iOS 5 Preview: Three Features to Love, and Some to Hate
Thanks to a friend on Twitter, I’ve been added to Apple’s list of approved developer devices. That means both my iPhone 4 and iPad 2 have been equipped with iOS 5, the latest and greatest version of Apple’s mobile operating system.
After only 12 hours of using both devices with iOS 5 and iCloud, there are a few things the channel should know, especially those VARs who love their iDevices. Here’s a quick review …
- Notifications: They’re here and they’re wonderful, and for this reason alone, iOS 5 is worth it. I don’t need to explain all the ins and outs of how a pop-down notification works, but users no longer have to worry about large blue box pop-up notifications — unless they like them. Users can switch them on or off, as well as specify each application’s style of notifications, including turning off all notifications for a specific app altogether. It’s nice having my Words With Friends notification quietly pop down from the top instead of interrupting important things. Conversely, users now can request pop-up notifications for certain apps. So, if, say, e-mail is the most important thing to you, a pop-up notification ensures you won’t miss a single message.
- Sync and Play: This feature wasn’t exactly advertised big and bold, but users can now use their iPhone or iPad while it’s syncing. Progress bars pop up — exactly like downloading an application — as the apps are synced over, and music and other media is made available on the device as it becomes available. So even if you’re stuck tethered to your computer shoveling all your music over after a restore, you don’t have to pause the whole process just to answer a text message or phone call. Finally.
- iCloud Backup and Photo Stream: Oftentimes I’ve taken a picture on my iPhone and wish I could show people on my iPad without having to sync the two devices. iCloud’s Photo Stream service does that wonderfully, and also does the same if I’ve taken a picture on my iPad 2. iCloud also backed up my data quite fast, and within an hour of using my iPhone, I already had nearly 2GB of data stored in Apple’s cloud. My messages, contacts, e-mail settings, notes, app preferences and more exist on Apple’s cloud and I don’t have to worry about backing up via iTunes. iOS 5 also tells users when it performed its last full iCloud backup, which apparently for me was at 5 a.m. Users can push a backup any time they want, but automatic backups happen when the device is connected to WiFi, plugged in and locked/sleeping. Just to see how well iCloud syncs, I opened up iBooks on my iPad and iPhone. I downloaded a free e-book on my iPad, and as soon as it was done downloading, it magically popped up on my iPhone two seconds later.
- Room for improvement: Yes, iOS 5 isn’t the end all, be all. There’s still one issue driving me nuts: There’s no way to see all of my upcoming calendar appointments at a glance. I don’t know why this is, or why Apple thinks it’s not important, but having a running list that can be viewed quickly would be wonderful. Users can, however, add Reminders and regular calendar events with alarms to alert a day in advance, but that’s hardly a solution. Also, notifications that pop up on a lock screen disappear once the phone is unlocked, even if the user hasn’t tended to that specific notification. Oops. That’s a quick way to forget fast. (At least it’s still on the notification pull-down menu.) The notification menu could also use a few tweaks since clearing out notifications is an all-or-nothing affair. Yes, I see I have three e-mails, but I only care about one. Can I take two of these e-mail notifications out without losing the one that’s important to me? No, I can’t. Apple, please address this!
If you’re a VAR and you’re thinking about using iOS 5, for the time being I’d caution you against it. iOS 5 is the buggiest beta I’ve used from Apple. I’ve heard some reports that some third-party apps don’t work at all (though all my important apps do). Some interesting bugs include: iPad iBooks dictionary showing a blank bubble with no definition, slow transitions between applications, slow-loading Messages app, odd graphical glitches, quickly drained battery, general unresponsiveness and, last, Netflix streaming doesn’t work. (But hey, nothing I haven’t already put up with on Android.) Apple was right to slate this for the Fall. That being said, it should be great when it launches.