What you need to know about the iOS 7 upgrade

7 min read
iOS 7 logo

iOS 7 is here – should you upgrade?

Your iPad is about to look very different, at least on the software side. iOS, the base operating system that drives Apple’s iPad and iPhone, is getting a major upgrade with the release of iOS version 7.  This free update is available now, adding a number of new features and a completely new look (see this article for details on what’s new). iOS 7 is the most significant change to the iPad’s operating system ever, and it can be confusing if you don’t know what to expect. In this article, we’ll explain how to do the update and offer some tips for navigating the new software.

(Prefer to watch instead of reading? Skip to our video.)

Can you do the update?

First, it’s worth asking whether you can even do the update. Here are the list of iOS 7 compatible devices:

  • iPhone 4
  • iPhone 4S
  • iPhone 5
  • iPad 2
  • iPad 3 (Retina display)
  • iPad 4 (Retina display)
  • iPad Mini
  • iPod Touch 5th generation

If you have an iPad 1 or an iPhone 3GS, your device will still work–you just won’t be able to do any future upgrades. So while you can keep flying with one of these, it’s probably time to consider an upgrade. Also note that just because your device is compatible with iOS 7 doesn’t mean every feature will be available. For example, the AirDrop feature will not work on iPhone 4/4S or iPad 2/3.

So you can do the update, but should you? Some people are nervous about software upgrades, advocating you wait until some of the inevitable bugs have been worked out. It’s a reasonable idea, but we’ve been using iOS 7 for weeks now and can report that it’s very stable. The major aviation apps run just fine, and we have no hesitation about performing the update.

We talked to the app developers as well and, while cautious, they seem to be pretty excited about iOS 7. Here’s what ForeFlight CEO Tyson Weihs had to say:

iOS 7 is about the biggest OS release since 2008. Given the magnitude, there will inevitably be things that both Apple and app makers will have to address. There is no need to rush to iOS 7, as iOS 6 is incredibly stable. If your iPad is a critical part of your flight deck, waiting for Apple to push a couple of minor bugfix updates is prudent. There will inevitably be issues they find and will need to fix once iOS 7 is in the wild. We strongly recommend waiting to fly with iOS 7 until you have a good half day to devote to familiarizing yourself with the significant changes–like the overhauled user interface and aesthetics, app switching, radio management, and kill app functions–and make sure all your apps operate as you expect. We have put a lot of effort into ensuring ForeFlight Mobile runs well on iOS 7. We don’t expect major issues and as always will quickly address anything that needs attention.

Jan Mackenzie from Garmin said Garmin Pilot 5.1.2 (the latest version) is compatible with iOS 7, but there are some known issues. These have been addressed in version 5.2 of the app, which should be available very soon.

This matches the advice we’ve heard from other developers: if you’re dying to get iOS 7, go ahead and upgrade. Just give yourself some time to adapt. If you choose to wait, there’s nothing wrong with that approach.

iOS backup

Backup your iPad – it’s easy to do.

How to get iOS 7

First, before you even think about doing the upgrade, back up your iPad. It’s easy to do and you’ll be glad you did if anything should go wrong. For details about backing up to iCloud (wirelessly) or iTunes (syncing with your computer), see this Apple post.

Once you’ve backed up your iPad, installing the update is actually quite easy. Go to the Settings app -> General -> Software Update. Your iPad will prompt you to install iOS 7, and ask you to plug it in. Tap the download and install button and you’re on your way. It can take some time to download the update, so be patient. Once the upgrade is complete, your iPad will restart and you’ll notice the difference right away.

Quick tour of iOS 7

The actual apps you fly with won’t look any different in iOS 7, so your favorite moving map page or weather app will feel familiar. It’s the overall operating system and the Apple apps (Mail, iTunes Store, Calendar, etc.) that has changed. Here’s a look at some of the more important changes:

  • New look and feel. The first thing you’ll see is that iOS 7 has a very different style. Apple changed the color scheme, icons and buttons throughout, so take some time to familiarize yourself with the new interface. You’ll notice that the icons for the Apple apps are new, though functionality is mostly the same once in the app. One difference worth pointing out is the new style of buttons used in the apps; they are often represented by blue text or simple icons, compared to the round button shapes used in the previous versions of iOS.
  • Control Center. One of our favorite features in iOS 7 is the new Control Center–a major upgrade over the old way of adjusting settings. At any time you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to display the Control Center, which provides quick access to the settings you use most often: the music player, audio volume, screen brightness and AirPlay. In the center you’ll see 5 round buttons to quickly toggle the following settings on or off: airplane mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, do not disturb mode and screen orientation lock. And at the right side there are two buttons for quick access to the clock and camera apps. The control center is also accessible from the lock screen.

iOS 7 Control Center

  • Multi-tasking. The next thing to check out is the new appearance of the multitasking display (which shows a list of recently used apps and makes it easy to switch back and forth between them). Double-tap the home button to access this, and you’ll now see that the iPad shows a preview of the app in a window above the icon. Swipe your finger to scroll through the apps, and tap either the preview window or the icon to switch to a new app. Apple did make a change here in how you shut down an app completely. Instead of holding down on the icon to close it, you simply tap and hold on the preview window, and swipe it towards the top of the screen. This is useful if an app is not responding properly, or if you need to restart it.

iOS multi-tasking

  • Searching for apps/Notifications. For those who like to use the spotlight search feature, it has moved and is now accessed by swiping down on the middle of the home screen. This is helpful for quickly launching apps that might be buried in a folder on a second or third screen. Notifications are also different: to access the notifications display, swipe down from the top of the screen. The style of this display has been updated to be a lot more organized and readable, and you can either view All or Missed notifications using the buttons at the top.

notification iOS 7

  • Automatic app updates. Another new feature added in iOS 7 is automatic app updates. With this feature enabled, the iPad will automatically download new app updates as they become available from the App Store. This can be really handy, as your apps stay up to date with no input from you. But there’s a catch for pilots–an auto-update could create a situation where an app or data could be unavailable in the airplane. To be safe, we recommend that pilots disable this feature. To disable this, go to Settings, scroll down to iTunes and App Store on the left, and turn the switch OFF for Automatic Downloads – Updates.

disable auto-updates

While iOS 7 is undoubtedly a big change, we found ourselves feeling pretty comfortable with it after a day or two. Most of the changes are positives, and make everyday tasks easier to do. But plan on an evening on the couch to get familiar with it before you go flying.

iOS 7 video tips

To see many of these new features in action, watch our video below:

31 replies
  1. Brian Meyette
    Brian Meyette says:

    The last time I did an o/s upgrade, it failed and hosed my iPhone/iPad, and I had to spend a bunch of time rebuilding it from a backup and reconfiguring it. Never again. I’m very leery of any upgrades, and wouldn’t do it unless absolutely necessary.

  2. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    I have never had a problem upgrading my Apple devices. If you back up prior to and the upgrade fails, you simply restore and you are back to where you started.

  3. Phillip
    Phillip says:

    I previewed the iOS 7 upgrade both in written form and by video and frankly, while there are some nice new features, overall I wasn’t too impressed and too me, not worthy of upgrading. I’m very happy with iOS 6 and it’s appearance. So until upgrading will be absolutely necessary, will probably just stay with 6.

  4. Darrin Lee
    Darrin Lee says:

    I just finished the upgrade on 3 iPads and 2 iPhones. No issues. The updates went well, without any issues. My Foreflight, JeppFD, and all my av8r apps work just fine. If you travel much, the new Control Center is worth the update. All wifi, Bluetooth, brightness, and other adjustments are handy. The multi-tasking is also very nice. Glad I upgraded — so many things work better and quicker.

  5. Bruce Perkin
    Bruce Perkin says:

    Question: Has anyone experienced using a bluetooth GPS antenna with both versions? Using the Dual XGPS150A with ios5 or 6 on the iPad2 has never started up smoothly. I generally involved turning off bluetooth and location services and then turning them both on again (sometimes repeating the process) before any flight software could get GPS data. Terrible distraction when a pilot needs to be doing a preflight.

    • John Zimmerman
      John Zimmerman says:

      Bruce, this is supposedly fixed in iOS 7, but we haven’t verified it yet. We’d like to get 50 hours or so flying with iOS 7 and a Bluetooth GPS before we say that.

    • Ray Marr
      Ray Marr says:


      I sure hope it’s fixed too. The fact that the app. seems to be OK and you only know you have an issue when you start to taxi is a safety issue as well as a distraction (with FlyQ).

    • Bill
      Bill says:

      I also had the GPS connection problem with IPAD mini and WINGX Pro 7 so I did a firmware upgrade on the XGPS150A to 1.2.6 and it cured the problem. I then went with IOS 7 and have no problems

  6. Hilton
    Hilton says:

    Commenting here as an iPad user running iOS 7 and not as a pilot or in my ‘official’ capacity as an iOS EFB developer:

    A quick data point: This is complete unrelated to any EFB app (none was running at the time). I have seen iOS 7 hang and misbehave several times. The hangs could not be solved by pushing any combination of buttons, even the power slider either didn’t appear or was unresponsive. I have seen the desktop icons completely misplaced (really badly), the running apps view at the bottom of the screen appear halfway up the screen, the running apps view showing screen shots rotated at weird angles etc. I really wasn’t doing anything unusual at the time, so I expect others to encounter these issues and hopefully have Apple fix them soon. I did take screen shots (when I was able to) – I’ll try get these to Apple to help them figure this out.

    I don’t recall seeing anything like this on earlier versions of iOS.


    • James
      James says:

      As it turns out, only one of the approach plates for my airport KHSD, does not display my aircraft position. The VOR RWY 17 approach does not display the aircraft position. All of the other IAPs at this airport display the aircraft position properly.

        • James
          James says:

          I am running ForeFlight on an Ipad Mini. Not sure I ever used the VOR 17 approach under IOS 6, so it may only be a problem with that particular approach.

      • John Zimmerman
        John Zimmerman says:

        James this isn’t an iOS 7 issue. Looks like that particular plate just isn’t georeferenced. You can tell this when you open a plate and you see a blue outline around the plate’s border. There are many reasons a plate isn’t georeferenced, including because it’s not drawn to scale by FAA.

        • James
          James says:

          Thanks John. I remember reading that, and now that I look at the plate, I can see that it is not to scale, and of course no blue box.

  7. john green
    john green says:

    Wing X Pro is not recommending upgrade to IOS7 at this point, not because of failures on Wing X Pro but because they are seeing the IOS fail without any 3rd party software, it has frozen, it has shut down and rebooted, it has dropped icons. Wing X Pro has said they have never seen these problems with any previous releases and again, it seems to be regardless if there is 3rd party software or not.

      • ted nickson
        ted nickson says:

        just hitting cancel just restores the slide to unlock page and doesn’t get to the apps page so that I can call up Foreflight.

        • John Zimmerman
          John Zimmerman says:

          Did you enter a passcode on initial startup? It prompts you to do that when you install iOS 7. To turn this off, go to Settings –> General–> Passcode Lock and select “Turn Passcode Off.” You will have to enter the passcode to do this, though.

  8. Chipper
    Chipper says:

    I updated my IPhone but not my IPad 4. I have had the IPhone freeze and unable to close or change programs. The only solution was to turn off the phone and start over. Not a good situation in the air. I will not download iOS 7 on my IPad until these issues are resolved. As an additional comment I don’t really care for the new subdued icons but not a big deal.

  9. John Trudel
    John Trudel says:

    To All,

    I read all this, pondered, and, back up or not, I just CAN’T DO IT. I don’t want to go there.

    If I look at IOS7, it is different, but just not that compelling. I finally have something that is stable, easy to use with FOREFLIGHT, and so useful that it is almost mission critical to me.

    I don’t want to be a beta tester for IOS7 and there are some reported issues that bother me. I’ll wait until all this settles down.

    I just suffered through Windows 8 — not fun, and only because I could not buy a new computer with Windows 7. An unfinished, not fully understood IOS in my aircraft (one that offers no major performance or functionality enhancements) would seem to have more downside than upside.

  10. Mike Groner
    Mike Groner says:

    I did a update to OS 7.02. Big mistake. The Ipad new works like a bad windows computers, apps freeze. Has trouble making WiFi connections. Screen is much harder to read. The ipad went from a stable and usefully piece of equipment to a piece of trash.
    Called Apple support and there suggestion is to keep during resets(and having to restore the Apps).
    The only thing that I use the Ipad for is Email and Garmin Pilot. While using Garmin Pilot in the air the screen switched to Safair without anyone touching the screen.

  11. Joe Shelton
    Joe Shelton says:

    After checking with a friend that updated to OS7 and another that has been using a beta version for sometime, both recommending updating (but backing up first), I decided to update. Since the update a couple of weeks ago I’ve had zero bug or stability problems. Except that the wallpictures both aren’t displayed completely, everything runs fine. BUT, like in a previous comment, I preferred the original UI. This UI seems like a step backwards – a gratuitous change.

  12. John Trudel
    John Trudel says:

    Good luck to us all. One point. Backups are good to do, and recommended, but they NOT a magic wand. They help you recover from a system crash or some bad data, but I am NOT at all sure that doing a backup will let you “roll back” to an earlier version of the OS. My guess is “not,” but….

    Someone might want to query Apple specifically about this. Me, I’m sticking with the old OS until all this shakes out, plus maybe 6 months.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] 7. What you need to know about the iOS 7 upgrade. Apple released a huge update to its core operating system, iOS, and it caused more than a little confusion. We tried to cut through the hype to explain what iOS 7 is and what pilots should do. Read Now […]

  2. […] latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 7, has been available now for a few weeks. While some have had issues with the upgrade, most pilots are getting used to […]

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