(MoneyWatch) Apple (AAPL) has -- the newest version of the iPhone operating system -- and ever since the tech community has been talking about little else. For the rest of the world, though, here's what you need to know about the upcoming update to your iPhone.
Coming soon. First of all, don't expect the platform in the next few weeks. Apple might have shown the world the new OS at its developers' conference last week, but the software is still being tested and won't be released to existing iPhone customers until the fall.
New user interface. That said, there's no missing the changes when they occur. iOS7 is not a small, incremental, or measured evolutionary update. Responding to critics who have long complained about the inconsistent application of what's known as skeuomorphism (making software resemble things in the physical world) and taking a lesson from Microsoft's (MSFT) "flat" interface in Windows Phone and Windows 8, iOS7 has a bold new look.
Multitasking. Apple's implementation of multitasking has always been a little wonky, but that's about to be a thing of the past. Apple says that all applications can multitask, and when you access background apps you don't just see their icon anymore -- you get a preview of the running program, not unlike the way multitasking works in Windows.
New lockscreen notification center. This might not sound like much, but it transforms the personality of the entire phone. The lockscreen now displays the weather, along with the rest of your day in calendar form -- and you can see calls and messages from here as well.
New control panel. The "control center" is a new screen that gives you rapid access to a dozen or so of the most important settings on your phone -- airplane mode and Wi-Fi, screen brightness, device lock, music and more.
AirDrop files. Have you ever wanted to share a file with someone standing next to you? Email can work, but it's cumbersome and feels old-fashioned. AirDrop lets you share documents, contacts, photos and other things directly from phone to phone.
Better security. Apple has also implemented a number of smart security features to better protect your phone in case it's lost or stolen. You can keep Find My iPhone from being turned off, for example, without a password. And even if your phone is wiped when it's not under your control, it will continue to display your custom message and require your password.
Apps overhauled. And that's just scratching the surface, as Apple has reengineered many of the core apps with new features and interfaces. The Photos app, for example, now shows your photo roll in timeline form, which is both prettier and more functional.