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iOS 7.1: The changes we love (and the ones we don't)

Serenity Caldwell, Dan Moren and Dan Frakes | March 11, 2014
In the grand scheme of things, iOS 7.1 isn't really an earth-shattering update, especially coming on the heels of the massive redesign that was iOS 7. But that's not to say that there isn't anything interesting in the latest upgrade to Apple's mobile operating system. Here are just a few of the changes that have our staff applauding and, in some cases, griping.

New to the iPhone 5s is an automatic HDR setting for the Camera app. Previously, iPhone 5s users had to manually turn on or off the High Dynamic Range option; now, if you select HDR auto, the camera automatically detects when an image might be improved by HDR, and shoots in that format. This is a huge boon for shooting HDR photos — usually I keep the setting turned off because I end up with lots of duplicate images. (I have "Keep Normal Photo" enabled in Settings > Photos & Camera so I see both the original and HDR version of the picture.) But automatic HDR only kicks in when you're in a situation where it might truly help your photo. It's an awesome improvement to the iPhone's already excellent camera. — SC

Accessibility: Everyone's a designer now
For those getting motion-sick or otherwise nauseous from iOS 7, there are nice tweaks to the Reduce Motion accessibility feature that change most of the bouncy system transitions into calmer cross-dissolves; enabling it will also remove the moving backgrounds from the Weather app and the buoyant texts in the Messages app. Similarly, the Bold Font option now applies more broadly across the OS, making text even easier-to-read for those iPhone or iPad users who are averse to skinny fonts.

But despite their utility, the Accessibility section is starting to grow crowded with all of these new options — and some of them have started to feel more like concessions on iOS 7's design than anything else. In prior OSes, if users didn't like a design choice, too bad. In iOS 7, if you don't like something, chances are you can change it in Settings > General > Accessibility.

Whether all of those changes are good, well, that's a matter of opinion. I rather wish Apple would settle on something. Lately it feels like every time I've just gotten accustomed to whatever effect the company's applied to the Shift key, it's been replaced. It's not that I don't like the changes (the new dark keyboard overlay in the Lock screen is particularly good) but it'd be nice if Apple's design team would pick something and stick with it. Iterate, maybe, but don't throw out the entire design and start from scratch every time — I'm looking at you, call screen. — SC

Butt out, buttons
I'll say it: I'm not a fan of the new Button Shapes accessibility option that Apple's added in iOS 7.1. I understand the point of making buttons more obvious, but to put the "brutal" in "brutal honesty," I think the shapes are hideous. More to the point, I feel like providing the option is a step backwards by Apple, a backing off of the convictions that led to iOS 7's design in the first place. While this isn't the first time Apple's provided an option for a controversial interface decision (remember the arrival of the translucent menu bar in OS X?), this piece of backpedaling seems a little silly to me. I wonder how many people will, like me, turn on Button Shapes for about five minutes before quickly fleeing back to the shapeless present, with a sigh of relief. On second thought, maybe that was Apple's idea all along... — DM

 

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