Thursday, October 27, 2011

Is iOS 5 A Disappointment?

iOS 5 was a huge update for iPhone and iPad users, with more than 200 new features, including some that had been major requests for some time, and also dozens of smaller, "nice-to-haves" that make the iPhone and iPad such compelling devices. I was among the millions that downloaded the new iOS on the day it was released, 12 October 2011. In fact, so many people were trying to download it simultaneously that they nearly brought down the internet! As good as it is, iOS 5 isn't perfect. Having lived with it for a couple of weeks now, I thought I would just list a couple of little niggles I have. Note, this is not a review of the iPhone 4S, but rather iOS 5 used as an update to iPhone 4.

Notification Center
This is one of the most sought after features, and the one I was looking forward to the most, having used Android previously. Apple have done a great job, and have improved on Android's offering, but is it too much to ask to include a "clear all" button? It's great that you have the option to clear the notifications from each app individually, but if you haven't checked it all day it can be quite tiresome. One button to get rid of all those stale notifications is a must-have!

For this one Apple looked across the border to RIM to copy their hugely successful Blackberry Messaging service. The intention was great, and the integration with the SMS Messages feature is typical of Apple's seamless approach to software design. The problem is, most of my friends don't have iPhones. I am working on that, but in the last 2 weeks I have not used iMessage once. If Samsung can make messaging cross-platform with their soon to be released ChatON service, why couldn't Apple? For now I continue to use Whatsapp.

My only complaint about Newsstand is that there is no way to hide or delete the Newsstand "folder" if you don't use it. It's faux wood shelves are an unnecessary blot on my pristine iPhone screen! Sure, there is a way to add it into another folder, but this is a work around, and it shouldn't be necessary.

I like the Reminders app, but one of its best features is practically unusable! The ability to add a location to a reminder is great, in theory. Unfortunately, Apple only allows you to add addresses from your Contacts, and I cannot get iOS to recognise my work or home addresses, and I don't have the addresses of shopping centers in my Contacts! Why couldn't Apple just allow the option to set the location by dropping a pin on the map?

iOS brings with it some great improvements for the Camera app, including the ability to go to the Camera app straight from the lock-screen, and to use the volume "up" button as a shutter release. However, the new Photo Stream feature hasn't been fully thought through. In theory it's great! All your photos will be instantly synced to all your iOS devises so if, for example, you shoot a picture with your iPhone, you can use the bigger screen on the iPad to touch it up, and then share it to Twitter from there. Awesome! But what if you're out shopping, and you shoot a photo of the latest Iron Man toy so you can check with your wife whether it's an appropriate Christmas present for your kid, and the kid picks up your iPad to play Angry Birds? Bam! Surprise ruined! The photo streaming idea is great, but it should require some user input for each photo before syncing, and perhaps even a list of devices you want to share it with.

Wi-Fi Sync
This is one of the other features I was really looking forward to. For me it just doesn't work consistently  and I have no idea what I'm doing wrong. It has worked, but most days I see a message to say "incomplete sync", or for whatever reason the iPhone isn't being recognised by iTunes, despite them both being able to access the internet on the same Wi-Fi connection.

Missing features
There are still a number of basic features that Apple seem to continuously overlook. Two of the biggest for me have to do with the newly renamed Music app. I have an old iPod Nano, and it had a feature that allowed me to set a playlist as an alarm. Thus I could wake up to the music of my choice each day. There are apps that try to imitate this, but most require you to open the app and leave it running all night, which is far from ideal. In a similar vein, why is there no sleep mode. If I using my iPhone to play music through a dock, I should be able to set it to turn off after 20 minutes. These aren't sophisticated features, and it amazes me that they aren't included in iOS. Even iTunes doesn't have a sleep function, which is ridiculous!

Wow, when I list my problems like this, there are more than I thought. This may make it sound like I'm unhappy with iOS 5, but I'm not! It's a huge step up from iOS 4.3, and I wouldn't switch back for anything. I'm just a bit disappointed, because it could have been so much better!

Thanks for reading.