iOS 10 Review: fun, fresh, more functional than ever
They call it the world’s most advanced mobile operating system. It is also among the most popular, having shipped on over a billion phones and 300 million tablets since its debut. Over the years, more than 2 million applications have been developed for it, and the figure is set to rise further in the foreseeable future. We're talking about Apple's iOS, and its latest release is shaping up to be its biggest yet.
Now, this isn't the first time we take an in-depth look at iOS 10. The platform has been available - albeit in beta form - since June, and back then, we gave you a quick preview of what was coming our way. Today, however, we finally got our hands on a final iOS 10 build - the same software that iPhone users will receive over the air on September 13. And here's what we have to say about it.
The lock screen, reimagined
From the very moment you have it installed, iOS 10 feels... different. Familiar, yet different nonetheless, with quirks and tweaks we'll all have to get used to.
The lock screen, for instance, has been subjected to the biggest, boldest redesign in the platform's history. Surprisingly, there's no more “swipe to unlock”. Instead, you wake up the display, then press the home button to get to your home screen. Killing a feature that has been a trademark of the OS since day one seems odd at first, and its omission will disturb many an iPhone user. But the sacrifice was made for the sake of designing a more functional lock screen – a swipe to the right is now used for quick access to widgets. More on the topic in a bit.
Speaking of the iOS lock screen, owners of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus surely know how fast their phone's fingerprint scanner is. It could be regarded as too fast in a way – pressing the home button unlocks the device instantly, not giving us a chance to peek at our lock screen notifications. To rectify this, iOS 10 wakes the screen as soon as we physically lift our iPhone up. This lets us catch up on notifications without having to press a single button. All in all, this is a neat addition to the lock screen experience, but we also think that it could have been executed better. The screen lights up only if we lift our device vertically, as if to hold it in our hand. The screen rarely turns on if the handset is lying on a table and we tilt it sideways – while we have it charging, for example.
It must be clarified that this lift-to-wake action works only on our iPhone 6s. The iPhone 6 and older models do not support the feature, as it requires an M9 coprocessor or better. And if you don't like it, there's an option to toggle it off in Display settings.
Another tweak we must highlight is the new camera shortcut. Sliding to the left from any point of the lock screen will instantly take us to the camera app, meaning that we don't have to aim for that tiny button in the corner anymore. The swipe has to be rather convincing, so it might not work for you from the first time, but you should get the hang of it quickly.
A new home for all your widgets
As we stated above, the swipe to unlock gesture has been removed in iOS 10. Instead, sliding a finger to the right on the lock screen takes us to a page with our widgets – arranged in a vertical list, with a quick search bar stuck permanently at the very top. The same swiping gesture also works on the iOS 10 home screen if you're looking at the first page of apps. Whether we like it or not, this is where widgets are meant to reside in the new iOS release. Meanwhile, the pull-down notifications panel is now just that – a panel with all your notifications and nothing more getting in the way. It's a change we don't mind, actually.
Still, we're not sure how to feel about the inclusion of widgets on the lock screen. It seems like an unnecessary complication – one that Android abandoned years ago. On the other hand, Android's implementation of lock screen widgets was never the most elegant one, while iOS 10's execution is simpler, therefore more promising. Folks who actually use iOS widgets might find it convenient to have them at a swipe's distance. And who knows, the new widget panel might grow on us over time.
3D Touch is more useful than ever
Apple gave the iPhone 6s 3D Touch to set it apart from the crowd, but didn't quite tap into the full potential of this admittedly innovative functionality. With iOS 10, however, our iPhone's force-sensing screen suddenly feels a lot more useful. That's not only because new shortcuts have been added to many of the stock apps – the Settings app now provides quick access to our Cellular Data controls, for instance, while the Phone app offers us to view recent calls or search for a particular contact. In iOS 10, 3D-touching an app will also display a widget, if available, which can be extremely convenient in many situations. To give a few examples, Phone lists our favorite contacts, Weather shows the current conditions, Activity displays how active we've been throughout the day, and Calendar gives us a glimpse at our agenda – all without the need to open any of these applications. This is practical innovation at its finest! Still, we can't overlook the fact that the new widgets panel, which we highlighted above, makes having widgets accessed by 3D Touch somewhat redundant.
Tidying up the Control Center
On the topic of 3D Touch, the feature is now baked into parts of Control Center. For example, hard-pressing on the flashlight offers three brightness settings, and the timer presents us with a few common duration presets. As for the panel itself, it has been reorganized and feels a bit less crowded as a result. Our music controls are now placed in their dedicated tab, with plenty of room for buttons, a progress bar, and album art to be shown.