iOS 5 – the Operating System for iPads (iPhones, and the like) has finally been released. It’s the first major software upgrade for Apple’s portable devices for… well, quite a while… and Apple programmers are clearly very proud of it – boasting ‘over 200’ new enhancements. However, In keeping with all Apple products, their new release doesn’t come with an instruction manual – the Apple philosophy being that their products are intuitive enough that you can work it out yourself.
So after plugging in your iPad to your computer for the upgrade, and returning an hour (or so) later … everything looks remarkably similar. So what’s all the fuss about?
Initially designed for iPhones, many of the new operating system upgrades are subtle. You might not notice them from the off, but lurking in there are some pretty nifty enhancements. Here’s five of our favourites:
There’s no escaping that iPads look and feel like huge, flat iPhones. But unlike their smaller siblings, you can’t text message or make phone calls. Redressing this deficit somewhat, Apple have produced ‘Messages’ which works like a text-messaging system between iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads – and no cell-phone connection is required!
Let’s just hope it fares better that Blackberry’s messaging service…
4. Better browsing
Taking a leaf out of the most popular web browsers: Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox, you can now do ‘tabbed’ browsing on your iPad. Those of us who like to do five things at once will be breathing a sigh of relief – switching between websites now takes about half a second less. Thank goodness for that.
But don’t miss the neat little hidden feature – an easy-to-access browsing history: just tap and hold down the back button.
3. Throw away the cables! PC-Free synchronising
It’s a bit like doing the washing up. Synchronising your iPad to your computer is an essential chore – a time consuming process that leaves your tablet out-of-action whilst your computer hard-drive churns away (backing up all those unnecessary App downloads).
But now, all that is history, because whenever your iPad is charging it will silently and automatically backup and update itself to your computer via WiFi.
Oh, and if you buy a new iPad you apparently don’t even need to own a computer anymore. Which is nice.
2. Fingers at the ready! Multitasking gestures
Your (already greasy) iPad screen is now about to get a lot grubbier.
This enhancement is a particular favourite of ours because it practically does away with the round ‘home’ button. You can now return to the home screen by ‘pinching’ four or five fingers together on the screen.
Also, if you want to switch between playing a game and your emails, then swiping left or right with a fistful will instantly move between open Apps. And finally, if you want to see the ‘multitasking bar’ (the closest thing Apple has to Windows task bar) just swipe up with at least four fingers.
Nothing life-changing, but these are nifty tweaks that could make you look even more cool in front of your (jealous, non-iPad owning) friends.
1. A decent typing experience – Split keyboard
Tablets are good for lots of things. But for any serious typing and word-processing, they’re pretty poor. Proper touch-typing simply isn’t possible on a flat screen.
One of the most useful innovations in the OS overhaul is the new split keyboard. When holding an iPad upright (portrait) the keyboard can be split into two by dragging the two halves of the keyboard apart. Now typing, although still second-best to a real keyboard, is much faster and easier by having all the keys within easy thumb reach.
The keyboard can also be dragged up and down the screen to satisfy your finger-tapping whims, and a new button in the bottom right will hide the keyboard completely…
What about the Newsstand?
Apple were so slow on this one that they nearly missed the boat. Apple have now included Newsstand in iOS 5– their new way to buy digital versions of magazines and newspapers.
At the moment, we felt that newsstand doesn’t feel quite complete. Something of a mash-up between the existing Appstore and iBooks Apps – rather than being the an entirely new innovation it claims. No doubt, the ever-perfectionist Apple designers will improve and update this in the coming weeks.
Oh, and there’s no Guru magazine on the Newsstand yet. But watch this space… when we hit the newsstand, you’ll know your iPad experience is complete(!!)