iOS 7 on iPhone 4S and iPad 2: life on the edge of Apple’s lifecycle

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iOS 7 on iPhone 4S and iPad 2: life on the edge of Apple's lifecycle

Apple has released iOS 7 as a free upgrade to existing iPhone and iPad users. But how does Apple’s revamped OS work on two of the oldest supported devices: the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2? PC Pro editor Barry Collins is installing iOS 7 on both, and will post updates on his experience of life on the edge of Apple’s lifecycle.

Tuesday, 9:30am – Battery life

I promised I’d give you a more long-term view of battery life after a few days’ testing, so the final update to this blog will be on that very topic. In my experience, upgrading the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 to iOS 7 has made no material impact on battery life.

I’ve seen the usual post-OS-release reports that battery life is taking a hammering, but I think these can largely be put down to people tinkering with a new OS more than they would an old one, and inadvertently using their phone more than they did previously. My iPhone 4S still just about gets through the day, as long as I switch off push email, restrict Spotify sessions to an hour or two, and don’t spend too long playing 3D games.  The iPad is still going four or five days between charges, with around an hour or two of use per day.

One small footnote while we’re talking about batteries: Apple has changed the default sound that chimes when you plug in the charger, which is now much more subtle than it was previously. Consequently, I often find I need to switch the screen on to check the device is charging. It’s the little things, and I’m not sure Apple has paid enough attention to those with iOS 7.

3:55pm – iPhone 4S vs 5c

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An iPhone 5c has arrived in the office. I’m not going to spoil our review, but I will say the iOS 7 experience on the faster hardware of the 5c is less irritating than it is on the 4S. Those little quarter- to half-second pauses as the iPhones 4S makes those animated transitions from one screen to another are much shorter on the new hardware. It doesn’t feel like the OS is getting in the way of what you want to do.

Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be away to switch off those unnecessary zooms and fades in the iOS 7 Settings menu. They appear to be the biggest single complaint about iOS so far, and it rather reminds me of the unrest Microsoft caused with the Aero Glass effects in Windows Vista, but at least Microsoft provided a means of switching those off.

Animations aside, I’m rather ambivalent towards iOS 7. It doesn’t feel like a great leap forward from iOS 6, but I do like the redesigned Notifications Centre, and the media controls in the Control Centre are more accessible than they were previously. But it’s done little to dissuade me that the replacement for my iPhone 4S will be an Android smartphone.

Friday, 7:58am – Bugs emerge

Reports of serious bugs in iOS 7 are beginning to emerge. Last night, on the way home from work, I switched from the Spotify app to Podcasts on my iPhone 4S, and instantly the sound became distorted, with a Medium Wave-like crackle in the background. It didn’t go away until I manually shut down the Spotify app. (To force apps to close, by the way, you have to double-click the home button and swipe upwards on the app’s thumbnail image.)

It’s not the first report of an audio bug. Yesterday afternoon, the makers of the Traktor DJ app sent out an email to users, warning of  “serious issues concerning audio” in iOS 7, claiming that several other audio apps had also been affected by “performance and stability issues” and warning users not to install the new OS.

There have also been reports of a bug that allows phone thieves to bypass the new lock screen by activating the Control Centre and pressing a combination of buttons to arrive at the home screen. Forbes has full details of the process and a video demonstration. I’ve tried it on my iPhone 4S and it works. Apple’s working on a fix.

5:10pm – Battery life

After only a working day playing with iOS 7 on my two devices, it’s too soon to draw any firm conclusions on battery life. I fully charged the iPhone 4S while I installed iOS this morning, and took it off the mains as soon as the installation was complete. Now, just over  six hours later, and with 2hrs 9mins of usage according to the iPhone Usage stats, it’s down to just below 40% battery.  The iPad 2, which was also fully charged and has been used for 2hrs 57 mins, is down to 77%.

Those figures don’t sound that great, especially the iPhone one, not least because it hasn’t been doing anything particularly challenging, such as 3D gaming. But bear in mind these are both two-year-old devices, so the battery is far from pristine. I’ll give more feedback over the next day or so on battery life.

4:55pm – “New” phone features

We’re frequently accused of ignoring what smartphones are actually like as phones, so I thought I’d tell you about a new phone feature in iOS 7 that I think is particularly useful. The incoming call UI has been revamped with two new buttons appearing on screen when a known contact calls you. One of these is Message, which lets you discreetly send a text message back to callers. The other, more useful feature is Remind Me, which sets a reminder to call the person back at a user-defined time, say in one hour.

Both these features were in iOS 6, but you had to swipe upwards when receiving an incoming call to find them. None of the iPhone users in our office were even aware these features existed previously.

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2:03pm – Wasting space

A few hours in and I’m still far from won over by the new look of iOS 7, especially on the iPhone. The interface seems unfinished in places. Check out the appalling Newsstand homescreen, for example:

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If a potential PC Pro designer arrived with that in their portfolio, I’d advise them to pursue a career as a bus driver.

However, the biggest problem so far is the waste of space. There’s no upper limit on the number of apps you can place in a folder now, which is a step forward, but it takes two steps back by only showing nine instead of 12 when you click on the folder icon. You have to swipe right to open the remaining apps. That daft limitation applies not only to the iPhone, but the iPad, where’s there’s more than enough room to display a dozen or more icons in a folder.

Likewise, the default view for Mail inboxes means you only see four messages on a portrait iPhone screen, not the five (just about) you saw previously. You can change the Mail view so that you only have one line of preview instead of two, and get five messages back on screen, but it’s hard to fathom why Apple has slapped more white space into the view in the first place.  And like Office 2013, the barrier between chrome and content is eroding, making it much harder to distinguish between the two.

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11:56am – iPad app updates stuck

iOS 7 was meant to make updates invisible and painless. This is how my iPad homescreen has looked for the past hour:

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I now have about 35 apps in the queue, waiting to be updated, going nowhere. I’m not sure whether it’s the demand on Apple’s servers or a broken app, but I’ve tried everything to kickstart the app update process and nothing appears to be working. I’ve gone into the App Updates section of the App Store and attempted to manually refresh the apps, but they seem to get stuck in a loop and stop. I’ve restarted the iPad, but that appears to have had little effect.

The icons used in the App Store Updates section are confusing, too.   There’s what looks like a stop sign, then a bold version of the stop sign – I’m waiting for a memo from Jonny Ive to explain the difference between those two.

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You can seemingly click on either of those to attempt to force the app to update, although there’s a separate UPDATE button alongside some other apps on my list. And then there’s a whirly circle animation, which I presume is downloading. Pffft…

However… just as I was set to press Publish on this blog update, the app updates have seemingly started downloading again. God alone knows what’s going on.

11:20am – iPhone installed and first impressions

The iPhone 4S installation was completed in roughly the same time as the iPad 2 (40 mins), and first impressions are that it’s much smoother: no menu or homescreen lag.

I had a heart attack the first time I swiped right from the homescreen, when I was presented with just this:

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I thought the upgrade had wiped all my apps, but it seems Apple has installed an additional default app – I’m struggling to work out what it is – meaning that all my homepages had been shunted right by one. Panic over.

A few random observations from my first hour of fiddling with iOS 7 on the iPhone:

  • The zoom-in and out animations when you open a folder or app are needless, adding a small delay to proceedings without adding any tangible benefit in return.
  • I initially confused the new dots symbols for network strength with the similar indicator for which homepage you’re on. Not sure why Apple needed to fiddle with that.
  • You might wonder what the little blue dots are next to app name labels: they indicate an app that’s been updated that you haven’t yet opened.
  • Safari is much improved. The way the UI hides when you’re scrolling downwards affords more room for the web page content, and the option to see a list of sites that friends are linking to from Twitter within the browser is a useful and unique feature.

10:30am – iPad installation complete

Ta da! It took about 40 minutes from the completion of the download to finished installation on my iPad 2, and everything appears to be present and correct.

First impressions weren’t good. Even something as basic as re-entering my iTunes password on the installation screen exhibited horrible lag, while opening up app folders for the first time resulted in a dreadfully jumpy animation. However, it seems the iPad simply needed a bit of time to cache the animations, as subsequent attempts to open folders etc have been much smoother.

One thing I’ve noticed so far: app icons are bewildering. How does a series of overlapping coloured bubbles represent Game Centre? Why does the Photos icon look like a flower? It’s all a bit disorienting. In addition, the font chosen for labelling apps is too spindly, making it difficult to read on my black-and-white photo background. I may have to change to something more plain and colourful.

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I updated all my apps last night to make sure I wouldn’t have to go through more download pain post-installation. I was wrong. I now have 43 apps waiting to update, obviously only offering the latest updates to those on iOS 7. Time for a pot of coffee.

9:40am – Downloading at last

Like an HGV lorry driving into London in rush hour, I foolishly attempted to download and install iOS 7 on my iPad 2 last night. No dice. After the third download failed with an estimated 42(!) hours on the clock, I decided to spare my bandwidth and my temper, and wait until this morning, when most of America is still tucked up under the duvet.

This morning, the download pipes are flowing nicely. The 728MB update was downloaded to my iPad within 10 minutes, and my iPhone 4S is rattling along at an equally brisk pace.

One word of warning if you’re doing likewise: I needed to clear 3GB of space off my iPad before the download would install – not a small amount on a device with only a 16GB capacity. It won’t need all that space post-installation, but be prepared to temporarily clear off a few apps first if you’re tight on space.

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