Back in jail with iOS 7


— 11:29 AM on September 20, 2013

Unless you're one of these people, you're probably aware that the entire Internet slowed to 300 baud modem speeds Wednesday as millions of First Worlders (We're number one, hey!) hammered Apple's cold fusion-powered data centers in hopes of being one of the lucky five to download iOS 7 or, as a consolation prize, a personalized scowl from Jony Ive. I was not one of the five.

Which was okay. Really.

I got through the disappointing day of no iOS 7 by trolling eBay for TI-99/4A speech synthesizer modules while occasionally working at my real job. And it was my birthday. Which would be more exciting if I had turned 21 and not 41. But at least I'm younger than Damage and Dr. Evil. Months count, people.

Anyway. In truth, I could not update to iOS 7 during the day because my iPhone 5 and iPad 3 were jailbroken. In their glorious and righteous benevolence, the Inquisitors of Cupertino wouldn't even let my devices recognize that an update existed. Now, I know what you're thinking: why on earth would I give up my sweet, sweet jailbreak for some skinny-fonted new iOS that will force its will upon me like some cool will-forcing metaphor I can't think of? Good question. The easy answer is that iOS 7 has incorporated enough features that used to only reside in the jailbreak community that I no longer feel it's worth the effort to maintain jailbroken status just for the couple of features I'll lose.

Also, skinny fonts, dude!

I was never a hard-core jailbreaker. I didn't download themes and abuse Winterboard like a 12-year-old from 2008 trying to decorate her MySpace page just right with the hearts and kitties. I liked SBSettings and Activator. And TV Tube Sleep, which made it look like my iPhone was an old CRT being turned off because I'm old-timey like that.

Did I ever use a tethering program? The world may never know. But if I did, it was only a couple of times a year, so no big loss.

To un-jailbreak a phone, one has to do a full factory restore of the scofflaw iDevice in question. When I did this to my iPhone, instead of upgrading it to iOS 7, iTunes upgraded it from 6.1.3 (the last iOS with an untethered jailbreak) to 6.1.4. Why? Because, I believe, I'm an idiot. I didn't upgrade iTunes to 11.1 before doing the restore. Since 11.1 is required for iOS 7, I got 6.1.4 and the chance to download 2.2 gigabytes of iOS data instead of just 900 megs. Glad I have the SuperTurboFireBlazerExtreme Internet package at home. However, restoring 360 apps via USB 2.0 is slow. So slow that I went to bed and finished updating the phone in the morning.

And then I had it: iOS 7 in all its mildly parallactic glory. And it was good.

Now that I've lived with the design for a couple of days, I must admit to really liking it. Cyril gives the new design a hearty "meh," but I'm a touch more enthusiastic than Mr. K.

While I agree that this new iOS doesn't break new ground in the seismic way the original iPhone/iOS combination did, I think that's expecting too much at this point. The original magic of the iPhone wasn't just what it did or that it did things simply—it was that it did such cool stuff on frickin' phone you carried around with you. I don't think any company is going to recapture that level of "Sweet Moses!" excitement without completely rethinking and reinventing the smartphone as we know it. I would suppose Apple and Samsung and Google are all heading down those paths, but who succeeds first (if at all) is still up for grabs.

Until then, we have iOS 7 (and the new iPhone 5C and 5S that I've yet to see in person). And it's better than what came before. More incremental than inspirational perhaps, but that's a bit like complaining your wife's new haircut only made her into a hotter version of her existing self instead of a Leather Goddess of Phobos.

From a usability standpoint, I'm enjoying the new elements like Control Center and swipe-mid-screen to search. The UI feels plenty snappy to me on my iPhone 5, but I do sense some lag on my iPad 3. Not surprising given the new level of graphics layering going on. Of course, I wish Apple would give us the option of turning off such things (you can turn off parallax in the Accessibility settings). Considering I've been railing against the lack of OS 9 window-shading in OS X for the past dozen years, I'm not holding my breath on this one.

I have run into a couple of odd niggles: While you can finally put as many apps into a folder as you like, the folders will only show nine apps at a time on screens that will clearly hold many more. It'd be nice if you could merge folders instead of having to move apps one-by-one to consolidate. Things like that.

In the realm of Apple Giveth and Apple Taketh Away, iOS 7 finally includes the option in Mail to mark all messages as read. Only took the seventh iteration of the OS to get there (this lack of functionality was another reason I jailbroke my iDevices). But to counter this, Apple removed the preference to limit your mail accounts to only showing the latest 50/100/200/etc. messages. At first I though I was just missing where the setting had been moved to, but the message boards told me otherwise. Silly.

All in all, I dig it. Of course it's not as magical or fantastical or orgasmic as the videos at Apple.com would have us all believe. But the new, unified look and feel is a winner. And the death of skeuomorphic tomfoolery has to be reason enough for some to upgrade. Although they didn't re-skin Find My Friends. I know it's not a built-in app, but still. The ghost of Scotty F. has yet to be exorcised.

For those wondering, I did not peck this out while in line at an AT&T store trying to snag a 5S. That's what interns are for.

Later,

Fox

   
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