iOS 7 specs versus Android 4.2, Windows Phone, BlackBerry 10

Apple's newly announced operating system takes on Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry. Here's how iOS 7 compares with what's already out there.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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Jessica Dolcourt
4 min read
Apple completely rebuilt its iOS interface.

Apple's iOS 7 comes out swinging with an overhauled design that reskins practically every element with a gleaming-new interface. From what we've seen so far (including hands-on time with iOS 7 on an iPhone 5), we like the latest 'do. A lot.

While some new behaviors go along with the updated apps, iOS 7's changes are more cosmetic and iterative than they are groundbreaking. That's completely understandable; not every update can spark a revolution.

However, apart from a few notable innovations, iOS 7 doesn't seem like it's enough to overturn criticism that its growth has stalled, that it's less innovative than archrival Android, and that it borrows heavily from other competitors (in truth, they all steal ideas from each other). At least not at this point in the game.

The fresh new look of Apple iOS 7 (pictures)

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Below, you'll find a list of the iOS 7 features that Apple focused on today, and next to that, a brief description of how that trait exists on Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry rivals (or at least one manufacturer's take on said platform). Read on below for more detail about how iOS 7 stacks up.

iOS 7 Android 4.2 Windows Phone 8 BlackBerry 10
Control Center Yes, varies by phone-maker No, settings
System access settings
Notification center Detailed notifications Live tile
BlackBerry Hub, badges
Multitasking preview Recents list Multitasking preview Active Frames grid
Surfaced camera modes Varies by Android skin Third-party
Video, Time Shift modes
Photos grouped by
years, location
Albums, other filters Albums, date Albums, recent
Shared photo stream Samsung Galaxy S4 Share one by one Share one by one
Peer-to-peer sharing (AirDrop) Android Beam (NFC) Tap + Share (NFC) NFC sharing
Unified browser bar Yes Yes Yes
Personalized radio/discovery Google Play Music All Access Nokia Music Third-party app
Voice access to
system settings
Samsung's S Voice No systems access No systems access
Automatic app updates Optional, by app 'Update all' option Individual
No No No
In-dash integration
(iOS for cars)
Driving mode/S Drive Nokia Drive Third-party apps

What's new versus deja vu?
During the WWDC keynote and when we met with Apple later on, the company seemed most proud of the way its new Control Center will affect users' lives. I agree that it looks fantastic, and that its execution proves foresight and finesse.

The same goes for other new features like the larger preview panes in the multitasking mode, a unified browser search bar, and for peer-to-peer sharing via AirDrop (although NFC, which Apple doesn't currently support, works well, too).

That said, there's a lot in iOS 7 that we've seen before in other mobile platforms, in similar if not identical forms. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that so long as Apple executes well and brings value to the user. The difference is that Apple's most advertised iOS 7 software additions either play catch-up or are relatively minor, like a way to filter apps for kids or surface camera settings in the app's top layer.

Apple does push the industry forward with some capabilities that are all its own -- like iOS 7 for cars and using Siri to toggle system settings. (Samsung's S Voice does the latter, but not Android Voice Actions.) Even with driving modes for individual handsets, such deep car integration will be tough for the others to beat and even match without strong automotive partnerships.

iTunes Radio may not be a new concept, but I like that it's free for everyone, and integrated into a native app that people already use. Google Play Music All Access does about the same, but costs $10 per month, and Nokia Music is free, but only on Nokia's Windows phones.

Double-take: Is Apple's iOS 7 really all that new-looking? (pictures)

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Once again, Apple's advantage is that iOS 7 will be unified across most Apple smartphones and tablets, unlike Android, which varies greatly by phone-maker and has a notorious track record for timely updates across devices. Even Windows Phone has two flavors; that profits Nokia, the originator of most extra features, but also makes Windows Phone's benefits uneven across the entire portfolio.

Can iOS 7 stand out?
What we know of iOS 7 today makes a big splash when it comes to its refined interface design and a smaller sploosh when it comes to its new feature set.

Apple may not have bowled us over with headline enhancements, but iOS 7 will continue to formidably challenge Google, Microsoft, and BlackBerry with its eye-catching visual design and its total haul of features, new and old.

Like many things worth admiring, iOS 7 is greater than the sum of its parts.