by Christopher Tippins for the Software Synergy Group
In spite of the lackluster media reaction to the new iPhone 4S (and the exact opposite from the buying public), iPhone and iPad users now can update to iOS 5. With over 200 new features it represents a new and exciting level of functionality for users of these devices.
First, let’s talk about a couple of disappointments:
Airplay Mirroring (the ability to link what you’re doing on the iPhone or iPad to your wide screen TV) will only work on the new iPhone 4S or iPad 2 (click here for more details and specifications).
Siri, the new voice recognition/assistant feature will only run on the iPhone 4S. Technically, Siri is a feature of the iPhone 4S not iOS 5. This is strange since the Siri app existed in the app store well before the release of both iOS 5 and the iPhone 4S and before Apple purchased it. It certainly seems that Apple may have purposely hobbled this app simply to get people to buy an iPhone 4S.
Siri I won’t miss, but I would have loved to test Airplay for my photo albums as it’s always difficult to show someone photos on the iPhone.
Touching on Siri for a moment, many people are seeing this as one of the primary reasons to upgrade to an iPhone 4S. I’m not one of them. I’ve had Google Voice installed for years now and aside from the few times I’ve used it to test it or show it to someone as a novelty, I’ve never used it. I’ve never even used the voice recognition features of the iPhone 4. Maybe it’s a simple as it’s hard to “teach an old dog new tricks”, but I just don’t “get” the mystique with any voice recognition application. Well, I’ll take that back for a minute and say that some years ago I experience a radial neuropathy in my left wrist and hand and literally couldn’t use it for a couple of months and at that point, had it not healed, I would have been forced to go to something like Dragon. Be it as it were, my hand and wrist did heal so my ability to type did come back, albeit slowly over a period of months. Aside from that one (frightening) experience, I’ve never had the desire to use voice recognition.
Click here to see Apple’s video showing Siri in action.
While it looks interesting from a novelty factor, I can just start to imagine the slew of guffaws that Siri is going to be making in the coming months much like the oft wrong spelling correction algorithm present in the iPhone. Spoken text to your wife to say “You look great in that dress” might result in “You look like a mess”. Awkward!
It also seems to me to be just flat out strange. Before talking to my iPhone to tell it to send a text to my girlfriend that I’m going to be late, I think it’s a safe bet that I might actually, God forbid, use the phone to make a call and talk to another human being.
Others, however, may love this new feature and it will be interesting to see how well it actually works and whether or not people embrace it.
OK, so much for the disappointments. Let’s move on to what’s new and wonderful in iOS 5 – and there’s quite a bit that makes this new operating system a worthwhile upgrade.
Note that I’ve written another article entitled “iOS 5 Upgrade Process” so you can get a good idea of what’s going to happen on your iPhone after the upgrade. It also includes some things to consider as your iPhone boots after the iOS 5 upgrade.
One of iOS 5’s biggest features is the ability to use iCloud, Apple’s new online storage service. I’ve devoted an entire article to it and you can read that by clicking here: “iOS5 – iCloud – Review and Considerations”.
So let’s take a look at the impressive feature list that makes up iOS 5:
Notification Center: If you’re a heavy app user, you know you get notifications from various apps and they stream in all day long. There was never any central governing place to see them. Now there is. Just swipe down from the top of any screen and get access to the notification center. You can also manage notifications by going into “Settings” and choose how you want to sort them. You can even change the look and feel of how they present. Also, if you keep your iPhone locked, you don’t have to unlock it to see what notifications are coming through. This is a much needed improvement to the way the iPhone doles out notifications. This alone is worth upgrading to iOS 5.
iMessage: This is Apple’s answer to what’s been available in 3rd party apps for a long time as well what RIM has offered on the Blackberry for years: the ability to send text messages to other iOS 5 users. If you know quite a few people who adopt iOS 5 it might help you cut down on your monthly texting charges.
Newsstand: This is perhaps one of the nicest new features of iOS 5 – a place to consolidate your magazine and newspaper subscriptions. This feature is so nice that this alone may be the final nudge that pushes me to get an iPad. Yes, it’s also available and works on an iPhone but I find the screen too small to actually use it to read magazines. I have a plethora of ebooks that live in .pdf format and while I absolutely love GoodReader and its ability to pinch and zoom pdf’s that are comprised of text, magazines just don’t work for me on an iPhone. The screens are simply too busy with graphics, photos, etc. iPad users will no doubt fall in love with the Newsstand.
This brings up an interesting point about the iPad in general (I’m going to digress here for a moment). Why do people get them? They certainly aren’t designed to be productive. What they are designed for is consumptive use. You use them to consume media, movies, music, etc. And quite frankly there are few gadgets that do it better than an iPad. Okay, maybe the Xoom and Asus Transformer are better suited to this task, but there are pluses and minuses to both the Android OS and Apple’s iOS. The consensus is that Apple provides a more uniform and easier interface while Android allows more technically minded people to really get under the hood and tweak the device. One of the features of the Xoom (and Transformer) that might be the make or break feature over the iPad is micro SD card support and actual file system access.
Because this expansion option opens the door to an unlimited amount of memory for the device to use to store data. While 64 GB might sound like a lot of room, it’s not. That’s about 80 feature length films in non HD format (or hundreds of eBooks, thousands of songs, or various combinations of this and other media). I have also patiently waited for file system access in the iOS environment for years and the bottom line is that it’s just not going to happen (without jailbreaking my phone which I won’t do). I harken back to the old days of the Palm OS and I simply loved having access to file system to load and unload files without having to use a 3rd party application (iTunes) to move things around. So the bottom line here is if you haven’t purchased an iPad yet do yourself a favor and investigate these types of options if these features are important to you.
Back to the feature list:
Reminders: This is new app that allows you to set reminders to pickup milk, stop at the dry cleaners, etc. Yes, it’s supposed to work with Outlook. No, it won’t unless you install Apple’s iCloud Control Panel and sync Outlook to the cloud. What a major disappointment. I’ve been waiting for years to sync my Outlook To Do list with my iPhone. I guess I’ll have to keep waiting as I have no plans to port data to the cloud and install this conduit simply to get my To Do list to the iPhone. I guess I’m not the only one upset about this nor does it come without problems (click here).
Twitter: If you tweet you can now do so from a number of places inside of your iOS 5 device: browser, photo album, camera, maps, etc. I don’t so this is just a cumbersome addition to crowd up my screen of possible places to send a photo, etc. This should be a removable option via a settings screen but it’s not. Tweeters, however, are going to love this.
Camera and Photos: Finally Apple has given us the ability to use the volume button to shoot a photo. Camera+ had this for a while, but Apple made them yank the app until they removed it. I guess Apple is finally seeing the light as to how important this is (and was).
Apple has tweaked the camera app to give us grids (handy for rule of thirds shooting and to level the horizon) and moved the HDR feature. I guess it’s nice, but Camera+ is so far out in front of what Apple (and just about anyone else) has done with camera apps and editing that it’s going to be difficult for others to catch up.
If you want a serious application for shooting photos on your iPhone, get Camera+. Not only can you change your focus point but you can choose separate focal points and metering points for your shot. The new editing features in the Camera Roll in iOS 5? They are practically an embarrassment compared to what’s in the app store. My personal favorites are Photogene (editing) and PhotoStudio (effects).
Safari: Tabbed browsing is now available for iPad users and I’m sure they will be happy about that. Supposedly ad displays have been tweaked so they don’t appear as much but I personally never have had much of a problem with errant pop ups, banners or the like. So for iPhone users you aren’t going to see much of a difference here.
PC Free: Many have asked for it and it’s finally here – the ability to setup an iPhone/iPad without tethering it to a machine (PC or Mac). I’m not sure this is exactly what people expected as it’s going to require an iCloud connection but for what it’s worth, it’s now available. For your Uncle Bob or Aunt Ginny who don’t have a computer this is going to be an incredible feature. It remains to be seen how this is adopted in the business world. My guess at this point is it won’t be, at least initially as it’s going to require a connection to the cloud and I think right now there are too many complications, especially for those using Exchange, Google Apps for Business, Office 365, etc. This may all change in the coming weeks and months as that process becomes more streamlined and some of the kinks are worked out. I’ll post back in a couple of months to see how this is progressing.
More Features: Apple has added many other features to Mail, the Calendar, its Game Center and Wi-Fi syncing. They’ve also added features for Gesturing and Airplay Mirroring. I’ve written about Airplay and my issues about having to live in an Apple TV world. While I like Wi-Fi Sync, for the life of me I don’t understand why Apple never embraced what was incredible in the old Palm environment – the ability to sync via a software conduit that updated all data from all applications at Sync time, be it wired or Wi-Fi. As it stands right now I use applications that I have to sync individually and separately and that is just nuts (example: eWallet). Hopefully they’ll add this feature in the future but that would practically require a rewrite of every app that shares data with a PC or Mac.
Summary: iOS 5 represents quite a few new features that users of iPhones and iPads will enjoy. However, during my evaluation of this new OS I started to explore what else is out there and what really represents the competition to this OS as well as these devices.
It’s already taken over market share for Smartphone’s.
If you don’t already own an iPad, for example, you’d do well to consider these two devices or something similar: The Motorola Xoom and the Asus Transformer TF101. They represent just two of the tablets that run Android’s latest revision of their OS: Honeycomb.
Android, if you aren’t familiar with this OS, is Google’s answer to iOS for smartphones and tablets. It stands as Apple’s stiffest competition to the iPhone and iPad and for good reason. It’s an open platform, meaning unlike Apple’s App Store, anyone can write and develop an application for the Android OS.
What does this mean to end users?
Quite a bit more flexibility and many more choices.
It also brings with it a down side: possible incompatibilities between devices running different revisions of the Android OS.
In looking at the differences between these devices, I ran across this thread and review which will allow you to gauge for yourself which of these devices and environments you may want to explore. The summary of that thread (if you’re not interested in reading the whole thing) is that an iPad will give users a more solid yet simpler experience while the Android devices and OS will allow a lot more flexibility and customization (that includes possible headaches from things not working as well as the tightly controlled iOS environment).
It would be difficult to say which of these environments is best as that is going to depend on individual needs and requirements, but this much is certain: examining all your options is a good idea before you commit to either environment.
Christopher Tippins for the Software Synergy Group