Apple unveils iOS makeover, new MacBooks

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Apple Inc. has revealed the biggest changes to its mobile operating system since the launch of the iPhone in 2007 as it looks to reignite consumer passion and fend off rival devices running Google Inc.’s Android operating system,

At the start of its 24th annual worldwide developers’ conference in San Francisco on Monday, the company announced the new iOS 7 that will be available this fall for iPhones, the iPad tablet and iPod Touches. It said owners of recent iPhone versions, including the iPhone 5, will be eligible for free upgrades.

CEO Tim Cook showed off a simplified user interface on iPhones and iPads that he said drops design features such as simulated bookshelves and introduces icons that resemble real-life counterparts.

The new software responds to hand gestures to match its chief Android competitor, the Samsung Galaxy 4, and introduces notifications on the lock screen, a finger swipe from the bottom edge to access device settings, improved multitasking and longer battery life.

Apple’s browser, Safari, has also been upgraded to include a new home screen with a sidebar containing bookmarks so users can scroll through a reading list.

“We see iOS 7 as defining an important new direction, and in many ways a new beginning,” said Apple design chief Jony Ive.

Some of the new software platforms appear to respond to rival offerings, such as a feature called AirDrop, which lets users share content wirelessly, rather than requiring contact between devices, as is the case with some Android phones.

Apple demonstrated an animated weather app, a more streamlined calendar, automatic updates for frequently used apps and a revamped Siri voice messaging system that features both male and female voices.

It also unveiled new MacBooks featuring Intel’s Haswell chips with extended battery life and gave about 6,000 attendees a preview of its faster Mac Pro computers.

And it announced the latest version of OS X, Mavericks — software named after a California surfing cove — that improves notifications so that activities on a PC, for example, will link from a MacBook to iPhone. That is similar to a notification feature available with Google’s Chrome browser.

Apple also said its remote backup service, iCloud, will feature a new version of iWork that aims to match Google’s digital productivity suite, Google Docs.

It said users will be able to access iCloud from Windows PCs using Internet Explorer and Chrome browsers.

The company also introduced a streaming digital music service that works with iOS 7 and iTunes that analysts said closely matches the streaming radio offering of Pandora Media Inc.

Cook kicked off the event touting Apple’s strengths — its online store, 900,000 apps and 97 per cent customer satisfaction — and said its mobile operating system remains the market leader.

But the company has been criticized for a lack of innovation since the death of co-founder Steve Jobs and Apple’s stock priced has slumped from above $ 700 (U.S.) last September to its close slightly lower Monday at $ 438.89.

TORONTO STAR



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