What's New in iOS 7, iPad Air, and iPad mini with Retina Display

Apple's iPad gets its features from a combination of hardware and its software operating system (called iOS; the term is short for iPhone Operating System, in case you want to impress your friends). The current operating system is iOS 7.0.6, though small updates appear all the time, so by the time you're reading this, you might have 7.2, or even later! If you've seen the original iPad or iPad 2 in action, or if you own one, it's helpful to understand which new features the third-gen, fourth-gen, and iPad Air devices bring to the table. In addition to the features of previous iPads, iPad Air offers

  • Design: iPad Air is lighter (1 lb.) and thinner (7.5 millimeters thick) with thinner bezels for more screen area. Both iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display offer awesomely crisp displays with 3.1 million pixels — which is a lot.

  • An improved chip: The 64 bit A7X processor which doubles the processor and graphics speeds accomplished by the A6X chip on the fourth-generation iPad.

  • Dual antennas: Two antennae and the use of MIMO (multiple-input, multiple output) technology allows for much faster wireless connections.

  • M7 Motion Coprocessor: This coprocessor processes game features like the gyroscope and accelerometer faster.

  • Video Recording: Video recording quality has moved from 720p HD to 1080p HD for an improvement in quality, and 3x video zoom has been added.

Any iPad device from iPad 2 on can use most features of iOS 7 if you update the operating system. This update to the operating system adds a few new features, including

  • A whole new look: Apple entirely redesigned the iPad interface with iOS 7, providing flatter, more graphically bright buttons for your apps, and a simple, clean look to areas such as the Lock screen and Settings. Love it or hate it, it's an overdue facelift for the iPad.

  • Control Center: This handy group of buttons and sliders gives you access to the most commonly used settings, such as volume, playback tools for music, on/off settings for AirDrop (see next item for more about this feature), Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, as well buttons for Flashlight, Clock, Calculator, and your Camera. Control Center appears when you flick up from the bottom of the iPad screen.

  • AirDrop: Use this new feature to share pictures, videos, music, and more with somebody in your general vicinity who has an AirDrop-enabled device (iPad fourth generation and later and iPad mini).

  • Notification Center: Swipe down on your iPad screen, and you reveal Notification Center. New Notification Center features in iOS 7 are the Today, All, and Missed views, which help you see useful information such as events on your Calendar, Reminders, and stock values from three perspectives.

  • Multitasking: In iOS 7, Apple has made some changes in the way you work with more than one app at a time. You can press the Home button twice to get a view of all open apps to make it easier to switch among them. Also, your iPad now pays attention to the time you typically use certain apps, such as a social app or stock tracker, and updates their content at that time to make the latest content available to you faster.

  • Camera improvements: Now the Camera app makes various shooting formats (still, video, panorama, and the new square format) easily accessible. In addition, Apple has provided filters so that you can add effects such as higher contrast or black-and-white to your photos with newer iPads.

  • Photo categories: To help you organize your photos, iOS 7 has added Collections, Moments, and Years categories to group your images by the time and location where they were taken. In addition, you can now use iCloud to share photos with others; photos or videos are streamed to everybody's devices. Others can also post items to your stream and even make comments.

  • A new look for Safari: Apple's browser, Safari, helps you get around the Internet. Now it also provides a unified search field so that you can enter a website address or search term and Safari can provide the best match for your entry. The Shared Links feature lets you view information about your Twitter timeline, and Reading List helps you save and read articles to keep you informed. Finally, iCloud Keychain is a way to have iCloud store all your account names, passwords, and credit card numbers safely. Keychain also helps out by entering information for you when you need it.

  • iTunes Radio: iTunes Radio offers you streaming music from popular radio stations, but beyond that, it learns about you as you listen. This feature allows you to build new stations, putting you in charge of how many familiar tunes are mixed with new songs to help you expand your musical vocabulary. You can also view a history of what you've heard and build a musical wish list.

  • Siri grows up: Siri has jumped on the new-look bandwagon with a simpler, cleaner look in iOS 7. You can choose between a male or female Siri voice, and enjoy the fact that Siri checks even more sources for its info, including Bing, Wikipedia, and even Twitter postings related to your verbal query.

  • App Store apps near you: In the App Store, you'll find two new features. You can search for apps that are popular in your area and browse the Kids category to find kid-friendly apps.

  • Find My iPad security features: The Find My iPad app helps you locate a missing iPad. In iOS 7, new features help you display a message on the Lock screen stating that this device is lost and provide a phone number where someone can reach you; your iPad can't be used without your sign-in information. If you get your iPad back, you can easily deactivate the message and access your tablet again.

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