Forget candy-colored casings or gold finishes. Apple announced what could be the biggest change to its smartphones during an event at its California headquarters on Tuesday: iOS 7, the latest operating system for iPhones and iPads, will be available to the public on Sept. 18.
iOS 7, which was previewed to developers in June, offers such a radically different design to the iPhone's software that it feels like getting an entirely new device, said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering, on stage in Cupertino, Calif.
There are over 200 features on iOS 7, and many popular apps will be free. Among those free new apps are iPhoto, iMovie, Pages, Numbers and Keynote. When you update get a new device with iOS 7, these apps will come free.
Other developments and new features in iOS 7 include improvements to Siri, new ringtones and new alert sounds. Federighi demonstrated how Apple's voice-controlled assistant will now be able to draw upon information from Twitter and Wikipedia.
"What's Lady Gaga saying," Federighi asked Siri on stage.
"Here are the latest tweets," it responded.
The new operating system will be available on iPhone 4 or later, the iPad 2 or later, the iPad mini and the 5th generation iPod touch.
iOS 7 also has a Control Center that is accessible from any screen by swiping up. In that Control Center, you can turn on or off Wi-Fi, Airplane mode, and Do Not Disturb. You can also access your calculator, camera, timer and flashlight, and adjust your screen's brightness. You can also access your currently playing music so you can pause, adjust volume, and more.
Apps like Mail and Safari have all new, brightly colored icons, which have drawn the ire of some in the design community. Many have criticized iOS 7's new design, and some have even taken it upon themselves to create their own redesigns of iOS.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that iWork would come free when users updated iOS 7.