October 14, 2011 | Filed under: iPhone | Posted by: simon
Apple’s new operating system, the much-anticipated iOS5, launched finally this week. It’s available as a free download from iTunes for your iPhone (3GS or higher), iPad, or iPod Touch. There has been so much demand for the update that Apple servers were overwhelmed and many people had to try 20 or 30 times to successfully complete the upgrade, and still many people have not yet succeeded. People who are more cynical than me may suggest that Apple has made it difficult to update in an attempt to get people to go out and buy a new iPhone 4S phone contract, which has just gone on sale today.
The big draw of iOS5 is the Cloud, specifically Apple’s own iCloud service. The concept of cloud computing – where you no longer need to store files or even some software on your hardware, because it’s instead stored on a remote server, and accessed by your device as necessary – has been around for a while.
In theory it works well, in that it frees up space on your smartphone or computer for other purposes, which should keep it running much faster. In practice, it can be fiddly to get right, particularly if you’re not especially tech-savvy. For most people, unless you had a specific need, and the know-how to meet that need, cloud computing has been just around the corner for several years now, full of promise but not quite delivering other than with one or two specific applications, notably Google Docs and Spotify, letting users collaborate on office projects, or share and stream music, respectively.
Enter Apple, bringing an iCloud with everything – or perhaps, bringing everything you’d usually keep on your phone, into the iCloud. One huge benefit, which will either be obvious or near-invisible, depending on how often you used to manually synchronise your iPhone with a computer, is automatic synchronisation.
Once you have iOS5, you need never plug your iPhone in again, because future updates will be automatic, via iCloud, and your data will synch wirelessly between devices. That includes music and video purchases through iTunes. You can set things up so that all your devices automatically download anything you purchase on any of them. Alternatively, taking full advantage of iCloud’s ability to store your stuff for you remotely, you can just re-download your purchased media when you want to listen to it – either on the device you originally bought it for, or any of your other iOS5 platforms.
Synchronisation works with all the other data you’re ever likely to want to synch, too. Enter a calendar appointment on your iPad in the meeting, and your iPhone will remind you later. Bookmark a website on your iPhone, and check it out on the bigger screen of your iPad when you next get a chance. You can also back up all your personal data on the iCloud, which is very reassuring if you ever lose your phone, or have it break down.
As well as the iCloud features, iOS5 also brings you iMessage, which Apple clearly hopes is its BlackBerry-killer. This works like a text message, but is more convenient and user-friendly (as you’d expect from Apple), with threaded, searchable messaging, so it seems more like a conversation. More importantly, it’s free, from any iOS5 device to any other. That lets you do super-budget communications, if you have an iPod Touch, since you don’t need a phone contract.
Perhaps more usefully, it lets you buy your child an iPod Touch, so they can always iMessage you, without your needing to pay their phone bills – a neat one-off fee rather than an annoying ongoing one. Handily, iMessages are perfectly, seamlessly integrated into the existing Messages app. So, whether you want to send an SMS or an iMessage, you do it from the same place, and there’s no way to accidentally try to send an iMessage to someone who can’t receive them.
Considering the problems that RIM have recently been having with service blackouts, perhaps Apple have released iMessage and iPhone 4S deals at just the right time. There may be many a BlackBerry owner on all corners of the Earth who have been so frustrated over the last week that they are just about ready to bin their Bold or Curve and swap to an Apple alternative. As BlackBerry Messenger was one of the main attractions of a BlackBerry phone, the introduction of iMessage this week may offer a timely excuse to jump ship.
With all the above, plus improved notifications, and (at last!) Twitter integration, it’s clear that the iOS5 is a major leap forward for Apple.