For two weeks now, I’ve now been using iOS 5 on my devices for a while, and have helped out others on theirs, and thought that should be enough time to put a “thoughts” post out about it. I personally have it on my iPhone 4 and iPad 2, and have helped or used it also on the iPhone 4S. Apple has mentioned that iOS 5 adds over 200 new features… yet there’s really only a few that most people will really use, or really even notice. Here’s a quick study of things you should know, now that you are running (or so will be running) iOS 5!
The new Operating system is supported on any iPhone from the 3GS up, any iPad and any iPod Touch 3rd gen and up. Many of the apps you’ll see updates for will include compatibility to take advantage of the new iOS 5 features, but there’s plenty already built into the system for you to get your head around.
Probably the newest feature I’m most excited about is notifications. You now have the ability to control how and where notifications pop up. You can set up your Notification preferences in the Notifications tab in the Settings app. When you get there you will see all the different apps currently allowed by notifications. Anything still using the old system will be at the bottom of the list under “Not in Notification center”, so this is something your apps will need updating to take advantage of.
For those that are you can choose to have them show up as the old “Alerts” style, or the new top banner style (or none at all). You can choose to have a badge indicating new alerts or if those alerts are accessible in the lock screen. This is important as some apps (such as voicemail) can be accessed or jumped to from the lock screen.
You can also choose how many alerts will stay in the notification pane, so it doesn’t fill up. You get to this new location by sliding your finger from the top of your device towards the bottom. You can clear out old notification, and if on the iPhone, see local weather and stock prices (both customizable).
In an operation sense… the Message app hasn’t changed. In fact other than the slight change in color you might not know anything is different on the iPhone. However for those on iPads and iPod Touches, this is brand new. iMessage allows you to do everything you can do in SMS, but without the text message costs, by use your data connection.
How does it do this? Well, the nice thing is iOS knows when it can make use of the new iMessage without needed to ask. Anytime it encounters another iOS 5 device, it will automatically switch from SMS to iMessage. You’ll know when you are using iMessage when the send button goes from green to blue. For non iPhone devices you’ll need some data connection, whether over wifi or (if on the iPad) data 3G. For the iPhone it also knows that if it is having trouble sending over iMessage to switch back to SMS. very handy.
Along with the ability to text, send pictures & videos, iMessage brings a few extra things to the table. You can see when messages arrive at their destination, as well as when people are typing, and having the conversations encrypted instead of being send over the open SMS network. Also if you sign in with the same associated ID on all your iOS devices, you can bring your iMessage conversation across your multiple devices without missing a beat.
Reminders, at its heart, is a to do list. As many reminder apps, it has the ability to create lists, check off things, set reminder due dates. But Reminders goes one step further. How many times have you thought to do something when you get home only to forget? Perhaps you even go that extra step to write it down, but forget to check that list when you get there?
Reminders takes advantage of location awareness and can have items remind you when you arrive or leave certain locations. You choose the location either by choosing “current location” or choosing an address from your address book. When you approach your location, or head away from it, your device will remind you whatever you have entered. You can even combine dates and locations. This will allow you to be reminded if you arrive at a location, or by a certain date…. whichever comes first.
If you’re lucky enough to have an iPhone 4S, you can also just state your reminder and it will be set up for you (example: “remind me to take the meat out of the fridge when I get home”). Incredibly handy.
Other major items of note:
Still want to have some computer connection, but perhaps without the wires? iOS 5 also allows for syncing of content (music, videos, photos, contacts & calendars) over your home local network. You can enable this in the summary tab while your iPhone is connected to iTunes. From there, all you need is to be connected to the same network and have both your iTunes open and your iPhone plugged in. So each night when you plug in to charge, it will also be updating your content. Don’t want to wait? You can trigger a wifi sync from the settings app (under general –> iTunes sync )
The camera app also has had a few tweaks of note. You can by double tapping the home button on the home screen quickly bring up the camera app. Also now enabled (while in the camera app) you can use the volume keys to trigger taking the picture. You also have some options you can set, such as choosing to set HDR on or off, keep only the HDR picture, as well as giving you some guideline grids to help frame your picture.
Photos has a few tweaks to help out that “post-PC” era. A few simple tasks that mac users are used to in iPhoto, make their appearance on your iOS device: Remove red eye, crop, and auto enhance all are available.
Although probably overlooked, the settings app has a lot of new features and items you are going to want to make use of that effect things globally. First in General –> Keyboard is the ability to add Shortcuts. This means that you can insert items that you tend to write often, and instead just use short hand and let the iPhone do the writing instead. On this same page you can now enable caps lock if you find yourself needing the ability to shout (or enter serial numbers). You’ll also notice that International keyboards now has a “2” as Emoji’s are enabled. You can access them by clicking the globe next to the space bar when typing. You can even change your iOS device name (General –> About –> Name) or delete individual apps (General –> Usage –> choose the app)! There’s other updates too… but those are the big ones.
Next post will cover all those extra little things that aren’t quite as earth shattering but still quite useful.