AP Technology Writer
CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) -- One of the best things about Apple's latest iPhones is the slick new iOS 7 software that runs the devices. But that souped-up operating system could end up hurting sales because the free software upgrade will also work on iPhones released since 2010, giving owners of the older models less incentive to buy Apple's newest products.
Perhaps unwittingly, even Apple's software boss Craig Federighi alluded to this potential problem while he was bragging about iOS 7 at the company's unveiling of its new phones Tuesday. He predicted that anyone who elects to install the software will feel "like they're getting an all-new device."
I understood what Federighi meant once I was able to see the iOS 7's improvements in action on Apple's two new iPhones, the 5C and the 5S. Although Apple announced iOS 7 at a conference three months ago, Tuesday marked the first time the company allowed reporters to experience the software hands-on.
Although the iPhone 5C is less expensive than its predecessor, the iPhone 5, iOS 7 almost made it look fancier than previous generations. As an iPhone 5 owner, I was feeling a bit envious until I remembered that I'll be able to spiff up my device, too, when the software is released on Sept. 18. The operating system will work on the iPhone 4 and later models, iPad 2s and subsequent versions, and the iPod Touch that came out late last year.
iOS 7 looks much different than previous versions of the operating system because it no longer displays iPhone apps as three-dimensional, embossed objects meant to mirror their real-world counterparts. The icons instead are flatter and more colorful.
Any significant change in design typically upsets users familiar with the old way of doing things, but I suspect the complaints about iOS 7 will be muted unless there are some terrible bugs in the software that weren't evident during the brief time that I was given to experiment.
I am fairly certain most people who download iOS 7 are going to be pleased. The software makes it easier to navigate around an iPhone and adds some compelling new features.
The additions include the ability to stream music through an advertising-supported service called iTunes Radio and five free apps that used to cost consumers anywhere from 99 cents to $4.99 apiece. The free apps are Apple's photo-editing tool, iPhoto, and video-editing program, iMovie, as well as work-oriented apps called Pages, Numbers and Keynote.
Apple doesn't appear to be removing any popular apps built into the operating system, as best as I could tell. The company did that last year when it replaced Google's mapping app with its own navigation system only to be ridiculed for misguiding users with shoddy directions. Apple isn't bringing back Google Maps with iOS 7, but it is promising that its alternative is getting better.
The software upgrade also will make it easier to take better pictures on the iPhone and automatically sort photos into different categories to denote particular events. I particularly liked a feature that lets you control how the camera operates by toggling between options at the bottom of the screen with the swipe of a finger. Once the camera is open in IOS 7, the choices include taking a square, panoramic or standard photo. The bottom-of-the screen controls also include an option to switch to video mode.
When taking a picture in iOS 7, photographers can also choose a filter to use as they snap the photo rather than waiting to touch up the shot later. When shooting video, shots can be zoomed in while recording. I can't do any of that on my iPhone 5 because it is still powered by iOS 6.
The new system also makes it easier to see and scroll through apps more quickly by clicking twice on the home button. When this action is performed in iOS 6, the iPhone apps are spread across a horizontal row at the bottom of the screen. Do the same thing in iOS 7, and the apps are transformed into large tiles displayed horizontally across the center of the screen in an effort to help users do more multitasking on the iPhone.
Apple is also making it easier to access frequently used controls such as and airplane mode by enabling users to pull up the panel from the bottom of the display screen instead of finding and pressing a settings option.
Other than the new software, the iPhone 5C isn't anything special, as one might expect from a cheaper phone.