After developers spent months calling out the bugs and bemoaning the bad battery life, iOS 7 is finally ready for the public. If you haven't seen iOS 7, be excited. It's beautiful, feature-rich and just like Apple promised us at WWDC last June, it will make your device feel like a new phone (or tablet).
Although developers have been tooling around with iOS 7 for months and blogging about every little detail, Apple surprised everyone at the iPhone event by introducing completely new features. The most radical update is the retooling of the Camera Roll which has been replaced by a groups feature called "Moments." This groups all of your photos into times and moments, kind of like iPhoto already does. Apple also added photo effects (think: filters) to the Camera that can be applied during or after shooting.
Apple also rolled out a completely revamped suite of Apple-made apps, including Keynote, Pages, Numbers, iPhoto and iMovie. Not so suddenly, the capabilities in iOS 7 are starting to look a lot like OSX. Other new features include the Google Play-like feature in the Notification Center that will tell you how long it takes to travel to work or school (or wherever). Siri is evidently much improved and will now pull information directly from Wikipedia. It really does feel like a new phone.
The downside of that "feels like new phone" bit is the fact that you — and your not-so-tech-savvy parents — will need to relearn a few things. The first and most obvious difference is the design. iOS 7 does away with the ugly skeuomorphic elements from all previous versions and offers a wonderfully flat design. (It look a little Android-y.) You'll also enjoy Apple's use of the parallax effect that makes the app icons appear to float in 3D. That feature doesn't really do anything, but it sure is fun to show your friends.
With iOS 7, Apple also made it easier to access and control some basic functions of the phone. Swiping down from the top of the phone will bring you a totally overhauled Notification Center. It shows you not only your newly received text messages or Twitter mentions but also a handy look at the appointments you have for the day. Pulling up from the bottom shows you a brand new feature call the Control Panel. Here you do almost anything, from adjusting your music to activating Aeroplane mode, to accessing the camera.
That's not all. There are lots of other tiny upgrades and redesigns buried in the operating system — it's worth taking a look at this detailed post about iOS 7 for the full picture. In the meantime, you really should help your parents figure out this new-fangled operating system. It will take some time for you and The Olds to get used to, but iOS 7 really will change the way you use your phone. But mostly you'll just stare at that flat design and those floating icons and wonder why Apple didn't release these features five years ago. Probably because Jony Ive's boss — you know the one I'm talking about — wouldn't allow it.
iOS 7 will be available as a free software update starting on Wednesday, September 18, for iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 and later, iPad mini and iPod touch (fifth generation).
Update: Going forward, all five iWork programs including iPhoto, iMovie, Pages, Keynote and Numbers will be free on new iOS devices.