iOS 5 final beta Review

iOS 5

If you are looking for a complete list of all 200+ enhancements to iOS 5, this isn't the article for you.  If you want a quick review of some of the less documented features, and in some cases snarky things you can do with the phone because of them, then you are in the right place.  All-in-all, I really like the new iOS.  It is far more usable, has cleaned up features that were not polished or had issues, and it may be me but I think it is faster.  And now for the fun things...

So yesterday I installed the final candidate for iOS 5 on my iPhone and iPad and, I can say I have now gone nearly twenty-four hours without yelling at my iPhone because it's one bad habit, the one I could only see as being infinitely rude, has been cured.  Yes, Apple has pushed the soap into the mouth of iOS and taught it some manners.  My phone, and my iPad, no longer pop-up notifications and interrupt me.  I know, you are thinking... boo hoo, your fancy phone doesn't pop-up messages right in the middle of your phone call so you can't hang up until you click READ or CANCEL, it no longer pops-up when you are watching a movie or listening to music disrupting the calm mood you were setting.  Right in the middle of typing something and a pop-up flashes to the screen only to inadvertently be touched because you were pecking out a word on  the keyboard and poof, it's gone and you have no idea what it was.. yep, you are right.  The new message center and message notification controls are what we needed!  YEA!  I finally have a phone that holds my messages, let's me know they are there very politely, and I can answer them whenever I want all lined up in a queue sorted by what application they belong to an in what order they were received.  Now for bonus points, in release 5.0.1 add in the ability to use the GPS chip to notice the phone is traveling more than X miles per hour, and save any notifications until the phone is below Y miles per hour and you might just help a lot of people not get into car accidents.  Make it extra sexy and have a way to flag contacts that are important to you so it can auto text back that I am driving right now but will get your message when I have come to a stop.  Just a thought, take it or leave it.

Here is a fun feature hidden deep in the settings that I found useful the first night I had enabled it:  You can make the phone's LED used as a camera flash to actually strobe when you get a new call!  This is brilliant!  I had my phone on silent, face down on the night stand, got one of those calls late at night that I wasn't expecting and the combination of a more useful vibrate pattern and the flashing light was a great way for it to ring.  I don't suggest doing this in clubs or out on the town, unless you just want to draw attention to yourself.  We all know the LED on the iPhone is crazy bright.  And please, PLEASE, turn this off if you are in a movie theater because it is going to be quite annoying to others if you don't. (It also flashes for other notifications too... text, Facebook, twitter, you name it, but it is a shorter flash.  It would be nice if you could set what flashes and what doesn't.  But given the intent of this is probably to help those with hearing impairments realize their phone is ringing... um, they may not change this.  And that is your little clue on where to find this feature.)

And here is a feature that is bound to be used for all forms of hijinks.  You can enable and use the camera when the screen is locked, and you can actuate the camera ("take a picture") using the up volume button on both he phone and your headset (assuming it has a volume control button.)   Yep... now you too can pick up your friends phone, that is locked to keep friends like you from messing with it, and from the lock screen just double click the home button and press the little camera icon and take whatever sophomoric photograph you wish.  Or, you can go walking around with your phone all innocent-like listening to your music while covertly snapping photographs using the little button on your headphones.  Maybe we want to add a toggle so people can decide if they want to enable that from the lock screen or not. I can think of a few security conventions where my friends frequent and I would rather truly lock my phone and not end up with lots of photos taken under the table, for instance.  You know who you are.  Yes, I am looking right at you.  Oh, and you too!

Note:  The camera has amazing new software too.  You can lock the focus, much like you would on a DSLR to set range and shoot all things focused at that point, you can pinch to zoom in and out, and you can access the photo roll with left swipe movement and return to the camera with  right.  Now, it should be noted that Apple thought of this.  If the phone was locked when you turned on the camera, the photo roll will only show pictures taken just now with the screen locked and not the complete roll of photos.  So this isn't a fun way to find those pictures of your friend they didn't want you to see. You also cannot forward, mms, email, etc. the pictures from the photo roll while the screen is locked.  +1 for foresight on this one.

Here is something else that is really wild... you can see your message center from the lock screen if you have told it to show certain messages on the lock screen.  (Really the message center is crazy granular and well planned.)  The default for missed calls is to show them on the locked screen.  Which makes sense, who wants to wait until they unlock their phone to see they missed a phone call.  I guess you didn't notice the ringing, vibrating and obnoxious flashing LED... I digress.  Anyway, if you missed a call and left it so you can see what calls you missed on the home screen, you no longer need to unlock the phone to call the person back!  Yes, you read that correctly - you only need to hold your finger on the missed call, and then swipe it to "call this number back!"  I know!  Now the phone does do this for other things, like text messages, but in that case it asks you to enter the passcode to unlock the phone first.  Which is quite clever.  But think of all the significant others that you could call back for people, you know when they are too drunk and don't realize they missed a call.  You can leave the phone right there on the bar next to them, so their significant other can determine if they need a ride home, or a new home... really this could be endless fun.  I'm leaving mine on, because the need to be able to call someone back without pecking in my complicated pin code is great.  You can still do voice dial on a locked phone and call anyone you want.  What, you didn't know you could do that?!  Yep, knowledge is power.

Do you travel a lot or live in a an area with a lot of micro climates and never know exactly where you are?  E.g. I know I am near London, but I have no idea the name of the village I am currently exploring.  (this is code for "I am lost in a pub.")  Ha! No worries, the weather tool now can use location services to show you the weather for where you are standing.  It even shows you weather by the hour.  And you can have all this automatically show itself in your message center as scrolling widgets.  You know, if you are missing your Windows Mobile days and wanted that quasi retro look.  I dig it; so can you.

I know Apple has really hammered this last one quite a bit, but I thought I would mention that it works as seamlessly as they state.  For all your twitterpated people, you can tweet anything on your iPhone with child-like ease.  From photos you have taken to websites you are visiting.  The same goes for forwarding such things in MMS, email, etc. so I'll give this some credit as you can use the feature to share things with friends and it isn't just tied to twitter, it jus so happens they really like that feature and you twitter account can be accessed by the entire phone as part of the internal API.  Dunno where that could go wrong, I mean honestly who would ever think to write an app that would take advantage of that.  Honestly... wouldn't it be super cool to write an app that wold then go make everyone who downloaded it follow you.  Yea, people pay me to think like this.

Well enjoy iOS 5 when you can get it too, on the 12th I think... 


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