Apple's launch of iOS 7 for its iPhone and iPad has a new look that is much cleaner and gives a long-overdue facelift to its mobile operating system. Is it enough to drive another iPhone upgrade cycle? Probably.
Some features such as Air Drop, a peer-to-peer file sharing network, will work on the latest iPad, iPad mini and iPhone 5. Overall, iOS 7 will work on the iPhone 4 and later. The catch is that some key features may work best with the latest hardware. Apple's line is to update its iPhone ecosystem yet spur upgrades to some degree.
Apple's statement on iOS 7 has a key footnote:
iOS 7 will be available as a free software update for iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 and later, iPad mini and iPod touch (fifth generation) this fall. Some features may not be available on all products.
In other words, iOS 7 makes its predecessor look tired fairly quickly and if there's a feature a person lacks he may feel obsolete. Apple's approach is to give you a sudden nudge to upgrade hardware.
Here are some of the features that won't work with older phones like iPhone 4.
Panorama format is available on iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and iPod touch (5th generation). Square and video formats and swipe to capture are available on iPhone 4 or later, iPad (3rd generation or later), iPad mini, and iPod touch (5th generation).
Filters in Camera are available on iPhone 5 and iPod touch (5th generation). Filters in Photos are available on iPhone 4 or later, iPad (3rd generation or later), iPad mini, and iPod touch (5th generation).
AirDrop is available on iPhone 5, iPad (4th generation), iPad mini, and iPod touch (5th generation) and requires an iCloud account.
Siri is available on iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad with Retina display, iPad mini, and iPod touch (5th generation) and requires Internet access. Siri may not be available in all languages or in all areas, and features may vary by area. Cellular data charges may apply. New female and male voices will be available initially in U.S. English, French, and German.
Now Apple's iOS update includes a few moving parts. For starters, Apple appears to have cut Google out of Siri to some degree. iTunes Radio will likely do well. Safari is updated and most apps look brand new and refreshed.
The bottom line for Apple's WWDC keynote is that it did what it had to do: Set the stage for new devices in the fall.
To see what iOS 7 can do note the unit retirement rate for Apple's iOS units via Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes:
In other words, Apple has a huge installed base. All Apple's first iOS refresh in 6 years needs to do is to drive upgrades of older devices---notably those free ones with two year contracts. Toss in the carrot of updated iPhones and iPads in the fall and Apple probably has accomplished its mission.