Thursday, October 13, 2011

The iOS 5 update

Since I worked from home yesterday I ended up deciding it would be a good idea to upgrade my iDevices to iOS 5 the very first day it was available.

Remind me to never do that again.

Not surprisingly, everybody on this side of the space-time continuum made the same foolish choice. My first attempt to download the upgrade started by helpfully informing me it would take around 23 minute to download...then 29...then 38...  Which was bad enough except when it finished, iTunes gave me a terse little error message that said, "there was a problem downloading" blah, blah.

Son of a bitch!

After several failed attempts (each longer than the last) I Googled the error message and speculated my anti-virus software was not playing nice with iTunes. Thank you Kaspersky. After disabling it I started the download process again, (it took about 90 minutes) and finally got my iPad updated. The whole process, with backing up, restoring, etc, took roughly 2 and a half to 3 hours.

Note to those who are curious: the iOS 5 upgrade is around 700 megabytes -- roughly the size of a CD.

With the upgrade of the iPad complete, I started my 3GS iPhone. Download time: 5 hours. I left it running and went to bed.

So, now that I've had about a day to play with both iPad and iPhone, here are my initial impressions.

  • Notification center - you can select what you want to notify you and where: out of the way at the top of the screen, on the lock screen, etc. I've got mine set up so I can flick the top of the screen and get a dropdown that shows weather conditions, stock prices, calendar entries for the day. Chat messages pop up in a bar at the top too when running in the background. This one's growing on me a bit.
  • iMessage center - this is turns out to be sort a cross between SMS and Blackberry messaging for the iPhone. If your contact has an iDevice and has registered and is on Wifi, this works like BBM. Otherwise, it's still the same old SMS messaging. Once some of my other friends and associated are hooked in, it may become more interesting..
  • Newstand - another way for Apple to sell me shit through iTunes. Yawn. If you were buying in-app subscriptions (I get WIRED this way) they may suddenly show up without warning in the Newstand.
  • Reminders - no way (so far) to integrate this with the Google Apps suite. It seems okay but I'm the kind of person who eventually ignores all my carefully set reminders.
  • Twitter - To use this it appears you have to set up the official Twitter client, which I don't particularly like. Not sure about this one. We'll see.
  • Camera - you can turn on a grid for compositional purposes, prefocus...sort of, and use the volume rocker as a shutter release now. Oh, and start the camera from the start screen. Double click the home button (like using iPod from the start screen) and you'll notice a camera icon near the bottom of the screen. Tap that and the camera app opens (a co-worker had to show me this today).
  • Photos - you can crop photos and do something they call "enhancing," which I'll be damned if I can see a difference after using. Oh, and add new albums! No longer *just* "Camera Roll." Or could you do that before? If so I never noticed. There's red-eye reduction but since my 3GS doesn't have a flash, this one's sort of pointless. You can use iCloud to store and sync photos across multiple iDevices.
  • Safari - tabs on the iPad, nothing on the iPhone (I could tell). One thing that's interesting is a "reader" function that pulls up a plain text presentation of what Safari thinks is the main content section. More useful than you'd think.
  • PC Free - since I just upgraded I don't need to upgrade again, but it sounds useful.
  • WiFi sync - haven't tried this.
Other news or changed stuff I didn't comment on before:
  • Videos - on the iPhone this has been split off from the old iPod player, which has been rebranded as...
  • Music - some significant changes here. Now just called "Music," with a new icon. One thing I like is the ability to stream music from iTunes to your iDevice, so you can play things from your music library that aren't necessarily on your device. If you have a lot of music but don't want to load everything you own on your iPhone this seems nice.
  • iTunes - music you buy from Apple automatically becomes available from your iCloud account.
  • iCloud - you can choose which of your applications to back up to iCloud. You get 5 GB free...with additional storage available at a relatively low cost. Warning: 5 GB goes fast. Signing up and setting up iCloud gets you an @me.com email address. Not that I much need yet another email address.
  • Find My Phone - this used to be only available to MobileMe users. Now that iCloud has essentially replaced this, any one can get on Find My Phone, which can be used to locate phones on linked accounts via GPS (on Google Maps), cause them to beep -  even if they are set to silent, create a screen lock code remotely, and remotely wipe a lost device.
Even though I'm due a handset upgrade, I've about decided to stick with my 3GS for the short term. I may change my mind, but so far I've resisted the lure of the better camera and faster processor. As to Siri - well, it's apparently spawned a whole new category of internet humor.

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