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With the big release of Apple’s iOS 7 today, a new look and feel for the operating system is finally upon us.

The devices that are available to update to iOS 7 are the iPhone 4, 4S and 5, the iPad 2, 3, and 4, as well as iPad mini, and the 5th generation iPod Touch. Keep in mind that once you upgrade from iOS 6 to iOS 7, you will not be able to downgrade from iOS 7 back to iOS 6.

The iOS 7 will be a major change from the iOS many users are used to, with plenty new features that will make using Apple’s mobile devices easier and more enjoyable.

There’s a lot going on in the new operating system including new sounds, wallpapers, changes to the design of Calendar, Notes, Reminders and more, but we’ve broken down the big shifts that go beyond new design below [and major props to TechCrunch for the visuals].

New Look: 

Apple has completely overhauled the look of iOS, starting from the lock screen and extending to the icons of default apps, system fonts, status bar indicators, system elements like Notification Center and more. There are new sounds, too, including ringtones and notification cues.

Control Center: 

This is a brand new feature for iOS 7, and one that’s incredibly useful. The Control Center provides quick access to commonly-used settings toggles including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Rotation Lock and Do Not Disturb mode, as well as to the media player controls, AirDrop and AirPlay, and some key apps including Calculator, Timer and Camera and a flashlight.

Siri:

Aside from a visual update, Siri adds new voices designed to make it seem more human, and additional data sources including Bing, Wikipedia and Twitter. It can now return phone calls, playback voicemail and generally do more that you’d like a hands-free assistant to be able to do.

Multitasking:

In iOS 7, the multitasking gets smarter, learning your habits and updating content in the background depending on when you regularly use your apps, and when you’re connected to power and Wi-Fi, so as to avoid data and energy burn.

Safari:

When you’re on a page, the address bar and bottom navigation bar fade away, giving you a full-screen experience. The address bar is also finally a unified search bar, too.

Camera:

Apple’s iOS camera software is brand new in 7, with an interface that brings all modes out into the open instead of hiding features behind buttons. Even though everything’s now a scroll away at most, the interface is very different from the one it replaces. The important thing to be aware of is the new slider for different camera functions – video at the far left, and panorama at the far right. It may not be immediately apparent that this list of modes is itself scrollable, as there’s no obvious arrows or control buttons.

Photos:

Apple’s new photos app applies some basic organizational logic to your picture library, making it easier to find specific moments, and to browse based on locations and date, which is much better than having to organize events yourself. You can zoom out and see your entire history of mobile photos as measured in years, too.

Notification Center: The new Notification Center in iOS 7 is a big change from the previous version. There’s a new “Today” panel that shows you events and birthdays going on for any given day, as well as weather conditions, stocks, and upcoming things to note for the next day, including alarms and calendar events. Swiping brings you to the list of “All” and “Missed” notifications, which shows you things sent by your apps, either in total, or just those that are new since the last time you checked your device. In settings, you can turn off or on each element of the “Today” view, and limit lock screen access to both that and your general notifications list.

Some of the updated apps:

Yahoo

Shazam

CNN

Mail

Foursquare

SOURCE: TechCrunch, NextWeb | PHOTO CREDIT: TechCrunch