Apple chief Tim Cook unveils 'biggest change to operating system since the iPhone'
Apple has unveiled new-look software for its phones and tablets, in a move that chief executive Tim Cook said was “the biggest change to iOS since the iPhone”.
With Apple also announcing a music streaming service and new computers, the event was seen as a blunt rebuke to Apple's critics. Senior vice-president Phil Schiller said simply: "Can't innovate any more, my ass."
iOS 7 will feature a new "flat" design that drops references to real world objects - such as a snooker table for its games centre - and replaces them with an interface that is crisper and far more modern in appearance.
Emphasising a mixture of new features and familiarity, the company claimed users who downloaded the free upgrade when it was released in the autumn would feel "like they had a whole new phone, but one they already know how to use".
The new iTunes Radio service will allow users to build radio stations around their existing iTunes libraries, with Apple suggesting what further music they might like on the basis of their previous purchases. The service will be supported by adverts for most users, or be ad-free for subscribers.
Apple also unveiled new computers aimed both at existing laptop users, with a new Macbook Air that offers battery life of up to 12 hours but still does not feature the touchscreens increasingly offered by Microsoft, and a new Pro computer aimed at video editors that is just one-eighth of the size of its existing model.
The iOS upgrade went further than many analysts had expected, with improvements to Apple’s Safari web browser as well as a look that rewrites popular apps including weather and the notifications centre. A new swipe gesture also changes how the email application works.
Advocates for Google’s Android operating systems maintained that Apple had simply caught up rather than offering new features.
Meanwhile, Jyrki Rosenberg, vice-president of Nokia Entertainment, said: “We launched our streaming radio service in 2011. It’s interesting to see Apple react now and it seems they continue to play catch up. Nokia Music will stay true to our mobile-first approach and continue to deliver an extremely simple, personalised and contextual way to discover and enjoy music on the go."
Analysts CCS Insight said: "Many announced features bring parity with competitors; they raise expectations further for hardware announcements next year."