Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

iOS 5 highlights with new apps that weren't included in the update

13

October

Well, it was a pretty rough day for lots of people yesterday as they tried to update their iOS devices to iOS 5. I spent the better part of the day trying to update and finally reached success around 10:30 PM by doing a manual update using a downloaded firmware file. Now that I've had some time to explore and play, here are some highlights:

ios_notification.jpgNotifications Center - People who are familiar with Android phones will recognize this feature and notice that it's pretty much a direct steal. Messages, calendar invitations, friend requests, and more can be set to appear at the top of your screen as small banners or as pop-ups (or not at all, if you so choose). You can see a summary of recent notifications by swiping down from the top of any screen. By default the summary includes a lot of stuff but you can easily change the settings and eliminate the things you don't need to see all the time. For me, the stock ticker was the first thing to go.

iMessage - All iPhone, iPod and iPad users running iOS 5 can now send messages with this new version on the messaging app. You also can do group messaging. The messages are unlimited and don't count against your cellular plan because they are sent over the Internet instead of through your carrier. That's only true, however, if you're messaging to another iOS 5 device so make sure your friends and family do the upgrade. On another feature steal, this time from the BlackBerry world, you can see who’s reading your messages with delivery and read receipts. And you can send photos, videos, locations, and contacts. Oh, and you can assign custom notification tones to text messages now too.

Camera - How many times have you seen a photo opportunity with your iPhone in your pocket and by the time you took it out, unlocked it and launched the Camera app, the photo was gone? The new Camera app makes that problem go away because you can access the Camera app right from the Lock screen. You also can use the volume-up button as a shutter button to make your photos. New grid lines can be turned on to help with photo alignment and you can use pinch-to-zoom gestures for framing. Want to focus on something specific? Just tap the screen.

Photo Editing - There are lots of photo editing and toning apps (Snapseed is my new favorite) but if you don't want to bother with those you now can do some basic photo editing and enhancing right in. You can crop, rotate, auto-enhance (tone) and remove red eye. Pretty basic stuff but for most people it's enough and it's very to use.

Twitter Integration - Login to your Twitter accounts just once in iOS 5 and tweet directly from Safari, Photos, Camera, YouTube, Maps and other apps that support it (Chomp, Flipboard, LivingSocial, Instagram, MadPad, PopSugar, Showyou, SoundTracking and Words with Friends, to name a few). Typing a friend’s Twitter handle will auto complete based on info from your contacts.

img_0775.pngShortcuts - Go to Settings --> General --> Keyboard and you see Shortcuts. Here you can create your own library of word abbreviations for texts, emails and other times when you type.

Newsstand and Reminders - These two new apps are exactly what their names indicate. Newsstand is an iBooks-like app for viewing magazines and newspapers purchased in the App Store. When you by a subscription to these periodicals, new issues pop right in on the shelf when available. The interface is very simple and clean. Reminders is an elegant to-do and task list app and you can set all kinds of custom alarms to keep you on track. You even can set alarms based on your location.

Parental Controls - Have a tween or teen in the house with an iOS device and want to have some control over the content they send and receive? You now can set custom restrictions for Safari, Camera, FaceTime, Game Center, YouTube, Location Services, and more.

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Safari - The Safari browser has been updated with several new features and enhanced performance. Use Safari Reader to view web pages without ads or distractions. Save web pages to read later with the Reading List feature that uses iCloud to sync across your devices and keep track of where you left off. Tabbed browsing comes to the iPad so you can keep multiple web pages open and easily switch between them.

AirPlay Mirroring - With an Apple TV connected to you television you now can wirelessly mirror everything on your iPad 2 and iPhone 4S (for now at least) and watch it on the big screen. This is a great feature for viewing photos and videos, playing games and for making Skype calls.

iCloud and iTunes Syncing Over WiFi - And of course the big change in iOS 5 is the proverbial cutting of the cord. The iCloud service is free with iOS 5 and iTunes 10.5 and you get 5GB of free storage. It stores your music, photos, documents, apps and more and wirelessly pushes them to all your devices. Make a photo with your iPhone and watch it magically appear on an iPad registered to the same iCloud account. By a song on your iPod and it becomes available on your iPhone too. It's that simple. You control what syncs and what doesn't so it can be customized to your liking. You also can use Backup with iCloud, which will make a backup of your whole device when you are connected to power and WiFi. I make a lot of photos and videos with my iPhone, so I found out very quickly that 5GB of storage space doesn't go a long way these days. I'll be doing my backups with a cable for now, at least until I have time to cull my camera roll.

So far iCloud is working really well, especially since it's a new service. I was particularly concerned that Apple's servers would be overwhelmed by all the iCloud data after the iOS 5 update debacle yesterday. I have a had a few glitches, with some documents, bookmarks and other things not syncing properly. My Contacts are all messed up, but that's because they are a product of using multiple iPhones with one MobileMe account in the Gadget Guy household. A couple of syncs and a few missed check boxes was all it took to put all our contacts on everyone's phones. So for now I'm going to chalk up some of the sync problems to user error (there, I said it) or gremlins left over from the MobileMe era.

I haven't tried iTunes syncing over WiFi yet but will do that soon. This feature is designed to let you cut the cord and keep your iTunes libraries up to date on all devices. With iTunes running on a Mac or PC on your WiFi network, you can manually sync your songs or it will happen automatically when your device is connected to power.

Phone activation, setup and iOS updates are now accomplished wirelessly, so instead of rushing home tomorrow to activate your new iPhone 4S by connecting it to a computer, you can crack it open and activate it right there in the store. Lateryou can manually restore your content from a previous iPhone backup using a cable (just the first time), or if you have your iCloud account setup with iTunes 10.5 on your desktop machine, just enter your iCloud credentials and let the syncing begin!

Bonus Apps - There are four additional apps that are part of the iOS 5 update and they likely will be included on the new iPhone 4S models coming out tomorrow. Up-graders can download them now from the App Store. They are: 

  • mzl.hmwvittc.320x480-75.jpgFind My Friends - Find My Friends allows you to easily locate your friends and family from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Install this free app on your iOS 5 device and sign in with the Apple ID you use with iCloud. Adding a friend is easy – just send a request to see their location. Once your friend accepts using the Find My Friends app, you will then be able to see that friend’s location on a list or on a map.
  • Cards - The new Cards app from Apple lets you create and mail beautifully crafted cards personalized with your own text and photos — right from your iPhone or iPod touch. Take a quick snapshot and with a few taps and swipes, an elegant letterpress card is on its way to any address in the world. Each card is just $2.99 when sent within the U.S. and $4.99 when sent to or from anywhere else. And that includes postage.
  • iTunes Movie Trailers - iTunes Movie Trailers puts the newest and most exclusive movie previews in HD in your hands. Browse trailers, clips, and featurettes for the biggest Hollywood blockbusters and independent cinema; view stunning HD photos; explore a year-long calendar of movie releases; find show times near you and get ticket info directly from your iPad or iPhone. (This app also is compatible with iOS 4.3.5)
  • Airport Utility - Use AirPort Utility to manage your Wi-Fi network and AirPort base stations, including AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and Time Capsule — right from your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. See a graphical overview of your Wi-Fi network and devices. Change base station and network settings, or manage advanced features such as security modes, wireless channels, and more.

mzl.wapduipt.320x480-75.jpg  mzl.gxuzbpzz.320x480-75.jpg  mzl.pjfgdhqg.320x480-75.jpg

And in the tradition of Steve Jobs, there's just one more thing...

Remember iTunes Match? That's the service that will match your music library to songs in Apple's library, to save to time and bandwidth when syncing to iCloud. It's not available yet but it's coming at the end of the month and it will be $24.99 a year.

Overall the iOS 5 update is a solid performer for all compatible iOS devices. I was skeptical about how well it would run on an iPhone 3GS but a friend friend says it's working extremely well. Now if they can just figure out a way to give Siri to the rest of us...

I'll be on iPhone 4S coverage early tomorrow so watch for it here. I'm not getting one right away (not eligible to upgrade unless I pay big $$$) so I'll be depending on the early adopter to share their new prizes for the camera.

[Last modified: Thursday, October 20, 2011 8:26pm]

    

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