Smarter by degrees: Apple's new iOS7. Photo: AFP
Three things should be said about iOS 7, Apple's new mobile operating system, announced this month and scheduled for public release in the northern autumn.
First, it could mean that some time this year new iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch models will arrive.
Second, because iOS 7 is very much the product of designer Sir Jony Ive, and is such a sweeping change from the Steve Jobs tradition, it is certain to stir storms of both revulsion and adoration. To which one can only say: get a life. It's an operating system, not your mother-in-law.
Third, considerable though the changes are in design and function, I doubt you will have trouble embracing it.
A similar broom has swept the Macintosh operating system, also slated for release about September, when we might see, along with the spiffy, powerful and startlingly new Mac Pro desktop machine, a new iMac line-up. We will discuss Mavericks, as the new Mac OS X is called, in a later column.
So, back to iOS 7 and what it will mean to the 600 million people who run it on Apple devices, and the thousands of developers who make and maintain the 900,000 apps that use it: this is the first major change in the six years we have had iOS, and the biggest.
The iOS 7 interface is utterly new. The theme is simplicity, ease of access and beauty. Out are the skeumorphics (ghastly word) of the Jobs era - make-believe wood, leather and felt decorating bookshelves, games ''tables'' and so on. In are slim, elegant typefaces, translucent panels, muted colours and smooth animations.
Multi-touch and animation are everywhere: even a dramatic bolt of lightning added to the weather app, to enliven storm warnings. Easy-to-tap blocks replace buttons, gestures replace back buttons, and a cool ''3D'' effect on the home screen makes your wallpaper move behind the icons as you turn the phone. Folders gain a full-screen view and will hold several pages of apps. Photos in messages are big and bold. The screen looks bigger because it displays edge to edge.
Perhaps best of all is a new control centre brought up with a swipe of the finger across any screen, including the lock screen, to get all the basic controls for Bluetooth, airplane mode, music, Wi-Fi, brightness, access to the calculator, the camera (already a slide-up from the lock screen in iOS 6) and a flashlight for showing you the way home.
Oh, and updating of apps will be automatic. It will work on a cellular network, but the phone will check signal strength and reliability. I think, though, I might limit it to Wi-Fi; so much cheaper than LTE.
Safari, the built-in iOS web browser, has been upgraded for speed and revolutionised in looks. It is now full-screen and uncoloured; yep, black and white is in. Search is now easier, with Microsoft's Bing the default, rather than Google. Parental control is upgraded and there are (hooray) tabs, arranged Cover Flow style.
Notification Centre now comes as a translucency, filling the screen, offering a short weather forecast, Calendar notes and Messages. Photos has been reorganised with screens full of thumbnails leading to Events, now called Moments. Camera has been redesigned, with built-in filters, and provides a swipe-chosen choice of video or stills plus standard oblong, square and panorama formats. Siri now has a full screen instead of just a panel and is much smarter, also accessing Wikipedia and Twitter.
The highly useful AirDrop, introduced in Mac OS X, is now in iOS 7, allowing secure sharing with friends. Mail is simple, black on white, minimalist, spare and easy to use. Reception bars have gone, replaced by five black dots.
Integration with in-vehicle systems has been improved and adopted by leading car makers, including Ferrari.
Also interesting, and useful, is a 256-bit encrypted iCloud Keychain that remembers account names, passwords and credit card numbers. It works on all your hand-held devices and Macs. Safari will also now generate passwords for you and store them securely.
Really, iOS 7 and Siri could just about take over all your thinking, and charm you along with it.