iOS 7 preview: Lock screen gains access to notifications, controls, some confusion

iOS 7 brings not only live, physics-based wallpaper to the iPhone and iPad Lock screen, but Notification Center and Control Center access as well!

The Lock screen exists in some between-space, where your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad are no longer off or asleep, but nor are they fully awake and functional yet. With iOS 7, however, Apple has greatly increased the Lock screen's functionality, mainly by giving it access to Notification Center and the new Control Center, while retaining its own notifications and fast Camera access.

Apple (opens in new tab) doesn't have a dedicated description for the new Lock screen features, but they do mention them in the context of other features. From Control Center:

Just swipe up from any screen — including the Lock screen — to do things like switch to Airplane mode, turn Wi-Fi on or off, or adjust the brightness of your display.

From Notification Center:

You can access Notification Center from any screen, including the Lock screen. Just swipe down. And get up to speed.

From Find my iPhone:

Even after a remote erase, Find My iPhone can continue to display a message with your phone number on the Lock screen.

And here's what Apple's shown so far:

  • There's at least one, new, live wallpaper. It appears to have depth, or at least varied levels of blur, and, as Apple terms it, "vitality".
  • Up and down chevron icons give a visual indication of where Notification Center and Control Center live, and just like elsewhere in iOS, they can be accessed via a downward or upward swipe from the bezel, respectively.

Control Center on Lock screen

  • Notification Center on the Lock screen, of course, includes the new, tabbed, Today, All, and Missed views.

  • Passcode has been redesigned and, thanks to its blur and translucency effect, it takes on the flavor of the wallpaper below.

  • The time and date are still front and center on the Lock screen, though they've been giving the Helvetica Neue Ultra-Thin treatment, like much of the rest of iOS 7.
  • Slide to Unlock, the now iconic control for accessing an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, is still there, and in the same place, but its interface chrome - its button and slider channel - has been removed leaving only the text itself. It still has a sweeping, highlight animation to help draw attention to it, though it appears now to be slanted on the diagonal.
  • Fast Camera access is also still there, also redone in the new iOS 7 aesthetic.
  • Lock screen notifications, unsurprisingly, also remain on the Lock screen.

"Live wallpapers" aren't new, but they've previously been animated, like old-fashioned keyframe cartoons, or like video recordings. What Apple appears to be doing is actual, real live wallpapers, using the same physics engine that's driving their new UIKit dynamics and Sprite Kit. These wallpapers move just like other iOS 7 elements, in relation to how the device itself is moved (almost certainly programmatically in reaction to the accelerometer and gyroscope). Yes, even the wallpapers are objectified and gamefied.

We've only seen the circles so far, but hopefully come the fall there'll be a wider variety of choices and perhaps, one day, a way for us to make, or at least buy or download, custom ones.

The up and down chevrons, while aiding in discoverability for Notification Center and Control Center, also create some confusion, especially the latter due to its proximity to the Slide to Unlock control. It could make a casual observer think they should slide up to unlock, instead of the proper left-to-right.

Fast Camera access also shares the same direct manipulation gesture as Control Center, simply offset to the right. Again, the Camera glyph makes it discoverable, but the doubling up of the gesture could again be confusing.

Passcode has a great, flat white effect when entering numbers. It might not look like much, but on top of a translucent blur, it's as impressive as it is ingenious.

Slide to Unlock experiences almost the opposite problem. With the interface elements reduced to pure text, it's lets discoverable and more confusing than ever. However, it looks like you can swipe left-to-right from almost anywhere on the screen to trigger it, making it more usable once discovered. (Swiping right-to-left doesn't seem to be used for anything right now, or at least nothing Apple's shown off to date.) On the positive side, the highlight, which is designed to draw attention, looks like its now diagonal, which is clever.

Lock screen notifications, makeover aside, seem to be functionally consistent with previous versions of iOS. Because Notification Center now works from the Lock Screen, some of their functionality may seem to have been superseded. They remain an at-a-glance list of recent alerts, however, which is faster if less in-depth than what Notification Center offers.

Apple hasn't shown if double clicking Home still brings up media controls in iOS 7, the way it has for previous versions of iOS. However, Control Center now includes media controls, so they may not be necessary any more.

All these new features do come with a downside, however. The more functionality you make available outside the Passcode system, the more information can be accessed without needing the Passcode. That now includes anything and everything in Notification Center.

Also, because Passcode has to allow access to this data, and to functions like emergency calls, it remains a vulnerability in an otherwise secure chain, and just as we've seen numerous times in the past, vulnerabilities can and will be exploited.

If past behavior is any indication, however, Apple will let us turn off Lock screen access to Notification Center and Control Center, just like they've let us tun off Lock screen access to Siri, Passbook, and other features in the past.

The new Lock screen will ship as part of iOS 7 this fall. Check out the resources below for more, and let me know - are you happy with the update? Anything else you'd like to see, or see changed?

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Is it only me, or did Apple rip off the lock screen and the incoming-call experience directly from WP?
  • Yep, only you...
  • Thanks for the commentary genius. Troll often?
  • The iOS 7 lock screen is a mess IMO. I love iOS. The iPad is the fave device I've ever owned. Apple need to address many issues with the iOS 7 lock screen before GM. No unlock arrow is unintuitive. Getting rid if both chevrons makes a lot of sense.
  • Once again, Apple did it first! Mark this moment in history guise!
  • Your joking, right?
  • Yes. Apple was the first *rolls eyes*. It looks nice, but am sick of eveyone saying how Apple is innovative with software. Hardware looks great. But come on, many aspects of the software have been around. And yes, everyone takes aomething from everyone else.
  • I like live wallpapers. Any change is good.
  • Is it, though?
  • The lock screen seems like a train wreck to me. It raises more questions than it solves problems. Among the questions: - Why are some notifications on the lock screen and some in "notifications" which is a pull-down from the lock screen? why not just put al the notifications on the lock screen? I get the time and the date, but if I want the weather I need to pull down a separate sheet? Why? - The passcode numbers look okay (despite being a direct rip-off of Windows phone round helvetica numbers), but what if you use a proper password? Does the keyboard just slide up form below? If so that breaks the style doesn't it? Does the alphabet show up in custom round buttons? - "Find My iPhone can continue to display a message with your phone number on the Lock screen," … but if the thieves or samaritans call your number, they are just going to get the phone that's already in their hand aren't they? - Why after 6 years of iPhone do I *have* to have "swipe to unlock" at all? It's just an extra step. - The "Today" screen is basically a direct copy of the "Today" screen from PocketPC days, except instead of being glance able, I have to swipe to see it every time. Why? - The "Today" screen has the weather on it, but I have to *read* the weather, instead of just seeing a graphic of what the weather is. I then have to open the phone and go to the weather app, to actually see what the weather is because you can't read the tiny white text on the fuzzy background and again, it doesn't have the numbers or the picture, just words. Again, why? This is one *extra* step to checking the weather on the current phone, instead of having it be one *less* step, if they just put the f*cking notifications on the lock screen. Overall, I don't think any of this makes sense. Apple has always implied and sometimes outright stated that notifications on the lock screen aren't happening because it would not be "secure." How is having a second swipe to pull down the notifications any more secure? Again, why not just put them on the lock screen? This whole thing needs a major re-think. None of the functions, where they are located, or how they interact really make sense at all.
  • Valid points ! That's what you get when you work/design on techno music... (From little info on design labs at apple) I think their obsession with themes n all have somewhat shunted them from the functional workflow aspect of things a bit. The simplicity and efficiency of workflow is somewhat missing. It's like they've almost rebuilt the same design ,maybe changed a few curtains and paint ! Settings app is still a mess - enough said.... Work in progress ? Shall see ! Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm liking the minimal look although would like to have seen a way to get my reminders due today to always show. (Btw typo in article, let's should be less - this is on the paragraph starting 'slide to unlock experiences') Sent from the iMore App
  • i have a dream to use apple phone.but when we tolk abuot the price it is very very chalenging for developing countries.
  • Hey Rene
    As an average joe ( non Developer ) and having no access to an iOS Beta ( patiently waiting for Christmas - Sept/Oct ) could you/readers advise on the following... I have an iPhone 4S and since your post last year about 'Black Wallpaper' I have been enjoying and loving the simple black ( and grey ) experience...and don't want to change the colour scheme when iOS 7 emerges. My question, can you still have a 'Black Wallpaper' in iOS 7 ? and if so how does it affect the rest of the colour scheme and transparency in the rest of IOS 7??? After your post (2012) I'm sure I'm not the only one who adopted 'Black' and am wondering what the future holds. Love your site ( read several times a day) and podcasts... More Georgia PLEASE lol Many thanks David UK
  • What are "Chevron icons"? What's a gas station/ oil company got to do with anything (tongue in cheek sarcasm). ;-)
  • a chevron is an actual symbol, look it up
  • am i still gonna be able to put whatever i want as my lock screen background or am i gonna have to choose between the ones that apple designs?
  • Hoy about reply calls with a message from lock screen?
  • Okay, at first my lock screen was where the Passcode had the translucency effect and it took on the flavor of the wallpaper below, but now it just goes to a solid color... It makes me sad because I liked that effect. How do I get it back?