Friday, 14 October 2011

iOS 5 First Impressions

So after months of waiting (it was first officially announced by Apple back in June at WWDC 2011), iOS5 has arrived. Was it worth the wait?

Things I really like in iOS5
  • Notification Centre: Hardly an innovation, but a massive improvement on how previous versions of iOS handled notifications. The lockscreen option is a nice touch too. 
  • iMessage: I tried this out on my iPad yesterday, and it's seamless. The replies I got from a mate came simultaneously to my iPad and my iPhone, so time will tell whether this becomes tedious (it may require clearing notifications on two devices instead of just one). 
  • iCloud: This is massive. I use Keynote, Pages and Numbers on my iPad and having a backup that's done completely automatically is very very handy. And as a bonus, when you access those files on , you can then send them or download them in Microsoft and/or PDF formats too. It's not just documents that go to iCloud: you can easily set up contacts, reminders and calendar events to automatically sync too.
  • Camera improvements: There are now some basic editing options built into the Photo app, and the Camera app can be accessed quickly by double tapping the Home button in lockscreen and tapping the camera icon....this makes getting the Camera app started is much quicker than before. A subtle improvement is the ability to swipe right while in camera mode to access the camera roll, and left to go back to camera mode. 
  • Maps: You can now get alternative route options when you're looking for directions, which is a big improvement over the old system of a single route.
  • Safari: On both the iPad and iPhone you now get a little "Reader" button appearing in the address bar of most sites. When you click on that it presents the main body of text on the page in a very uncluttered manner, with all the ads removed. It makes reading articles like blogs very easy. On the iPad version of Safari, the tabbed browsing works really well, and you'd have to wonder why it took Apple so long to do it.
Things I kind of like in iOS5
  • Reminders: Like Notifications, this is hardly a breakthrough innovation from Apple. It does work well though, and I can't complain about the functionality too much. One of the nice things about it is that you can set up reminders to go off when you enter or leave an area (Location Services must be on for this, so it potentially will reduce battery life). The only gripe I have is that when you want to set a reminder by location, the app brings you to your contact list. So you have to store addresses as contacts (for example you could save your grocery store address in your contact list, and then it would be easy to set a reminder to go off when you drive past it). The only snag I have with this is that it would be better if when you tried to set up a location for the reminder, the app brought you to the Maps app and let you click on a location from there. If you're setting up a one-off reminder, having to go through the process of creating a contact with an address seems cumbersome.
  • International keyboards: Kind of gimmicky, but you can now access an emoji keyboard when typing.
  • Split keyboard: On the iPad you have the option to use a split keyboard so that you can type with your thumbs while holding the device. I tried it out yesterday, but as I do most of my typing on the iPad while it's sitting on a desk, I can't see myself using this option too much. 
  • Photo Albums: Unlike previous versions of iOS, you can now set up Photo Albums directly on the device. This is quite useful, but it's not implemented perfectly: when you set up a new album and move photos into it from the Camera Roll, it copies rather than moves, and so you're still left with the photos in the Camera Roll too. Small issue, really, but I would have thought the idea of setting up albums is so that you can clean out the way the Camera Roll is organised, so leaving a copy behind defeats the purpose.
  • Twitter integration: I'm not a massive user of Twitter, but I can see the advantage of being able to tweet from within different apps without having to leave them. 

Things I don't like in iOS5

There's not much I don't like about iOS5. It would be nice if the Camera shortcut was always on the lockscreen instead of getting it up with a double click. The manner of choosing an address in Reminders definitely has room for improvement, although I'd rather have the app in its present form than not at all.

Apps I can now get rid of, now that iOS has improved
  1. "Photo-Sort". The new albums ability in iOS (although not perfect) means I don't need Photo-Sort any more.
  2. "Irish Weather". The Yahoo weather app in the Notification Centre now has hourly forecast, so no need for a 3rd party weather app.
  3. "Camera+". Improvements to how Camera, and Photos, work means Camera+ is no longer required. The same could be said of Photoshop Express
  4. "Dropbox". I'm reluctant to get rid of this just yet, but I think iCloud will make it redundant when I've had more time to get confident with it.
Based on what I've experimented with so far, the plusses of iOS5 far out-weigh the minuses. Apparently there are over 200 improvements over iOS4, so as we all get more used to it some of the more subtle ones may come to the fore.  I haven't tried out things like Photostream yet, so I will update my first impressions after a bit more time with the update.

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