There are plenty of reasons to think iOS 7 may be Apple’s biggest mobile software rollout yet. With Android taking market share, Microsoft upping their game and Blackberry fighting to get out of third-dog status in the smartphone market, it’s easy to see why. As closed as the company can seem to the outside world, there’s no doubt it’s taking recent criticism of the dated UI to heart. They essentially created the industry, after all.
What can we expect from a revised platform and hardware, then? Other than a potential delayed release, news has been predictably slow. Though fans and aspiring designers are always quick to show their own ideas, Apple itself has been tight-lipped as ever. If rumors of a major overhaul are true, it could make the inevitable announcement some of the biggest tech news of the year. If not…it’ll probably still be some of the biggest tech news of the year.
So far, grumblings about the hardware behind iOS 7 are — as always around this time of year — exciting as they are hard to believe. The usual anonymous sources claim everything from an even larger screen to wireless charging will make the cut this time around. Besides that, we probably won’t know much more until the weeks leading up to launch. This is assuming there’s no stolen hardware scandal this year, of course.
Changes to iOS in general have been pretty conservative over the years. In fact, controversies like hardware restrictions for Siri and the bungling of Apple Maps have garnered more attention than news about the operating system itself. With Jony Ive, Apple’s lead designer, behind the operating system’s helm for the first time, it’s a fair bet some major changes will be made for iOS 7; among other rumors, many major tech sites report the longtime Apple employee is pushing for a flat, flourish-free design and more integration of software and hardware, which could mean any number of things. Whatever happens, it’ll make for an interesting story as we draw closer to release.
If you’ve worked with higher-end Android phones like the Galaxy S III, you’re probably familiar with NFC (near field communications), a short-range data transfer and communications technology full of tragically untapped potential. Besides the obvious device-to-device possibilities, NFC’s possible applications as a beefed-up QR code are quite interesting indeed: Samsung, for instance, sells reprogrammable TecTiles that allow GSIII users to do things like change phone settings and launch applications with a single swipe. Integration with existing iOS tools, like its GPS-assisted reminders, seems like a no-brainer, especially for a company who likes to add a killer feature with each generation — not to mention a company with a history of making users buy the newest models for those features, since NFC wouldn’t be available on anything but a new iPhone with the proper hardware. Sharing between compatible devices like iPads and iPod Touches makes it even easier to imagine why the company might want NFC integration.
The iPhone Mini rumor has persisted for years, with everything from a less-powerful, smaller device to a watch/phone concept making the rounds, but nothing has ever materialized on Apple’s end. Could this be the year that changes? More than a few sources are citing changes in Apple’s processor-buying habits to whispers of an August iPhone 5S release as proof. If anything, iOS 7 should be scalable, and the recent mini-izing of the iPad lends credence to the chatter. On the other hand, one has to wonder if taking potential upgrades to more expensive hardware makes sense. If the goal is recapturing market share, perhaps it does, especially given Apple’s massive cash reserves. Also worth noting are rumors that the lower-end devices will “swap out the metal casing for something less expensive,” according to Eric Zeman of Information Week. Whether that will be a color shell, a monocolor plastic back or something else is yet to be seen.
Whatever happens with the newest iOS revisions (and the hardware that comes with them), there’s nothing much to do but wait on word from Apple. As time goes on, it’ll be easier to separate the bad rumors from the respectable ones, but even those won’t be confirmed until an Apple exec takes the stage later this year. Until then, it’ll be rumors, lies and false mockups. It’s something Apple watchers have come to expect, and even relish, since the days of the first iPhone.