For the past few days i’ve been running the soon to be released iOS5 on my iPhone… Apple say there’s over 200 changes and so far most of them make a lot of sense and improve usability… i’ll outline some of the more useful ones below..
First of all, I don’t think Siri will work as a personal assistant. It will work as a ‘novelty’. The problem isn’t really with the technology, it’s with the user. Will Siri recognise accents flawlessly and pick up my voice travelling in a noisy car or on a bus? (because i’m always talking out loud on buses and in cars)…
Siri might be handy in an office environment or for partially blind people but i think there’s too much margin for error for most people to rely on it for anything other than novelty value. The reality is it won’t have a list of restaurants near me, it won’t understand what i’m saying and it won’t change the way I organise my life because i’ll get frustrated with it. I also won’t talk out loud to a phone, announcing my plans for the day unless i’m alone in which case i’m most likely not doing anything anyway, so my hands are free and i can type and find information quicker / with more control. I’m all for lazy technology which ‘frees us up’ but I think this is novelty technology.
So i’m waiting to be proved wrong, but i feel Apple have made a mistake firstly by hyping the crap out of Siri and secondly making it available only on the iPhone 4S… the hardware changes on the 4S aren’t a big enough incentive to upgrade from the iPhone 4 and Apple have tried to use Siri as the deal breaker on the 4S but it doesn’t work for me… i won’t be upgrading and locking myself in to a long term contract which will prevent me from upgrading to the iPhone 5 (or having the choice to).
This is effectively the opposite to Apple’s much hyped ‘Siri’ personal assistant. This is silent technology, Siri needs you to talk to work. Custom vibrations i can see working… in fact i’m already using them. Picture the scene; you’re in a college lecture or meeting and your phone rings. Your first thought is ‘shit’. Your second thought is ‘who is calling me?’. You can’t check because you fear being ‘caught’ looking at your phone which gives the impression you’re not interested in what’s going on around you.
With custom vibrations you can literally create your own custom vibration pattern for every contact you have, or choose from some default ones. So now, not only will you know you’ve got a call, but you’ll know who’s calling you whilst everyone else in the room is completely oblivious to what’s going on in your mind. Along with custom vibration you can also set the LED to flash for alerts (but you can’t customise that, yet). So basically you can have a disco going on in your iPhone if you want to when somebody contacts you.
This is one of the biggest changes in iOS 5. Up until now, all alerts were displayed in the same way… like text messages. Now, you can have them appear all in the one ‘dashboard’. You can still get alerts displayed the old fashioned way or you can get them displayed as ‘banners’ instead or maybe you want none at all…
To get in to the notification dashboard, just swipe down from the top of the screen. To close, swipe up from the bottom of the screen. At first i found that swiping up from the bottom of the screen was hindered by the iPhone 4’s ‘home button’ and i kept ‘missing’ the target area and failing to close the notification center however you get used to it… i did anyway.
You can also view all of these alerts in the lock screen if you wish which means you don’t have to unlock the phone to read messages or see if you’ve any notifications.
Mention the word ‘cloud’ and you’ll have two types of people hounding you; those that think it makes life easier & those that moan about security & privacy issues. My views on privacy in a nutshell is that i’m not a CIA or MI5 agent, i’ve nothing to hide & i don’t publish stuff online i can’t stand behind so the potential risks and debate is crushed before it enters my head. I understand not everyone thinks like that and luckily Apple don’t force you to enter the cloud, you choose to go in.
So what is the cloud? Well it’s a magical mystery storage place where Apple store all your photos & videos to. They can add your messages / notes / contacts etc… in there too. The benefit for you is that you can get a free, lazy, backup facility (you literally have to do nothing) plus you can now access all that stuff from another device, because it’s not just stored locally on your phone, it’s sent to the cloud. And that’s why it will work… because it’s a no brainer for the end user. Their ‘stuff’ is backed up for free and can be accessed on their computer or iPad or other Apple-only devices. So it’s great if you have tonnes of up to date Apple gear around the place, not so great if you’re a windows-only user and thinks this is a convenient alternative to dropbox.
One thing i used to hate about the iPhone was the way it stored photos. You could take photos but it stored them all in one folder which was useless. It was also impossible to organise photos with iTunes too. Basically, up until now, photo organisation was a mess unless you really knew what you were doing. Now, you can create photo albums, move and copy photos all on the iPhone itself. It’s a miracle.
This is one example of how Apple can ‘get away’ for so long without what is regarded on all other devices as basic / standard features… the ability to organise photos. Really, it’s embarrassing this is only coming out now but because we’ve done without it for so long, it feels like a big deal.
Sticking with photos and one really useful feature they’ve introduced has been the ‘take a photo from lock screen’ button. I’m sure that’s not its official title, but that’s what it allows you to do – take a photo even when the phone is locked. The ‘new photo’ button is also present when you’re reviewing photos you’ve just taken. You can now snap a photo in preview mode by pressing the ‘up volume’ button too (which makes more sense for horizontal photos). Taking photos is now a much speedier process. However if you’re like me, you’ll have gotten in to the habit of pressing the power button to check the time and see if you’ve any messages. Unfortunately Apple don’t pull up the camera icon when you press the power button which is a bit of an oversight on their part imo (although this is still a BETA version i’m running, maybe this stuff will be present in the actual iOS 5 public release tomorrow).
I don’t know about you but i’ve never, ever found an online reminder or calendar system that I like. I love using online tools to make my life easier but for some reason I can never get in to the habit of adding events to calendars online. Since i got my iPhone last year i do use the calendar app (with Google Calendar integration) a bit but not as much as I should do. With iOS 5, Apple have a dedicated ‘reminder’ app which is basically a cross between the old ‘Notes’ and ‘Calendar’ apps.
Not sure we needed *another* tool which is effectively just a calendar / diary system but Apple probably want to take more control over this because it makes life easier for them integrating with other iOS devices.
WiFi Software Updates
Reality is a lot of ipod / iphone owners don’t have a clue what iOS is or what version they’re running. I could point out many examples 🙂 So whenever i go to add an app to someone’s phone or put music on it i find 50 app updates waiting for me & an OS update too. App updates are easy, OS updates not so easy because that involves connecting to a computer and trying not to mess up syncing policies with certain devices.
Now, you can update the OS using wi-fi so your iPhone / iPod (etc…) never needs to be hooked up to a computer ever again, in theory.
WiFi Sync with iTunes
I don’t use iTunes, but i might start using it more now that i can sync music between my iPhone and PC. This was always an obstacle to me using my iPhone as an iPod… it was just too much hassle to effectively copy / paste music from my PC to my iPhone every time i’d download a song. Now, i don’t have to. I can download as much as i want to my PC and my iPhone will magically update with my latest tunes. It’s simple, it’s what i call ‘making people lazy’ technology, it saves people time and effort which is again, why it will work for Apple.