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iOS7 upgrade: It's all about the swipe

iOS7 is free and available today. iOS7 includes swiping features, iTunes Radio, more camera filters, a better Siri and better Apple Maps.

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The Siri voice assistant is better, too. She sounds less robotic than she once did and can adopt a male voice. Siri is able to handle a greater range of commands, including adjusting settings and returning recent calls.

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The most useful change is the ability to edit voice commands. I asked Siri how the Nets did, but she heard me as Mets. Instead of having to repeat the phrase over and over until Siri got it right, I simply hit "tap to edit." Then again, maybe she's smarter than me: The Mets are still playing, while the Nets don't start the regular season until Oct. 30.

Specific apps that come with iOS are also improved, including these:

— The Maps app offers voice navigation for walking directions, though it still lacks biking and transit directions, as Google offers. The background of maps now dims at night so the screen light doesn't distract drivers.

— Safari makes it easier to switch between open Web pages. Before, you got one page at a time and had to scroll through all to get to the last one. Now, all the open pages are presented like upright dominos, so that you can jump right away to one in the back.

— The Camera offers eight filters to tweak photos the way you would on Instagram. But with Camera, you see what your filtered photo would look like before snapping. You can now take square photos, perfect for Instagram. In addition, photos you take are automatically grouped by trip and other attributes, so they'll be easier to find and share later.

— The App Store offers suggestions based on your current location. I get an app for the American Museum of Natural History in New York when I'm a few blocks away, and apps for food delivery near my apartment in another neighborhood, where people with small kitchens don't cook.

A new iTunes Radio service offers free Internet radio stations, with buttons to easily buy songs you like on iTunes. I got my fill of 80s music with a Hits of the '80s station. I can create new stations based on songs or artists I hear, and I can move a slider between hits and discovery, the latter for more obscure tunes. Sad to say, few of the 80s songs were obscure, but that's a reflection of my listening habits and not the software. Unless you pay for the $25-a-year iTunes Match service, you'll get about four ads an hour.

Although I dismissed many of the changes as cosmetic, a few of them improve functionality. Gone are those familiar bars showing cellular signal strength. You see five dots instead. The idea is to create more space for actual content. In many apps, including Maps and Safari, menus automatically disappear until you need them again, again to leave more space for content.

These are all nice touches that make upgrading well worth it, especially for something free. You don't necessarily need a new phone.

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ABOUT IOS 7 SOFTWARE

Starting Wednesday, Apple will make its new software available for free for the iPhone 4, 4S and 5 models, the iPad 2 and later, the iPad Mini and the iPod Touch released last year. It will also come with new phones, including the new 5C and 5S models out Friday. Apple warns that not all features will be compatible with all older devices.

To get it, just respond to the prompt when it arrives on your device over the next week, or go to "Software Update" in the settings under "General" if you want it sooner.

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Anick Jesdanun, deputy technology editor for The Associated Press, can be reached at njesdanun@ap.org.

___Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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