Review: Apple's iOS 7 is much more than a pretty face

More than a superficial coat of paint, iOS 7 represents a new direction for Apple's mobile OS

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iTunes Radio plays an occasional ad, but if you're an iTunes Match subscriber ($24.99 a year) and Match is enabled on your device, iTunes Radio is ad-free.

The Phone app

The Phone application picks up the lighter, brighter theme and details of iOS 7, but for the most part, it has stayed pretty much the same. The dial screen gets a frosted glass translucence that dynamically changes depending on your background. Otherwise, there are only a couple of significant updates.

First, the Phone app now supports FaceTime audio over Wi-Fi. That means you can make free calls to anyone with an iOS device using FaceTime audio -- something I'm sure wireless carriers must love.

And second, tapping the More Information icon to the right of listed numbers in Favorites, Recents and Voicemail -- or just selecting a contact -- gives you access to the redesigned Contacts.

If you scroll to the bottom, you can select individual callers to block. Whenever blocked numbers call your phone, they're pushed to voicemail. You can see a list of blocked callers under Settings > Phone > Blocked. Blocked numbers aren't just limited to the Phone app, though; you can also block contacts from making FaceTime calls and messaging attempts. Messages, FaceTime, and the aforementioned Phone Settings all have the Blocked feature.

Finally, while you can still activate FaceTime from within a contact, iPhones now have a separate FaceTime app.

Safari and browsing

Safari has gone through an interface overhaul, too. Tapping on the text entry section at the top of a browser window displays bookmarks (or bookmark folders) between the virtual keyboard and the text box. The text entry area is now a unified smart field and supports both search and URL entries. Safari displays live results as you're typing; it gathers and displays data from your search provider, Safari history and bookmarks, and text located on the current page.

Safari embraces the idea of iOS 7's unobtrusive nature: Once you begin scrolling on a website, the Safari UI slips away, allowing you to browse using the full screen. Need the browser controls back? Just scroll to the top of a page or tap the area where they would be at the top or bottom of the screen; the UI elements slowly come back into view.

Safari has supported multiple browsing sessions before, but now they're stacked so that a page preview is displayed, like a vertical Coverflow. No longer limited to eight open tabs, you can quickly close out of any listed Safari session by swiping that session to the side, or you can rearrange their order by tapping and holding a page for a second, and then dragging and dropping the tab to the spot you like. If you continue to scroll down through Web page previews, you'll find a list of iCloud tabs that lists what you've been browsing on other devices.

Safari
Safari embraces iOS 7's minimalist nature.

Tapping the bookmark icon in Safari brings up your bookmarks, Reading List and Shared Links screens -- the last displays links from Twitter and Linked In. Saved articles in Reading List scroll continuously from one story to the next, so you can catch up without needing to continually access the list.

The Weather app

The Weather app has been redesigned, with white text and basic graphics providing forecast details like hourly conditions and daily highs and lows, while an animated example of the current weather plays in the background. Tapping the location and temperature info at the top of the screen brings up info on humidity, rain chances, wind and direction, and what the temp outside feels like. Tapping this area again brings you back to the default view.

Weather app
The Weather app offers much more detailed information, along with animated weather previews of your saved locations.

Below that is a strip showcasing an hour-by-hour listing of temperature and a little icon representing the forecast. You can swipe sideways to see what the forecast will be for the next 12 hours.

As before, you can check weather for multiple locations by swiping right or left. With a pinch or by tapping the lower right graphic, you can call up quick views of your saved weather locations; they all display city, local time, temperature, the current weather animation and night/day status.

Camera and Photos apps

The Camera app gets a variety of new features. You can now swipe between the different shooting modes using a sideswipe gesture, toggling through still shots, video, panorama and the new square mode. There are live filters built in (if your device supports them), and you can hold down the shutter (either the virtual button onscreen or the physical volume-up button on the side of the iPhone) to get a continuous burst of shots.

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