In addition to those upgrades related to the new iCloud roll-out, Photos gains some light editing features, such as cropping, straightening, one-touch enhancements, rotation and red eye removal. The first two are particularly fun as you get to make gratuitous use of the pinch to zoom and rotate gestures while you tweak photos to your heart's content. Happily, edits are also non-destructive, so if you've cropped or enhanced and then tapped "Save," re-entering the edit mode later allows you to roll back the picture to its untouched glory. Naturally, these tools aren't going to replace Photoshop, but they've certainly proven their worth in our short time spent with them.
Safari has matured with this release, poaching features from its desktop brethren. For starters, iPad users (finally) get tabbed browsing, which streamlines the previously laborious two-tap hoopla into a single-tap, page-swapping procedure. For novices, it should also cut down on the accidental opening of the same website multiple times. You're still limited to a total of nine, though, but at least now you can reorder them.
Other new features are Reader and Reading List. Both carry over from the desktop version of the browser, with the former reformatting content in a streamlined overlay, and the latter helping you save pages to peruse later. If you've ever used Reader on a desktop version of Safari, it works much the same here, stripping content from a page (even stitching multiple pages of pagination in some cases), removing formatting and visual clutter along the way, before presenting it in an easier-to-read overlay. It works, though we suspect you'll make more use of this feature on your iPhone's constrained display than on an iPad.
We were less impressed with Reading List, which is really just a glorified set of bookmarks that keep track of read / unread links and sync these across devices. While we like the underlying concept, you'll quickly bore of its constricting organization and lack of third-party support, especially when compared to something like Instapaper
. That, and it becomes infinitely less useful if you don't also use Safari on the desktop.
Twitter integration hasn't changed much since when we first played with it back in June
. If you're not up to speed, the Share icons littered throughout Apple's stock apps now feature a "Tweet" button which brings up controls for propelling photos, links, et cetera into the Twittersphere. To activate the feature, you'll have to enter your log-in credentials in the Settings app as a one-time setup. Apparently, those credentials will also be used by future third-party Twitter apps as-well, should their developers choose to support it, meaning single sign-on goodness for all. Just make sure you don't have the volume set too high while composing those tweets, as you're likely to be startled by a loud whistle noise that'll sound after you hit send.
From Settings, you can also match Twitter contacts with those in the Phonebook. Which sounds great on paper, but we have to say, it would be a lot more useful with (cough, cough) another
social network? We certainly recall seeing builds of the OS with Facebook in the Settings app, so whatever the grudge between Cook-Zuckerberg, let's just bury the hatchet. Please?
After having our iPhone 3G brutalized by iOS 4, we were curious as to how previous-generation hardware would fare with Cupertino's latest OS. In the case of the iPhone 4
and the iPad 2
, iOS 5 made these devices feel as snappy as ever. Transitions were smooth, apps loaded quickly and we never felt like new features overwhelmed our device. On the original iPad
, much of the same applies. To be clear, iOS 5 didn't make our original iPad run worse than it does on iOS 4, but if you've ever used a first-gen iPad you know it has some obvious RAM limitations, and iOS 5 certainly won't be the cure-all you've been waiting for. That said, the original iPad is usable with Cupertino's latest release -- something we were unable to say during our iPhone 3G's transition to iOS 4.
PC Free and WiFi Sync
Combined with iCloud, this snazzy new setup assistant means iOS devices no longer have to be tethered to a computer for setup. From then on, iOS 5 devices sync over WiFi if plugged in and iTunes is open on the host computer.
It's here and works. iOS 5-toting iPad users can enable it by either dragging the keyboard upwards from the bottom right corner, or by pulling it apart with two fingers. The small keys take a little getting used to, but more choice is better than none, we suppose. You'll also notice some interface weirdness in some apps when you're using the split keyboard -- we're looking at you iMessage, and your vast expanse of grey drab.
Remember when you had to download an entire 500MB image of iOS, just to plug a security vulnerability? Updates for iOS 5 will be released in delta form, meaning only the parts that change are what has to be downloaded. And because they're smaller, they now come to you over the air and can be installed sans-PC.
AirPlay Mirroring (for iPad 2 and iPhone 4S)
Second-generation AppleTV owners get video mirroring of their iPad 2s without wires. To be verbose, it's the entire UI, not just select content (like a photos or a video) like on all other AirPlay-enabled devices. Think of it as the wireless equivalent of the HDMI or VGA accessory cables for the iPad 2 and something to watch when game developers start exploiting it.
Multitasking gestures (for iPad 2
You'll recall that developers could enable these
on the original iPad back in iOS 4. Four- and five-finger swipes are the name of the game here, allowing you to jump to and from apps without double tapping the home button or making a roundtrip to the springboard.
Flags and rich text editing make an appearance in this release, but we were most impressed by the gesture that reveals mailboxes when you're using your iPad in portrait mode. Just flick right from the left edge to make managing emails in portrait mode, oh-so much easier.
It's not a looker (maybe we've been spoiled by apps like Flow
), but we suppose it gets the job done. The killer feature however, is the location-based alerts, which can be triggered upon arriving or leaving certain places. When combined with Siri, game over.
It's just a centralized place where all your favorite magazines and periodicals live. Those zines have also been relegated to a new section of the store and also gain the priviledge of new updates that download in the background.
Other miscellany we didn't get to play with (yet):
Dictation (4S only)
Android users have been enjoying voice-to-text translation for what seems like eons, and with iOS 5, Apple also supports the feature. However despite being demoed at the "Let's Talk iPhone" event it would appear the feature is only available to iPhone 4S owners -- we'll add impressions here when get to play with it.
The $24.99 service debuts "late October
," so we'll circle back then with impressions on Apple's foray into music subscriptions.
While the distance between iOS and its contemporaries has shrunk, Apple's baby is certainly more polished and feature-complete than it ever has been. With gripes like notifications and wireless sync behind us, Apple's been able to hone in on breaking new ground with features like Siri, iCloud and iMessage -- all in an extremely refined way.
And that's when it hit us. Other than turn-by-turn navigation, more multitasking APIs and some delectable widgets, there isn't much, headline-wise, left on Apple's hit list for iOS 6. The OS that once was functionally limited, yet smooth and pretty, has blossomed into something that is powerful and yet also slick. It's certainly not the OS for everyone, but from a macro perspective, you really can't argue with its laser focus on attention to detail.
And with Mango already ripe
, it's your move, Ice Cream Sandwich