look and icon structure of iOS is now new and fresh.

The wallpaper can now be dynamic or static. Dynamic wallpaper is similar to the animated wallpaper in Android, except it doesn’t interact with your finger. The default wallpaper is static.




A Cleaner Inbox

Mail has received a full revamp to both its main view and the compose screen




New Integrated Services

Flickr and Vimeo join Facebook and Twitter as built-in services.




FaceTime Audio

FaceTime can now do audio calls!




It’s like Cover Flow, but vertical!



Searching and Loading a Page

Typing in a URL or string of text offers up real-time suggestions for an address or search query.

The thin bar at the top of the screen indicates page load progress.





The bookmarks section for Safari is texture free but full of color.

The search and URL omnibox makes a glorious return (it was separated with iOS 3 back in 2009).

The whole look of this browser would look equally at home at Mountain View as it does in Cupertino.


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Timer and Settings

The timer is totally new too. This is what one of the standard settings pages looks like.




Alarms and Stopwatch

Check out the 3D effect when picking a time.



Calculator and Clock

The calculator still pays homage to the great HP calculators of the 70s, but with fewer bevels.

As for the clock, gone is that patent-infringing world clock look.




The directions page in Maps has been rebuilt and it looks much more sleek.




Apple Maps has toned down some of its textures but the basic app looks very similar.


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Calendar Inbox

The calendar gets a proper inbox for incoming invitations.





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Notifications pop-up in dark now, not white.




Dialer and Messages

The dialer and the iMessage interface follow the new trends of being bright and with lots fo color.



Switching Apps

Double tapping home brings up full screen previews of various apps. Scroll back and forth and see previews of your apps in real-time.

Some might say this is copying Window Phone, but really, this look was pioneered by Palm with the late, great, webOS.




The compass looks totally new and totally great.




Reminders is now more robust in its appearance. There are different groups of reminders, not just lists.

The new reminder screen also has a refined look. It still has texture, but the lines are less bold.




Notifications and Weather

Pulling down from the top still brings up notifications, only now without linen and with a history.

The weather app is beautiful and animated.



Lock Screen

The Lock screen no longer has anything to slide to unlock, just swipe to the right.

You can choose to make Control Center available at the lock screen or not.




Passbook and News Stand

Both look fresh.




Sharing Or Adding to a Wishlist

A new share button shows off what you can do with an app which includes AirDrop and adding it to a wishlist.


App Store

The App Store structure is still the same but the look is more fresh. In addition to the general charts, users can also check to see what apps are popular in their area.




iTunes and Wish Lists

iTunes and the App Store both have new designs. Additionally, Apple has introduced a new Wish List feature on mobile, making it easy for users to save an app to buy later.




Stocks and Notes

The Stocks app looks totally fresh. Notes also has a new coat of paint. The texture is still there but the yellow lined paper and Marker Felt are a thing of the past.




Houston We Have Filters

Apple also has its own filters built-into iOS 7. Rather than simply applying a filter in post, these filters are actually real-time and you can look through the viewfinder in that filter before taking a shot.




Instagram Friendly

There is a new square mode on the camera, perfect for Instagram. The panorama mode is still here too.




Camera Options

The new camera interface has a number of options built-in. Swiping across the bottom brings up options for the standard camera or the video camera.



Folders and Control Center

Swiping up from the bottom brings up the Control Center. This is an easy way to access your most used settings, including WiFi, audio, brightness and quick access to alarm, a calculator, camera and flashlight.

Meanwhile, photos can now store more items and span pages.

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