Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 4
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The Safari browser in iOS 4 remains much the same as in previous versions except for the addition of Bing as a third search engine. As before, you can choose your search engine from the Safari section in the Settings app.
When entering information into the Search field, the enter button is now simply labeled “Search” instead of displaying the name of the specific Search engine.
Safari also now displays both suggestions and recent searches when entering information into the search field. Previously, only recent searches were displayed here.
Safari continues to support background audio streaming as in previous versions but can now be accessed from the playback controls in the same manner as other background audio apps.
The iPod application in iOS 4 now synchronizes playlist folders from iTunes and allows users to create and edit playlists on the device itself.
Folders created in iTunes will now synchronize across to iOS 4 devices in the same way as on click wheel iPod models. The iPod application displays the folder structure under the “Playlists” section.
Create and Edit Playlists
iOS 4 now allows you to create and edit playlists directly on the device. This replaces the “On-The-Go” playlist from previous versions. New playlists can be given a name, and songs are then added to the playlist by selecting tracks in much the same way as they were for On-The-Go playlists.
Playlists can also be edited or deleted directly on the device, including adding new tracks, removing tracks, or simply reordering tracks. This includes both playlists created on the device and playlists originally synced from iTunes. Playlist changes made on the iOS device are synced back to iTunes if using automatic sync.
The iPod application now displays track listings from albums in a style similar to that used by the iTunes Store application. A larger thumbnail of album artwork is shown with some album information at the top of the screen and a shuffle button to immediately begin shuffled playback of the album.
Albums with multiple artists will show the individual artist names below the track names.
Lyrics and Podcast Info
When listening to a podcast episode, you can now tap on the artwork to display additional information, in the same way that the lyrics display works for music tracks.
An option is available under the iPod section in the Settings app to disable this feature for both lyrics and podcasts if you’d rather the overlay not appear when accessing the advanced track controls.
iOS 4 also includes a new feature called “iPod Out” that when used with compatible cars will provide an interface to navigate music, podcasts and audiobooks.
SMS and MMS Messages can now be searched from within the Messages app or from the global Spotlight Search. Within the Messages app, a Search field appears at the top of the screen in the same way as it does in other apps.
A character count is also available in the Messages app to keep track of how long your text messages are. The count can be toggled on or off from the Messages section in the Settings app. When enabled, the character count appears as soon as you reach the second line of your message.
The Notes app itself remains much the same as in previous versions except that Notes can now be stored with your mail account. This is enabled within the Mail, Contacts and Calendars settings screen for each account that you want to store Notes in. If Notes have been enabled for one or more of your Mail accounts, then you can specify the Default Notes account at the bottom of the Mail, Contacts and Calendars Settings.
Further, once you have specified one or more accounts for Notes storage, the Notes app will display a list of available accounts that you can choose from when viewing or creating notes.
Existing Notes will continue to be stored on your device unless you manually copy and paste them into a new note in a different account. There is no option to copy or move notes between accounts. New notes are created in either the currently displayed account or the Default account from Settings if you are in the “All Notes” section.
iOS 4 brings several other relatively minor changes in some of the built-in applications.
YouTube can now display videos in both portrait and landscape views. Oddly, playback will still begin in landscape view; you will need to tilt the device into landscape and back into portrait to re-orient the video.
The Maps and Compass apps now use the new compass arrow icon for displaying the current location rather than the reticle used in previous versions.
The Calculator and Voice Memos applications are sporting redesigned icons. The Calculator icon is the most dramatic change, and appears that it may have been updated to prevent confusion with the new Folder icon design.
A new feature is now available to keep Visual Voicemail messages on the phone even after they have been deleted from the server.
The iTunes Store app now supports background audio when streaming podcasts. This works only for podcast audio and not song previews.
The App Store now includes support for Gifting Apps directly from the device, a feature that first became available on the App Store via iTunes in late March.
The iPhone warning screen for incompatible accessories no longer makes any reference to Airplane mode nor provides any option for enabling it, but instead simply provides a warning about potential interference and a “Dismiss” button. Putting the newer iPhone models in Airplane Mode is less necessary than it was with the original iPhone, since when operating in 3G mode, these devices produce minimal interference with most speakers compared to the original EDGE iPhone.
Deleting applications from the device no longer results in a prompt to rate the app before deleting, removing a feature first added in iPhone OS 2.2 in the fall of 2008.
iOS 4 devices can now receive carrier settings updates over-the-air. Previously, these could only be applied over USB via iTunes.
iOS 4 represents the first iOS release to create a large rift between different iPhone and iPod touch models. Some of the distinctions began last year with advanced Bluetooth and MMS capabilities not coming to the original iPhone, but these were minor features compared to how far iOS 4 leaves behind older devices. The 2007 models—the original iPhone and iPod touch—aren’t even invited to the party, while the most significant new feature of iOS 4, multitasking, is completely unsupported on the 2008 iPhone 3G and second-generation iPod touch. The likely reason for these differences would seem to be performance related: Older devices are simply incapable of keeping up with the demands of iOS 4, at least to Apple’s satisfaction.
Performance of iOS 4 on iPhone 3G and second-generation iPod touch devices would seem to bear this out. iOS 4 seems a little bit sluggish at certain tasks, although not so much that the average user would have any reason to be concerned. It seems clear, however, that these older devices have reached the limits of what Apple is willing to try and squeeze out of them. On the other hand, the performance of iOS 4 on the more recent iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod touch models is quite impressive, particularly when you consider how much more is going on under the hood. As more third-party multitasking apps come out, it remains to be seen whether this performance will hold up to the demands of these additional background processes.
Update or Wait?
As a completely free and significant upgrade for iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod touch users, iOS 4 is definitely worth the upgrade. Multitasking alone will open up these devices to a whole new set of options that were previously unavailable. The decision for iPhone 3G and second-generation iPod touch owners may be a bit murkier due to the risks of slight performance hits and the fewer benefits that iOS 4 will offer on these devices. Users of these older devices will have a long list of enhancements available to them, but will be missing out on what is probably the key feature of iOS 4 and the dozens of apps that are sure to follow. The performance hit on these older devices is not significant enough for most users to care about, since users concerned with maximum speed and performance are probably already considering a newer device.
The iOS 4 update itself seems stable and there’s no reason to recommend against upgrading, with the highest risk being the upgrade process itself. However, as long as you have all of your media content in iTunes and have backed up your device then the only risk is the time it may take to reload all of your content.
Update: Several iPhone 3G users have reported extremely slow performance after updating to iOS 4, even after a full, clean restore of the iPhone. We have not experienced these problems on any of our own iPhone 3G devices that we have updated.
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