iOS 7 app switcher

The iOS 7 app switcher is a significant departure from the previous way that app switching worked in iOS. Apple’s latest and greatest mobile operating system ditched the small app switcher that appeared near the bottom of the screen in favor of a more front and center app switching mechanism.

I don’t think you’ll find a single person out there that agrees that this new way is inferior to the app switching ways of old. Not only do we now have full screen previews of our running apps, we can also choose to eliminate them by means of a simple swipe up gesture.

But outside of the mere aesthetic appeal of the new interface, there’s more to be gained in day-to-day usage. Inside, you’ll find a couple of my favorite new, largely obvious, uses for the new app switcher.

Quickly identify running apps

Some people complain that the large screen app previews make it harder to discern the apps that are running. To some extent, that is true. For instance, it’s certainly true when the app preview for an app in question is nothing more than a black screen. That tends to happen often on iOS, as apps refresh and whatnot.

Thankfully, Apple was wise enough to include a matching app icon along with the full screen preview window. This app icon resides directly beneath the app, and allows you to quickly identify the running app just by glancing at it.

Although this is a fairly obvious detail, it’s easy to get our eyes trained on the bigger app preview above. If we work on focusing our eyes squarely on the app icon, we can quickly scroll through our entire running list of apps, and find the app that we’re looking for.

At most, you can see portions of up to three full screen app previews at once. However, the app icons are off-center aligned as you scroll through your list of apps. This makes it possible to see portions of up to five app icons at once as you scroll through your running list.

Gathering information from multiple apps

Another nice trick, and perhaps one that’s a bit more under underutilized, is the gathering of information from open app windows without leaving your current app. If that sounds a bit complicated, then let me explain.

When you invoke the app switcher, the interface zooms out to reveal all of your running apps. While the interface is zoomed out, the app that you last used is still loaded into memory. It’s like you never left the app until you actually tap on another app preview to switch from your previous app.

If you decide that you don’t want to switch apps after invoking the app switcher, all you need to do is tap the app’s preview window, or press the home button so that the current app regains full focus.

App switcher multitasking

Since the app switcher now features full screen previews, there’s a serious advantage when it comes to multitasking, or should I say faux-multitasking. For instance, if I’m filling out a form via Safari, and I happen to need some information from another app that’s currently running, I can invoke the app switcher and swipe over to the app containing the needed information. Instead of tapping on the app, I use the opportunity to glean from the information displayed on its preview window. Afterwards, I can go back to the original Safari page, which was never lost from focus, and use the information I gained from the other app to finish filling out my form.

Design decisions

Sometimes we may wonder why Apple makes the design decisions that it does. Often, the benefits of these decisions aren’t readily apparent after first use. But after using iOS 7 for some time now, it’s obvious that Apple thought deeply about the usability of its new app switcher, and other new facets of iOS 7.

Of course, the basic features — swiping up to close out of apps, and the full screen previews themselves — are evident benefits that we all recognized right off the bat. But as I continue to use and familiarize myself with this new environment, I appreciate it even more. The iterative nature of iOS 7 has paid short term, and I believe it will pay long term dividends as far as overall usability is concerned.

I’m curious to see what you think, and if there are any app switcher features or tricks that you’ve noticed? If so, please feel free to share below.

  • Timothy

    Let’s talk about app switcher tricks when the iOS 7 jailbreak hits.

    • Alex Marwaha

      auxo… ios 7 style.

      • 4p0c4lyps3


  • Score

    Jailbreak still wins because we have kill switch and we had this first. JAILBREAK NATION!

  • Reader

    So obvious.

    I still don’t like to double press home button to invoke app switcher. I much prefer Zephyr-style swipe from bottom.

    • marcus1324

      It’s been so weird not having that on iOS 7

    • Kurt

      Zephyr is the best…

      Less obvious is you can close 3 apps at a time by using 3 fingers. Wish they had a one button kill all feature.

    • nyangejr

      COntrol centre

  • Dave

    We need a kill all feature

    • SebestyenSzabo

      Why? iOS does that for you as required.

    • Not necessary. Apps close as needed by iOS7.

    • CryptoCoin420

      I am really surprised he did not mention close 3 apps at once, by swiping up with 3 fingers on 3 different apps. Its the closest you will get to kill all without a jailbreak. maybe Jeff did not know about this feature? Who else knew this?

      • funkybebel

        or just two fingers at least

    • afra33

      kill all is a must!

  • yes i will keep update on ios 7

  • David Woje

    I like the design, however the double press of the home button ALWAYS annoyed me. Can’t wait to see an ios 7 jb, possible integrating the 5s fingerprint sensor with activator or something like that, there is so much potential for devs on ios 7!

    • Wanli T Zhang

      If you have enabled “multitasking gestures,” you can invoke the App Switcher by swiping up with four or five fingers rather than double pressing the Home button.

      • marcus1324

        True but thats too many fingers I wish I could just use one

      • funkybebel

        and for instance, two fingers up would bring the control center. This should be great.

      • marcus1324

        I would also like to see swiping from the side screen of your phone for something that would be cool.

      • Wanli T Zhang

        Swiping from the side of the screen with four or five fingers moves you from app to app running in the background.

      • marcus1324

        With 1 finger or something idk

      • deepdvd

        Wish I could enable multitasking gestures on the iPhone 5s, or am I missing something?

      • Wanli T Zhang

        “Settings,” “General,” “Multitasking Gestures.” Move the slider to On.

      • deepdvd

        It’s not there on my iPhone. I assume you have an iPad NOT an iPhone?

      • Wanli T Zhang

        Correct. I have an iPad Air, the latest iPad. Didn’t know there was a difference between an iPhone and an iPad in terms of operating system. I have iOS 7.0.3, though.

      • Bangali

        Multitasking gestures only work on iPad since they were introduced, including pinch to close apps.

      • SkyFall

        That’s an iPad only feature. So it won’t work on iPhones/iPod Touches, unless there is a jailbreak available.

  • Alex Marwaha

    all I want on ios 7 is miniplayer (ios 7 style), video pane, and MAYBE auxo (doubtful though) and moviebox and altkeyboard and iapfree and battery doctor pro and typestatus and activator and a quick respring thingy and facehalt and message box and waveoff and apex and that’s it.

    Hopefully apex will be compatible with ios 7…

  • Joseph A. Ahmad

    I love it. My favorite trick, as Jeff stated, is the ability to transfer content from one app to another without leaving the app you’re currently in. That’s cool stuff. But the absence of quick reply is counterintuitive to that ideology, though, because you still can’t reply in an app you’re currently using which interrupts the “work/play flow” if you will.

  • David Fabian

    I like that you can swipe quickly on the icons to switch in “hyper speed,” compared to the relatively slower speed when swiping on the full screen previews. Beware to all those motion sick iOS users among us!

  • Beta382

    I like how before iOS 7 was released, all the tweaks that gave app previews were all the rage (looking at you, Auxo. Such tiny previews honestly serve no purpose), but after iOS 7 releases, we have to be re-trained to look at the icon, not the preview.

  • inknzvl

    I won’t upgrade to iOS 7 until there is a jail brake available to fix all things that apple left half baked, like app switcher. Activator itself can do 4-5 (if not more) things that apple implemented in iOS 7.

  • s0me

    What the hell is there more to get from the app switcher? Tips for the app switcher? Are you out of ideeas? Are ppl really that dumb?
    Ppl shouldn’t use smartphones if they dont know how to operate them !

    • Mortenvn

      Wrong! Many people have smartphones without knowing how to get the most out of them!

  • Dosen’t Matter

    I dont know if anyone notice but you can while you in the app switcher to close up to three app with three fingers at the same time

  • Matt Taylor

    That was the most patronising video I have ever watched :/

  • Matt Taylor

    I find the iOS7 multitasking switcher slow and cumbersome! When scrolling through apps it seems to take forever to finally snap to a landing app, in fact it barely snaps at all! I find myself repeatedly tapping an app preview to activate said app because the scrolling motion is still lagging behind and iOS7 won’t allow you to do anything (including closing apps via swiping up) until that painfully slow animation has come to a halt on an app preview! It’s like watching a fruit machine as the pictures slow to a snails pace and you’re thinking, yeah come on, coooome ooon, coooooome ooooonnn……

    Not a good experience really!

  • momerathe

    what would have been even better is if they could have integrated multiple windows/tabs *within* apps into the switcher, like WebOS did with its card stacks.

  • Nabil El Hajjouti

    Personally, I’ve always focused my eyes on the app icons first, I never really use the preview to switch into an app. Also, to scroll between the apps/open an app I also use the icons, as the previews are lagging when you scroll through them. I only use the previews for what is also mentioned in the video: a quick look into text/content of an app without opening that app. Very useful.

  • mav3rick

    Really? So lengthily description of swiping between memory apps? And maybe same enthusiasm as when Auxo was launched? Jaillock in the walled garden is the new Jaibreak. Rejoice!

  • afra33

    How about Apple brings kill all background apps at ones!!!!

  • Khaled Al-Rammah

    The least you can do is say that this topic is for beginners (or the beginners of beginners!)

  • Yuliang Wang

    Why can’t swipe up the SpringBoard preview and respring iDevices?

  • disqus_9hk3CtH9Bl

    if u close all the open apps, why does the app switcher remain open showing the home screen, vs just closing and bringing you to the hoem screen automatically? seems like an extra annoyance unless they plan to build on that…not like i can open another app from the app switcher

  • Ian Leon

    I have noticed that in the app switcher that if you swipe across the bottom of the screen you can move faster..

  • Thomas Doiron

    I heard that you can switch apps by swiping 4 fingers. Is that true?