Upgrading to Apple's iOS 7: What you need to know

Apple [AAPL] ships iOS 7 tomorrow, September 18. What should iPhone users do to prepare for the release? Here's a handy guide to what you should do to prepare yourself for a stress-free install:

[ABOVE: Apple's 'official' iOS 7 video promo.]

7: The number of the beast

The Jony Ive-designed iOS 7 introduces a host of user interface elements designed to improve your enjoyment of your iPhone, but abandons some of the design elements of the previous edition.

"It'll be a little shocking at first," JibJab's Evan Spiridellis told USA Today. "It's a totally new feel -- after a few days of flipping around, people are going to love it."

Some highlights in this release include:

  • Instant app updates: Apps will update automatically in the background
  • Control Center: Wi-Fi, Flashlight, Camera, Clock, Calculator, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode, Do Not Disturb, AirDrop, AirPlay and music playback are all now controlled from the easy to access Control Center.
  • Notification Center: All your notifications, appointments and other useful info to help you through your day.
  • Camera: There's so much to like in the new Camera app, which has been updated with a new square mode. Video now includes a SlowMo mode while new filters help you adjust your shots. Burst Mode and other improvements should maintain iPhone's palce as the world's most widely-used camera.
  • AirDrop: This now lets you share your stuff very easily with anyone around, securely. (Android users may want to consider this feature as a little like an efficient and reliable version of Bump.)
  • iTunes Radio: You'll be able to access all the music on iTunes for streaming playback with ads or without ads if you are an iTunes Match user.
  • Find my iPhone has been made far more effective, a lost or stolen iPhone will be of little use to anyone.

There's numerous additional improvements, for example: Siri is now out of beta and there's a host of improvements to Safari.

That's a lot of improvement. You can engage in some of the following steps right now:

[ABOVE: The full Burberry fashion show clip, captured earlier this week using an iPhone 5S.]

Check your device

iOS 7 will run on Apple's recent iOS devices -- though it's possible not all the operating system's new features will work on older devices. The following devices are officially supported by iOS 7 -- if your own system isn't on the list then you'll be unable to install the update.

Supported devices

  • iPhone 4
  • iPhone 4S
  • iPhone 5 series
  • iPad 2 and later
  • iPad mini
  • iPod touch (fifth generation)

Check your apps

  • Take a look at the apps you use daily.
  • Make a list of the ones you're most dependent on, if you like.
  • You shouldn’t need to worry about Apple-created apps, but some developers may not yet have updated their apps for iOS 7.
  • Now may also be a good time to delete those apps you do have installed that you never use -- you can always re-download them later.

When you've got this information check the iTunes Store page for these apps in order to see if they have been updated recently -- some developers may already have updated their app description to let you know if their software's been updated for the new OS.

It may also be worthwhile delaying the update a day or two to give developers (and the App Store approvals team) time to publish the relevant update.

This report has some interesting information concerning developer experience of updating to iOS 7. Some developers are already updating their apps to exploit the sheer power of the 64-bit processor inside of iPhone 5S.

Back up baby

Make sure you back up your data to iTunes or iCloud before you install the new OS. This will protect your data in the unlikely event something goes wrong with the upgrade.

While most users will already back up their devices automatically, some may not. If that's you then you'll need to make a manual back up.

iTunes

  • Plug your device into your computer and launch iTunes
  • Click on the iOS device in the list in the left sidebar
  • You'll see a section called Manually Back Up and Restore
  • Clock on the Back Up Now button
  • Wait till the process finishes

iCloud

  • Launch Settings on your device
  • Tap on the iCloud settings button
  • Scroll down the page to the Storage & Backup item
  • Tap on this, scroll down the page and tap Back Up Now.
  • Your back up will be stored on iCloud

**Shaun James at FixMyMac sent me a Tweet to recommend users also run a Time Machine backup of their Mac once they've backed up their iPhone. It's a good extra step. Thanks Shaun.

Download the OS

Apple has plenty of servers dotted across the planet, but it also has around 600 million customers who will be eager to be among the first to put the new OS through its paces.

Traditionally this means some users have problems downloading the software, particularly across the first few hours subsequent to the release. (To be fair, Apple continues to improve download delivery and there's still a chance most users won't experience delay).

That's perfectly understandable for a platform that allows millions of customers to immediately download new software updates. There's no fragmentation on Apple's platforms, that's why iOS 6 is already installed on 93 percent of Apple devices.

Warning: If you are using an older device, such as an iPhone 4 or iPad 2, it may be worth delaying the installation for a week or so. That's because some older devices have performance problems when you install a major iOS update as the initial release is often optimized for the most current hardware. Apple tends to address this, so you may enjoy a better experience if you wait for a later point update to appear.

What to do if there's a problem

In the unlikely event you experience problems with the update, be sure to bookmark the following sites from which you should get some helpful advice.

I'll be updating this post with further information after iOS 7 ships -- so if there's a common problem or other useful feedback I'll post links here. You can help -- please feel free to leave constructive comments to help other users through the process of installing their iOS device in comments below.

Google+? If you're one of those who likes to use social media and also happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when these items are published here first on Computerworld.

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