Those cool iOS 7 features? Android does that too

Some of the most talked-about features in iOS 7 are also available on Android, with the help of a few apps.

You could say iOS 7 is revolutionary -- in the world of Apple. For several iterations now, Android users have had access to some of iOS 7's most heralded features, leaving some avid fanboys going pfffftttttt.

But maybe you've taken Android's offerings for granted. Maybe you overlooked these now-glorified features. Maybe it took the release of iOS 7 to appreciate just how plentiful your Android phone really is.

So, it's time take a little inventory. At the risk of igniting a flame war, let's look at iOS 7's best features, on Android.

iOS 7's best features on Android (pictures)

Those cool iOS 7 features? Android does that too

1. Control Center
One of iOS 7's biggest achievements, Control Center, finally lets iPhone owners do things like toggle Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, adjust brightness, and control music playback. There are also shortcuts to the flashlight, clock, calculator, and camera. All it takes is a swipe up from the bottom edge of any screen.

Yep, got it: Android users can access their own "control center" with a swipe down from the top of any screen, with access to the aforementioned settings shortcuts, and brightness control. When music's playing, playback controls appear as a static notification.

As for the app shortcuts, 1Tap QuickBar will do the trick. With it, you can place any app icons in your notification shade, plus other shortcuts, like a new text to a favorite contact or even a direct dial.

Those cool iOS 7 features? Android does that too

2. AirDrop
Available on the iPhone 5 and later, this tool lets users share things like photos and videos as long as they're close by.

Checkmate: Introduced in Android 4.0, Android Beam utilizes NFC and Bluetooth to accomplish the same task. Maps, photos, Web links, and contacts can all be transferred by holding two NFC-enabled phones back to back. Sometimes, the connection is finicky, but in my brief experiences, it's done the job.

Samsung offers its own take on Android Beam called S Beam (video). The data transfer technology works similarly, but instead uses NFC to pair the two devices initially, then transitions to a Wi-Fi Direct connection to complete the transfer. Translation: faster and more reliable.

If neither of these built-in solutions are getting you excited, an app like Bump offers a more user-friendly solution. The only caveat, of course, is that the other needs to have the app installed, too.

Those cool iOS 7 features? Android does that too

3. Camera features
iOS 7 gave the camera a revamp, tweaking the interface and adding preprocess features like cropping and filters. Burst mode was also granted to the iPhone 5 and later, while iPhone 5S users got slo-mo.

Android's options: This tit for tat is a little messier, because the Android interface -- especially the camera app -- varies so much from brand to brand. Add the endless variation in hardware and things get really complicated.

So, let's focus on iOS 7's hallmark features: burst mode and slo-mo. Some phones, like the HTC One and the Galaxy S4 already have these features, but let's assume your phone has none.

With over 1,000,000 installations, Fast Burst Camera Lite is an Android favorite, letting you take 30 photos per second on newer devices, and 5-10 photos per second on low-end devices. For slo-mo video, you won't find a reliable app that records in slo-mo, but some apps like AndroVid Video Trimmer, let you convert videos to slow motion after they're shot.

Those cool iOS 7 features? Android does that too

4. Fully featured multitasking
iPhone users could always double-tap the home button to switch apps, but with iOS 7 comes true multitasking, including an app preview and the ability to force-close an app with a swipe.

Can do: Fully featured multitasking was always an outstanding Android feature, letting users switch to or force-close apps by long-pressing the home button. Better yet, some Android versions let users get to system controls using the same gesture.

Those cool iOS 7 features? Android does that too

5. Notification Center
Widgets are nowhere to be seen, but iOS 7 makes a marked effort to give users more access to at-a-glance information with improvements to the Notification Center. Now, the pull-down menu features three tabs: Today, All [Notifications], and Missed [events]. It's customizable, easy on the eyes, and conveniently accessed no matter what you're doing.

Got it: Android's notification shade covers some of these things, but it really is helpful to have all time-sensitive information in one interface. Enter Google Now. Depending on your Android phone, Google Now can often be accessed with a long-press shortcut. Once prompted, you'll see reminders, scheduled events, traffic information, sports scores, and lots (lots) more. It's highly customizable and far more robust that Notification Center's offerings.

Those cool iOS 7 features? Android does that too

6. Audio calls over FaceTime
In a less-touted update, audio-only FaceTime calls were added, letting users call friends and family over 4G or Wi-Fi, without draining wireless minutes. It's a money-saver, especially for those international calls. The only caveat is that the recipient will have to have an iOS device, too.

There's an app for that: Though some carriers like T-Mobile offer Wi-Fi calling at no additional charge, subscribers to other carriers will have to get creative. Luckily there's a library of apps to choose from.

Skype, one of the most popular and established VoIP apps is a first choice for many thanks to its ubiquity -- you can often count on friends and family having it (or at least being willing to download it.) Beyond Skype, Tango is an Android favorite, lets you make calls, text, and even video chat for free. Like Skype, the recipient will have to have Tango downloaded (because -- get it? -- it takes two!)

Those cool iOS 7 features? Android does that too

7. Safari gets smarter
The iPhone's stock browser got an impressive overhaul, adding a unified search bar, tab management with previews, private browsing, and even a Do Not Track privacy option. In a less-advertised update, Safari also lets you see which of your Twitter friends shared the page you're currently viewing.

Chrome does it: Well, almost. Safari's Twitter integration is pretty darn cool, and not yet available on Android, but Chrome covers just about everything else. So, ditch your Android's stock browser, and let Chrome take over, giving you tab management with page previews, Incognito tabs, a combined search and address bar, and that Do Not Track option.

Beyond that, Chrome also lets you view desktop versions of pages, manage bandwidth, and even sync tabs with your desktop.

Five quick iOS 7 mysteries solved

What's that blue dot? How do I quick-delete e-mail messages? Here are the answers to these and other puzzlers.

Five quick iOS 7 mysteries solved

Some aspects of iOS 7 are pretty clear -- swipe up to access Control Center? Got it -- while others, not so much.

In fact, I suspect that after installing the new OS (or buying a new iPhone that has it preinstalled), you're going to find yourself scratching your head over certain, shall we say, mysteries.

With that in mind, and fully anticipating calls from friends and relatives having trouble solving these puzzles, I've put together this quick guide.

1. What's the blue dot next to certain apps?
In iOS 6, when you installed a new app, its icon would display a small "new" banner across one corner. In iOS 7, new apps are represented by a blue dot.

That dot also appears when you update an existing app (or the OS updates it for you in the background). In both cases, the dot disappears after you launch that app for the first time.

Five quick iOS 7 mysteries solved
The mysterious blue dot. What does it mean?!?!

2. Where did my pop-up iPod controls go?
Oh, there they are. iPod controls, that is. Hiding in plain sight inside Control Center.

In iOS 6, you could double-tap the Home button to bring up the lock screen with iPod controls (play/pause, track skip, and so on). Now, that double-tap does nothing, at least when your iPhone is off.

Likewise, if you double-tap Home when your device is on, you'll see you no longer have the option of swiping the open-apps toolbar to the right to access playback controls. So where did those handy buttons go?

Into Control Center. As I mentioned above, you can swipe up from anywhere (including the lock screen) and you'll find iPod controls smack in the middle of that screen. (Frankly, I miss the double-tap option, a feature I used regularly. Tap-and-swipe is a little more cumbersome.)

Five quick iOS 7 mysteries solved
Oh, there they are. iPod controls, that is. Hiding in plain sight inside Control Center.

 3. How do I turn a text message into a contact?

Once upon a time, when you received a text message from someone new, you could easily add that person to your address book. You just tapped Contact, then chose the appropriate "add" option.

In iOS 7 the procedure is a little less obvious. After opening a message, again you tap the Contact button (located in the upper-right corner of the screen). Then you tap the little "info" icon (represented by an "i" inside a circle) and choose Create New Contact or Add to Existing Contact.

Five quick iOS 7 mysteries solved
iOS 7 isn't all text labels; you still have to decipher a few icons, like this one for adding new contacts to your address book.

4. What happened to the swipe-to-delete option in the Mail app?
To delete an e-mail (or text message), now you swipe left instead of right. Yeah, but try telling my brain that.

Want to delete an e-mail? Just swipe to the right and tap Delete. Except that doesn't work anymore, not in iOS 7.

Part of the reason is that if you swipe right from the left edge, you get access to the Mailboxes screen. I'm guessing Apple didn't want to confuse people with a "big right swipe" and a "smaller right swipe," even though that's exactly how Spotlight search is invoked now: swipe down on any Home screen, versus a "big swipe down" (from the top edge) to bring up Notification Center.

Anyway, to delete an individual e-mail, you now swipe left. That now brings up two options: More and Trash. Trash is obvious. Tapping More gives you four other quick-access options: Flag, Mark as Read, Move to Junk, and Move Messages. Handy stuff, yes, but after five years it's going to take some time to reprogram my brain to swipe left.

By the way, the same is true in Messages: you now swipe left to delete.

Five quick iOS 7 mysteries solved
To delete an e-mail (or text message), now you swipe left instead of right. Yeah, but try telling my brain that.
 5. How do I force-close an app?
Pick a card, any card -- then flick it up and out to force-close the corresponding app.

Jason Cipriani already covered this one, but I think it bears repeating because it's such a sea change for iOS.

In iOS 6, if an app was giving you trouble, you'd double-press the Home button to access that toolbar (or "drawer") of currently running apps. Then you'd tap and hold the offending app's icons until it started to do the icon shake. Tap the little red "x" and presto, it's terminated.

In iOS 7, the process is much easier, even if it's not immediately obvious. Double-press the Home button to bring up the new "card" view for running apps (which Apple blatantly ripped off from Palm's WebOS, but that's another story), find the offending app, then flick the card (not the icon) upward. Presto: gone.

Have you encountered any other iOS 7 mysteries that need solving? Share your questions in the comments!

Five quick iOS 7 mysteries solved
Pick a card, any card -- then flick it up and out to force-close the corresponding app.

A Few Tricks All The New iOS 7 Users Should Know

A Few Tricks All The New iOS 7 Users Should Know
At long last, iOS 7 has arrived. That is, it arrived for everyone who didn’t say “Developer? Oh, yeah, I’m totally a developer. Cough” and wiggle into the Beta months ago.

iOS 7 is a strange new land, especially on day one. Out with the gradients, in with the trippy fluorescents. Your favorite app? It probably looks completely different now.

It can be confusing, but we’re here to help. iOS 7 has all sorts of nifty little tricks tucked away in places that are in no way immediately obvious, especially if you haven’t followed Tim Cook’s every word along the way.

If you’ve been using iOS 7 for a while, you might know some of these. Hell, you might know most of these. But we tried to cover the bases to make sure that most people learn a thing or two. (Know all of these? You’re way cool, high five. Share another trick down in the comments!)

Swipe Down For Search:

Gone are the days of having to swipe or tap your way to iOS’ dedicated search page. You can now access Spotlight search from anywhere on the homescreen. Just swipe down in the middle of the screen.

You can use Spotlight to quickly search across your device’s apps, emails, and contacts — but curiously, it seems that Apple has removed Spotlight’s ability to search the web. I’m pretty sure I never actually used that, but this is the Internet so I’m supposed to complain now that it’s gone.

A Few Tricks All The New iOS 7 Users Should Know

Swipe Up For Toggles:

Toggles! At last!

Fixing what is perhaps one of iOS’ most glaring, long-lasting omissions, iOS 7 puts one-click access to things like Airplane mode and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth toggles just one swipe away, instead of hiding them in settings.

To get to the new Control Panel, just swipe up from the bottom of the screen anywhere you might be. You’ll get buttons for Airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, Orientation lock, and sliders for brightness and media control. Oh, and there’s a flashlight in there. So if you were thinking about building a dedicated flashlight app, now is probably not a good time.

(Pro tip: The control panel is available from the lockscreen. Also: if the control panel is sliding out and interrupting your Candy Crushin’ time, you can block it from sliding out while in an app in your settings.)

A Few Tricks All The New iOS 7 Users Should Know

Reveal iMessage and SMS Timestamps:

iOS has always been kind of weird about telling you when a message was sent or received. It’ll tell you when some messages came through — but only if it’s the first one that’s come through in a while in a given thread. If you sent a bunch of messages around 12:45, for example, you’d normally only get that first 12:45 timestamp.

With iOS 7, you can reveal the timestamp for each and every message. Just grab one of the speech bubbles in a thread and swipe to the left. Tada! Timestamps! Never argue about exactly when a message was sent again! (Because, yeah, I’ve had those arguments. Seriously. Sigh.

A Few Tricks All The New iOS 7 Users Should Know

Built-In Level:

Building a house boat? Hanging a picture? Just want to show off one of the stranger new tricks that your iPhone has picked up?

iOS 7 has a built-in bubble level, of all things. I thought it was a pretty strange addition at first… but then I found myself using it one day. Then again the next.

To get to the level, open the compass app. Though not immediately obvious, there’s a second page to the app; swipe to the left, and you’ll be at Apple’s level.

(Pro tip: Double-tapping the screen resets the level to consider whatever angle the phone is currently at to be 0°. That design choice, expressed through a series of colored flashes, isn’t super intuitive.)

A Few Tricks All The New iOS 7 Users Should Know

Swipe To Close Safari Tabs:

Safari has a new, scrolling 3D tab interface that allows for just about as many tabs as you want.

Alas, these tabs also have new, tiny “X” buttons that make closing them quickly a bit of a pain.

Forget the X button — it’s for chumps. Swipe the tabs away to the left, instead. It’s a whole lot faster, and requires less precision when you’re trying to dump a bunch of tabs on the go.

A Few Tricks All The New iOS 7 Users Should Know

Call/SMS/Facetime Blocking:

“Surely, there’s got to be a way to block phone numbers,” said every iPhone user ever.

Really, just type “How to b” into Google and let it autocomplete. First result? “How to block a number.” Second result? “How to block a number on iPhone.” Third result? “How to be happy.” This feature is in greater demand than happiness! Happiness!

Yet, until now, there hasn’t really been an easy way.

With iOS 7, it’s finally a pretty straightforward process to block people from calling, messaging, or FaceTime-ing (FaceTiming? Facing? Agh.) you. You can find the block list at either Settings > Phone > Blocked; Settings > Messages > Blocked; or Settings > FaceTime > Blocked. Note, however, that the block list is universal — block them in the phone settings, and they’re blocked on FaceTime, too.

A Few Tricks All The New iOS 7 Users Should Know

App-By-App Cell Data Usage/Blockage:

Want to see which app is using up all of your cell plan’s precious megabytes? Want to keep Pandora from streaming unless it’s on Wi-Fi?

Pop into Settings > Cellular and scroll down to the bottom. You can see which apps have used the most cell data and block any app from using cell data at all. (Note: An app needs to have used cell data at least once for it to show up in the list.)

A Few Tricks All The New iOS 7 Users Should Know

How To Close Apps:

We’ve had a bunch of requests for this one since this post first went up, so here you go.

Apple changed the App Switching/App Closing mechanism up a bit with iOS 7. It used to be that to close an app, you’d double tap the home button, wait for the app drawer to slide out, then press and hold on an icon until the little “X” appeared.

With iOS 7, the whole thing looks and works a bit more like webOS of yesteryear. Double tap the home button to bring up the fullscreen app switcher, which provides a screenshot of each running application in a sideways-scrolling carousel. To close an application, simply swipe the app’s screenshot up and off the screen.

(Note: You really shouldn’t need to close apps all that often. Unless the app has crashed and refuses to fix itself or it’s doing something that is eating your battery, iOS 7 is designed so that most apps use little to no resources when in the background.)

A Few Tricks All The New iOS 7 Users Should Know

Bonus Tricks:

  • Folders can now be paged, allowing them to hold a huge number of apps.
  • Safari still has private-browsing mode, it’s just in the app itself now instead of hidden away in settings. Find the switch in Safari’s tabs screen.
  • Airdrop, Apple’s much touted system for wirelessly transferring files to other nearby iPhones, only works with the iPhone 5 and later. (I’ve spotted many a 4S user wasting time trying to figure out how the heck to turn it on, when the option simply isn’t there for them. Don’t worry, I wasted a good 10 minutes myself.)
  • Miss the “List” view in the calendar app? It’s still there, just not immediately obvious. Tap the search icon to bring up a scrollable list.
  • If you’re into using default ringtones, give Apple’s list another look. They’ve added a bunch of new trancy ringtones and chiptuney text alerts.
  • Siri has picked up a bunch of new tricks. You can toggle settings (“Turn On Do Not Disturb”), ask for recent tweets (“What is TechCrunch saying?”), show you pictures (“Show me pictures of cats”) pulled from Bing, provide Wikipedia info inline (“Tell me about TechCrunch”), post to Facebook, play back voicemail, list recently missed calls, and find restaurants on Yelp and make OpenTable reservations.
  • iOS 7 keeps tabs on where you hang out most, allowing it to cache relevant nearby data. It’s neat, if a bit spooky. Once you’ve used iOS 7 for a while, go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services to view a list of your frequent haunts. You can also turn this feature off at the same location.
Know any other tricks that we should list? (“LOL SWITCH TO ANDROID” doesn’t count.) Drop a comment and we’ll add the best.

Block numbers from texting or calling you in iOS 7

We've all been there. The survey takers keep trying to reach you, or the wrong number that keeps dialing you, never seeming to realize that your'e not the person they're looking for. Blocking numbers usually requires the assistance of your cell provider, but with iOS 7, you can block selected people from calling, texting, or starting a Facetime session with you.

Block numbers from texting or calling you in iOS 7
Scroll  to the bottom of a contact card to block someone.

If you want to block someone, you can go about it one of two ways: Through your contacts list or through the Settings app. To block someone already on your contacts list, open the Contacts app, select a contact card, scroll down toward the bottom, and tap Block this Caller.  If you're blocking someone in your Recents list of the Phone app, you'll need to tap the "i" to get their contact card, but aside from that, the process is the same.

If you want to edit your blocked list more quickly, open the Settings app, then go to either Phone, Messages, or FaceTime settings; scroll down to Blocked, and you can add or remove people from your blocked list. To add someone, tap Add New...; to remove someone, swipe a person's name from right to left, then tap the Unblock button that appears.

Keep in mind that if you block someone, they won't be able to call you, send you text messages, or start a FaceTime conversation with you. You can't block someone from texting you while allowing them to call. Keep this in mind, and block responsibly.

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