Wednesday's release of iOS7 — the next generation of Apple's mobile operating system — will be a free download and will work on all iPads (including the iPad mini) except for the original model released in 2010. (Note that while iOS7 is installable on these models, not every one of its features will be available on every model.) Those holding out for new iPad hardware will have to wait a bit — new models are expected before the end of the year.
The striking new design of iOS7 features a flatter, more colorful appearance and has garnered a lot of attention for its looks, but the improvements are more than pixel deep.
Here are the five changes in iOS7 that will make the most difference to educators:
This feature may already be familiar to Mac users, since Apple introduced it on their desktops and laptops in 2011. It allows users to share files without a Wi-Fi network. There's no configuration necessary; the devices take care of that themselves. For now, the feature allows you to transfer files only between iOS devices, so you won’t be able to transfer files between your iPad and Mac. (That could change with the next version of MacOS, expected later this fall.) To take full advantage of this feature, developers will have to add support in their apps, but once that happens, files can be shared between devices with the flick of a finger.
2. TIGHTER INTEGRATION WITH APPLE TV
With iOS7, devices can be pre-configured with AirPlay destinations, meaning students or teachers can stream what's on their devices to a screen connected to an Apple TV. Want to see what someone is working on? Through iOS7's device management system, students can be prompted on their devices to share what's on their screens.
3. LICENSE MANAGEMENT FOR APPS
Schools will now be able to assign apps to users wirelessly while keeping full ownership and control over the app licenses. It's flexible, too: Apps can be revoked at will and reassigned to other students. (Apple's new volume purchasing program also supports the purchase of Mac apps and books, so its impact stretches beyond iOS devices.)
4. ENROLL STUDENTS OF ALL AGES IN ITUNES U AND ICLOUD
Schools will have a program to make it easier to obtain Apple IDs for students under age 13, with parental consent. Those Apple IDs can be used on services such as iTunes U and iCloud backup, as well as granting the ability to receive licenses in the new volume purchasing program. Apps aimed at children under 13 years old will have to follow a new set of rules, including restrictions on advertisements and links out of the app.
5. NEW FREE APPS — FOR SOME USERS
This is a big deal with a big asterisk because it's not available to everyone: As part of its iOS7 rollout, Apple is offering five of its apps — Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iPhoto and iMovie — for free on new iOS devices purchased beginning Sept. 1. The word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, photo and movie apps previously cost about $40 to download. For those with iPads purchased before Sept. 1, the apps will still be available for purchase in the App Store.
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