iOS 5 and iCloud unveiled: “the truth is in the cloud.”
As scheduled Steve Jobs, Apple CEO hosted the international community in San Francisco, at the tech giant’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference — to demonstrate the newest generation of iOS. Jobs had primarily announced ten basic modifications that have been included in the iOS 5, but in actual scenario Apple has incorporated about 200 fresh features and around 1500 APIs.
Let’s go to the fresh-from-factory feature: Skip the cord and sync wirelessly
Apple CEO Jobs had earlier announced that we are entering a post computer era. Complying with Jobs’ line, Apple engineers for the first time had developed the iOS that work without being connected to a PC or MAC machine even once. Unlike previous iOS’, where we have to connect the iPhone or iPad to a Mac or PC running iTunes before getting it started. But this time, as an iOS 5 product is shipped to you, you can simply open the box and start it — a welcome screen would be there, perhaps welcoming us to a ‘PC-free’ era.
As the user switches on the device for the first time, he would be ‘welcomed’ and then prompted to enter the basic info like Apple ID so that we can download all the stuff we have bought from iTunes — be it Apps, music or movie. Needless to say, the download speed does depend on your service provider — this could be a factor if you want to update your iOS wirelessly.
Though this PC-Free (or should we say iTunes Free) activation is sure to win over a lot of supporters, but iTunes will not be abandoned — it enables us to have automatic backup before each syncing. To a lot of us, this back-up and restore system had saved the day, many numbers of times. In any case, it’s always better to have an option to choose: Apple has just done that; left it up to the users to choose which.
Another brilliant thing, we feel Apple is looking for, is to enable the iOS device to connect to iTunes services via Wi-Fi when the device is left idle and do all the required backup work and then do the syncing. So, what we have on the platter? We have the iOS 5 device than can start and be used without hooking up to a PC or MAC even once, which can be updated wirelessly, back-up and syncing can be done wirelessly.
Modifications in notification handling: A welcome change
Well many of us, have been not-so-happy with iOS’ way of handling messages or notifications. Whenever there’s a new one, we had to suspend the ongoing work and pay heed to it. Apple has come up with the solution; though it’s not out-of-the-box, still a first for Apple.
In iOS 5 whenever there is a notification, a (!) symbol will pop at the side of the screen almost unnoticeable and in a non-disturbing way; if the user wants to take immediate action — just tap on the message and the related app opens up. If it does not deserve immediate attention, just ignore it and it vanishes after sometime. When you wish to read back those ignored notifications, there’s the new Notification Centre — which accumulates all these for you to retrieve later. This store and retrieve idea hasn’t been witnessed as of now — Apples’ ingenuity. In the Notification center, the user can delete older ones, by hitting the X and confirming the action by tapping the app and closing it. The best thing we found out in notification settings is that the notifications can be customized app-wise. Not only can you set the display order for the app’s notifications, but you can also customize the apps to show banner notifications and be on Lock Screen too. The last one is useful, if you have to check the updated notifications, you don’t need to unlock the set.
Well, if you are wondering, no, the previous option was better (We don’t think anyone doubts this), there’s also provision of that in iOS. Though the new notification system is set by default, you can revert back to the ‘vintage’ format by configuring your apps by going to Notifications under Settings tab. In some case it may be handy too, say like remembering a meeting or sending instructions.
Apples ‘played’ with Airplay, result: Enhanced mirroring capability
Though iOS Airplay had already won many supporters for its ability to mirror among various Apple or supported products, there was still some limitations. Neither the user could mirror an app in full version, nor can it can be used for apps that don’t support Airplay. iOS 5 developers had gotten rid of the first one by enabling the users to mirror iPads and Airplay directly. If you are looking for using it in presentations, seminars or classrooms — this is just the ideal stuff. All you need to do is, tap the Home Button twice and then swipe right to pop-up the volume/brightness control area and then tap Airplay button and select mirroring for the file you want to. Even an entire app can be mirrored with all the contents and not just ‘previews’.
iOS Message App: It’s time to get over text/SMS/MMS
Announcement of the new messaging services across all iOS 5 devices, has taken us by surprise. Jobs introduced Messages app, an ultimate substitute for all SMS/text/MMS across multiple devices running on iOS 5. This is basically free encrypted messaging service across Apple products — costing you not even a peanut, but depriving (Is it? This should have been done earlier) the service providers from a huge income.
Though iOS 3 onwards, iPhone have been supporting sending and receiving texts, this cross-device free messaging app is the addition. This sync up everything automatically in real-time, enabling you to continue your ‘iMessage’ while shifting from one device to another. Across iOS, these messages are inherently blue colored, bearing the name ‘iMessages’ along with the content, but for non-apple receiver, the file is sent as normal green color SMS. Icing on the cake — there’s more updates related like encrypted chat, messaging in groups and linking more than one mail ids.
Updates in Lock Screen: Nice features added
Well, the lock screen is set to receive some major updates in settings and appearances in the iOS 5.In the lock screen itself; a user can find the ‘new’ Camera app — giving a prompt access to the Camera. You don’t have to double tap the Unlock slider if you are trying to have a quick snap or a quick video only. Well, this is helpful — we often found ourselves in situations where we want to a quick shot of say a bird, and before we unlock the device — it’s gone. You may be wondering — doesn’t this comprise the security of the user’s pictures? Well, Apple engineers have worked on that too, accessing the camera app without unlocking the phone only allows you to take quick picture, but not allow you to browse the stored pictures.
Another small but interesting feature we find in iOS 5 is the Notification Center of Lock Screen. iOS 5 lets you choose from a variety of options — email snippets or text messages of everything you missed; with the sender’s name, content and time-stamp. Say you want to respond to a particular app notification promptly, just sliding the app icon and unlocking the phones gets you to that particular app.
Other minor modifications include a new version of safari web browser along with safari web reader — enabling the user to read a whole newspaper article in one page and if required mail them. The reminder app has received a facelift, enabling group tasks and location centric reminder and can be updated automatically via Outlook or iCal. Also technical improvements have been made on the mail client, adding more features and formatting capabilities.
Last but not the least: iCloud; everything “just works”
iCloud is the most important and anticipated modifications added to iOS 5.
Till now all of us (even Apple users) have to avail the services of iDisk or any other storage services online, to ‘carry’ our documents online along with us. But the main drawback was, even then all the documents were stored to a centralized location and it took time to view or manually download them.
But, iCloud promises to offer much more, something more unique. Apple engineers has made iCloud to offer syncing all data among all your devices — be it iPhones, PCs or iPads in real-time. So, wherever you go, you don’t have to be bothered about your documents, they are always updated automatically.
Just like Steve Jobs announced, iCloud is not a hard-drive in air, but much more than that. You can see this as a wide scale application of same sort of feature limited to iBooks as of now. User can start to work on an iPhone, do another portion on his iPad and complete the rest on a PC — in the mean time all the data gets backed up and updated. If you are wondering how this is possible, it’s the case that syncing in iCloud pushes the data into all your devices, thus updating everything. As of now, 5GB data storage has been allowed per iCloud user, music, books and photos not included.
A basic difference between iCloud and peers is Apple’s aim to set up infrastructure for iOS apps, whereas others are working on browser-run web app platforms. Quoting Jobs “iCloud is integrated with your apps, so everything happens automatically. It just works.”
Summing it up: Conclusion
After messing up with MobileMe’s mistaken contact duplication and missing calendar events, Apple just could offer another debacle. As the preview suggests, iOS 5 seems to have some substantial upgrades like iCloud and Notification Center and being ‘PC-Free’, we would eagerly wait for its release on Q3. We will just have to wait for the grand release this fall, then only we can find out more about its pros and cons.