Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 4
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Mail, Contacts, Calendars
iOS 4 introduces two significant new changes to the built-in Mail application: Unified Inbox and Threaded Messaging, as well as several other smaller enhancements.
Mail in iOS 4 now provides a unified inbox for users with multiple e-mail accounts on their device. This can be accessed by navigating back up to the very top-level Mail screen, where a list of Inboxes and Accounts is shown.
Selecting “All Inboxes” will show a single Inbox view of messages from all accounts, sorted in reverse-chronological order. Replies and forwards will be sent by default from whichever account the message was originally received by, although this can be changed in the same manner as in previous versions. As part of the Unified Inbox it is also now possible to move messages into other account folders as part of the normal message move process.
From the top-level accounts screen you can still access individual inboxes or account folders directly. The Inbox shortcuts provide faster direct access to individual inboxes when moving between accounts. The Outbox is also shown here for any messages that are waiting to be sent.
Messages in the Outbox can now be edited or deleted from here as well.
iOS 4 also introduces the option to organize conversations into threads. The option for this can be found in the Mail, Contacts and Calendar section of the Settings app.
Once enabled, any messages that are part of the same thread will be grouped together into a single entry in the message listing, showing a preview of the most recent message followed by a number displaying how many messages are in the current thread.
Tapping on a threaded message will open a second listing showing only those messages in that particular thread, organized in reverse-chronological order. A search can also be conducted from here for only the messages in the thread.
Threads can be deleted or moved in the same manner as individual messages. When swiping-to-delete on a thread, the total number of messages in the thread will be displayed beside the “Delete” button as a reminder that you are deleting more than one message. To delete individual messages from within a thread you need to open the thread first and then delete the messages from that view.
Note that message threading only works on a per-folder basis, so only messages that are in the current folder are grouped into threads. If you have moved individual messages from a thread into another folder, they will not be shown unless you specifically access that folder.
Edit in Search Results
When searching within the Mail application, an Edit button now appears to allow you to either move or delete items from within the search results.
New Data Detectors—Create Events, Track Packages
Mail introduces two new data detectors for creating events and tracking packages. Any text that looks like a possible date or time is highlighted and can be tapped on to create a new calendar event. Likewise, well-known tracking number formats are detected automatically and link to the appropriate tracking web page in Safari.
Sending E-Mail from Other Apps
When sending e-mail messages from other applications, users will now be prompted to either save the message as a draft or delete the draft when cancelling the message.
Resize Photos when Sending
When sending photos as attachments, you can now resize them before sending. The resize prompt appears once you actually finish the message and tap the “Send” button.
Support for Opening Attachments
First introduced on the iPad, iOS 4 now allows attachments on the iPhone and iPod touch to be opened using supported third-party applications. If no third-party apps are available for a given attachment type, it will simply be viewed using Quick Look as before.
Support for MobileMe Aliases
MobileMe users can now send using any of their aliases. Aliases from your MobileMe account appear in the “From” selector:
Note that for aliases to appear they must be enabled in your MobileMe account and you must have filled in a description for each alias and your primary account in your MobileMe Mail settings on the web.
In prior versions of iOS, messages deleted from GMail accounts were archived within GMail rather than actually being deleted. iOS 4 emphasizes this behaviour by replacing the “Delete” button with an “Archive” button instead.
However, this default behaviour can now be changed. When configuring a GMail account, a new option “Archive Messages” now appears, allowing you to select your preferred behaviour.
Direct support for Google Calendar is also included when configuring GMail accounts. This uses the standard CalDAV protocol and could be configured manually in previous iOS versions; the new setting simply provides for simpler configuration.
Mail, Contact and Calendar Settings
Some visual enhancements have been made to individual account settings. Icons for different content types now appear within each account’s settings beside the on/off toggles.
Accounts also include a “Notes” content type that can be toggled on for any mail account. This allows entries from the iOS Notes app to be synchronized with a Mail account via IMAP.
Microsoft Exchange Enhancements
Prior versions of iOS only supported a single Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync account. iOS 4 now allows multiple Exchange accounts to be created on the same device. iOS 4 also brings support for Exchange 2010 servers and more advanced Microsoft Exchange policies.
The Calendar app in iOS 4 remains almost identical to previous versions with only a couple of relatively minor enhancements. As on the iPad, users can now choose to display a subset of calendars rather than the all-or-none options offered by previous versions.
A built-in Birthdays calendar is also available to display your contacts’ birthdays. This is generated automatically from the Birthday field in your Contact info.
It is also now possible to change the assigned calendar when editing existing events. In prior versions, you could only assign a calendar when first creating an event.
iOS 4 also adds the ability to send calendar invitations wirelessly via CalDAV when using a supported CalDAV server.
Contacts remains mostly the same as in previous versions, although the contact entry screen has undergone a slight facelift to reduce the number of separate entry screens that were previously used. Individual name fields, phone number entry fields and address entry fields now appear on the main screen and are edited in place rather than switching to secondary data entry screens.
On existing devices, all other contact options remain the same as before. iPhone 4 adds a “FaceTime” button on the contact screen for initiating a FaceTime conversation.
The Camera app in iOS 4 includes some additional enhancements both for existing iPhone hardware and the new iPhone 4.
The iPhone now gets a 5X digital zoom option when taking still pictures. The quality of the digital zoom is not particularly impressive considering that it’s simply magnifying the existing camera image in much the same way that enlarging an image in Photoshop would, but users may find it helpful in certain situations.
When recording video, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 users can now also take advantage of the tap-to-focus feature that was previously only available for taking still photos.
The Camera app on the iPhone 4 provides additional on-screen buttons for controlling the built-in LED flash and switching between the front and rear cameras.
The iOS 4 photos app adds direct support for Events, Faces, and Places transferred from iPhoto. In prior iOS versions, iPhoto users could transfer Events and Faces, however these appeared as normal photo albums in a single listing. iOS 4 separates photo albums, events, and faces into their own categories using a menu bar at the bottom of the screen.
The Photos app also now displays Faces entries for all face-tagged photos from your iPhoto library, regardless of whether you’ve chosen them for synchronization from iTunes or not. Previously, only specifically-selected Faces appeared on the device.
The Photos app also introduces a Places feature, similar to the one found on the iPad. The Places option shows an integrated map with pins indicating locations for photos that are currently stored on the device. You can zoom in on the map as normal, and pins will separate to indicate more detailed locations. Tapping on a pin will show an indicator of how many photos were taken at that location and an arrow to view the photos.
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