The smaller, subtler changes in iOS 7

Apple unveiled some pretty dramatic changes to iOS 7 on Monday and while the blogosphere is arguing over the big design changes it’s bringing (and where they came from), there are a lot more subtle tweaks Apple made that the company did not call out during the keynote.

Some of the changes (where’d Spotlight search go?!) will likely cause some initial confusion for longtime iOS users. Others are ones we’ve been hoping would eventually arrive. But there are also plenty of things Apple changed that were small, but necessary. Here’s a pretty exhaustive list of those alterations.

General changes


  • Spotlight search is no longer in its own page on the far left in Springboard. Instead, you can swipe down on any homescreen to bring down a search field.
  • The blue arrow used to indicate more options in iOS 6 has been replaced with a blue “i” within a circle. Most people I know aren’t aware of the blue arrow or what it’s for, so this is a welcome change.
  • The buttons for tweeting and posting to Facebook(s FB) have been removed from Notification Center.
  • Movies and TV shows you’ve purchased from iTunes now appear in the Videos app, though streaming isn’t allowed; you have to download them.
  • There’s a new pull-to-refresh animation that looks like the more traditional Apple loading animation, rather than the odd stretching circle from iOS 6.
  • Scroll bars are thinner than in iOS 6, by about half, and are a slightly lighter color.
  • You can search for an event in Calendar.
  • magnifying_glassThe magnifying glass that appears when you hover over text has been simplified. The border around it is smaller, and the gloss is gone in favor of a subtle shadow around the top edge.
  • Game Center will tell you if it’s your turn on a game.
  • Double-clicking the home button while music is playing still shows the usual controls, but you can also seek now.
  • The Apple logo on the boot screen is flat, looking just like an Apple sticker.
  • The screen fades in and out when locking and unlocking.


  • cellularCellular settings have been moved out of the General section. It’s now located right below Bluetooth, so it should be easier to find.
  • You can control which apps use your cellular data and see how much data they’ve used so far.
  • Do Not Disturb has a new option that silences notifications and calls only when your device is locked, so you’ll still get them while you’re using it.
  • In the Privacy section, you can now control which apps have access to the microphone.
  • You can now block specific phone numbers in the Phone section.
  • Australian English and Mexican Spanish are now available as language options.


  • You can start a private browsing session right within Safari’s new tab screen, so you don’t have to go to Settings every time. You still have to convert your tabs to private tabs or throw them away, however.
  • iCloud tabs are accessed by scrolling to the bottom of the tabs screen.
  • Do Not Track can now be enabled in Settings, like it is in Apple’s desktop OS, Mountain Lion.


  • lipsumThe first three messages in a conversation will be different colors, going from purple to light blue to green. Replies after the first three are just green.
  • Emails that have been replied to show two arrows next to the title in the list view.
  • There’s a Mark All button that lets you mark all messages as unread or flagged. You still can’t select all, though.
  • There are new mailboxes for emails that have attachments, have been cc’d, or that are unread or flagged.


  • The “edit” button is gone, replaced by a “contact” button. You can still get to the edit interface by holding down on a message and choosing “more.”
  • The aforementioned “contact” button gives you the option to call or FaceTime the person you’re messaging. You can also see their contact sheet by hitting the “info” button.
  • Outgoing messages have a blue gradient that stretches across them.


  • photos_shareOne of the problems I pointed out previously with Photo Streams in iOS 6 is that only the person who created the stream can add photos to it. In iOS 7, Subscribers to your Photo Streams can now add their own photos, if you enable it. This makes it so you can have one Photo Stream for your entire family instead of one for each member.
  • The share sheet has been changed significantly. Sharing to a Photo Stream is done by hitting the iCloud icon. Selecting multiple photos can be done right from the share sheet as well. You can also share to Flickr(s YHOO) now.
  • Photos zoom in or out when you view them or dismiss them in the Camera Roll.


  • You can create a new note within any other note.
  • The buttons to go to the next/previous note are gone.
  • The first line of the note no longer appears in the top bar.
  • The date and time the note was created are centered at the top, and the number of days since the note was created is gone.


  • remindersNavigating lists works like Passbook: all of them are displayed stacked on each other, and when you select a list, the others slide to the bottom.
  • You can change the color of list titles in Reminders to make it easier to recognize them.
  • Reminders are added by tapping on an empty row rather than hitting a “plus” button.

With the exception of the new Notes app, which I’m not yet certain I like, every other little change in iOS 7 is a definite improvement in my book.

However, iOS 7 is a major overhaul, so there’s bound to be more minor improvements that I missed. And most importantly, considering that this is technically beta software, whose final release isn’t scheduled until this fall, there are also bound to be even more changes in the meantime.