Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 5.0
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Another major new feature in iOS 5 is support for Apple’s new iCloud online service. First announced alongside iOS 5 at WWDC last June, iCloud was described as providing cloud-based synchronization for nine distinct features: Mail, Calendars, Contacts, Photo Stream, Backups, Documents, Music, Apps and Books. The latter of these three features: Music, Apps and Books were collectively referred to as “iTunes in the Cloud” and immediately opened up as a public beta for iOS 4.3.3 and iTunes 10.3 users.
iCloud can be configured in a few different ways: during the initial setup of a new device, by visiting the new “iCloud” section in the Settings app or by adding a new “iCloud” account under the Mail, Contacts, Calendars settings—setting up an iCloud account is essentially done in much the same manner as other mail or calendar accounts such as MobileMe or Microsoft Exchange; the “iCloud” entry in the main Settings menu more or less provides a shortcut to the primary iCloud account.
Note that despite Apple’s inclusion of Music, Apps and Books under the “iCloud” umbrella, the iCloud account configured here has no direct correlation to the iTunes or App Store account; the latter continues to be configured under the “Store” section in the Settings app and can be the same Apple ID used for iCloud or an entirely different one.
Many of the core features in iCloud are effectively direct (and free) replacements for earlier paid MobileMe services, and provide more or less the same capabilities as before. The notable difference is that users can now sign up for and use iCloud with any valid Apple ID rather than requiring a me.com account, although the Mail and Notes features of iCloud do require the user to configure an @me.com e-mail address.
Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Bookmarks, Notes and Find My iPhone are simple on/off toggles with no additional configuration options. If you’re using a non-me.com Apple ID, attempting to enable Mail or Notes will prompt you to create a new @me.com e-mail address. Note that you cannot use an existing MobileMe @me.com address here—you must either create a new e-mail address or migrate your existing MobileMe account to iCloud, then use that as your iCloud account. Of these seven options, only Reminders is new to iCloud and provides support for synchronizing data from the new Reminders app via iCloud to the corresponding app on other iOS 5 devices and iCal on OS X.
Photo Stream is a new feature of iCloud and iOS 5 that allows the automatic synchronization of photos between various devices via iCloud. New photos taken on or saved to the camera roll on an iOS 5 device with Photo Stream enabled are automatically sent to iCloud and pushed to other iOS devices and computers that have Photo Stream enabled for the same iCloud account. Note that Photo Stream only works when a Wi-Fi connection is available, and only supports photos—not videos.
The configuration option for Photo Stream in the iCloud settings opens a second screen with a single on/off toggle and a brief description of the Photo Stream feature. The single on/off setting here enables Photo Stream in both directions: uploading of new photos taken on the device and downloading of new Photo Stream photos from other devices.
The Documents & Data iCloud feature allows applications to use iCloud to store data. The setting here is a global toggle; if disabled, no application will be allowed to use iCloud for data storage. Regardless of this option, however, third-party apps are supposed to request user permission before using iCloud for storage of data or documents. An additional option here allows the user to choose whether she wants iCloud Document and Data synchronization to occur over the cellular network or only over Wi-Fi.
iCloud Storage & Backup
Each iCloud account includes 5GB of free storage with options to purchase additional storage. iCloud storage can be used for third-party documents and data as well as for backing up iOS devices. By default, your iOS device will continue to be backed up to iTunes, however you can enable iCloud backups from the “Storage & Backup” section under iCloud in the Settings app.
Enabling iCloud Backup will disable automatic backups to iTunes, however you can still initiate manual iTunes backups by right-clicking on your device in the iTunes Devices list, then choosing the “Back Up” option.
By default, iCloud Backups include all camera roll content (photos and videos), accounts, documents, settings and third-party application data. As with backups made by iTunes, media content such as music, movies, TV shows and photos synchronized from iTunes is not included in the iCloud Backup, nor are the applications themselves—only application data is backed up.
Automatic iCloud backups occur only when the iOS device is locked and connected to a power source and a Wi-Fi network. Further, automatic backups will only be performed once every 24 hours. You can initiate a backup manually any time, however, by going into the iCloud “Storage & Backup” section and tapping the “Back Up Now” button.
Since iCloud Storage is more limited than the storage on most computers, iCloud Backups let you choose which content actually gets backed up to iCloud. Selecting the “Manage Storage” option from the “Storage & Backup” section will display the content stored in your iCloud account, including all iCloud Backups from various iOS devices. Choosing any device from the list of backups will provide more details on the size of the backup and when the most recent backup occurred; choosing the current iOS device also provides a list of backup options, with an estimation of the size of the next backup and the ability to exclude specific applications from being backed up to iCloud. The applications are sorted by the amount of data stored by each, from largest to smallest.
This allows you to exclude applications that may store large amounts of downloadable data, such as streaming radio applications that cache content locally. Note that this is an all-or-nothing option for each app—exclude an app from backups and none of its data or preferences are backed up, meaning you’ll be started from scratch with that particular app following a restore. The good news is that Apple is encouraging developers to store re-downloadable data in cache folders that are not backed up by iCloud, which should help to reduce backup sizes for apps that traditionally cache a lot of re-downloadable information.
An option can also be found in this section to purchase additional storage directly from the iOS device. Storage is sold in packages of 10GB, 20GB and 50GB for prices that work out to $2 per year per GB; there is no discount for purchasing larger storage packages. Purchased storage is added on top of the free 5GB, however, so purchasing an additional 10GB package will give you 15GB of total storage. Note that pictures in the Photo Stream do not count against the 5GB storage. However, each device that uses the same iCloud account also shares the same storage pool, so users with multiple iOS devices on the same iCloud account who want to take advantage of iCloud Backup may find it necessary to purchase additional storage, particularly those who keep a lot of photos and videos on their devices.
Restoring from iCloud
There is no selective restore option for iCloud Backups. Restoring a device from an iCloud Backup can only be done during the initial setup on a new device. Users who want to restore their device manually will need to go into the Settings app under General, Reset and choose the “Erase All Content and Settings” to wipe the device first, and can then choose to restore from an iCloud Backup during the initial setup process. Keep in mind that like iCloud Backups, iCloud restores can only be performed via Wi-Fi.
Restoring from an iCloud backup follows a similar process to restoring from an iTunes backup: the backup data is restored directly from iCloud and applications and media content are then synced onto the device from “iTunes in the Cloud.” Users will be able to start using their devices as soon as the main iCloud restore completes, however the applications and media content will install in the background, with apps presented on the Home Screen as ghosted images with install progress bars in much the same manner as they normally appear when being downloaded or updated from the App Store.
If you’re near your computer, this process can be sped up dramatically by connecting your device and syncing this content from your iTunes library via USB rather than downloading it over the air. Further, it’s worth mentioning that only apps, music and TV shows that are available on the iTunes Store can be restored over-the-air, so it’s likely most users will need to connect to iTunes to restore any of their non-iTunes-purchased music and other content such as audiobooks, podcasts, movies and movies. In fact, even music and TV shows can only be restored in those areas where they are available via iTunes in the Cloud, which right now is for U.S. users only.
iTunes Wi-Fi Sync
iOS 5 also introduces the ability to sync wirelessly with an iTunes library that is on the same local Wi-Fi network. This feature requires iTunes 10.5 or later and is disabled by default—you can enable it simply by connecting your iOS device to your computer and selecting the “Sync with this (device) over Wi-Fi” option.
Once enabled, the Wi-Fi synchronization process works the same way as a USB sync, effectively just replacing the cable with a Wi-Fi connection. Devices enabled for Wi-Fi sync will remain in the iTunes Devices listing even when they’re physically disconnected from the computer, and you can select the device, adjust synchronization settings and initiate a sync from iTunes in the same way as you would for a USB-connected device.
iOS 5 will automatically attempt to sync with iTunes via Wi-Fi whenever it is connected to a power source, however users can sync manually from the iOS side by going into the Settings app and choosing “iTunes Wi-Fi Sync” from the “General” section and tapping the “Sync Now” button.
As with USB synchronization, it is possible to sync different types of content onto an iOS device from more than one iTunes library; for example you can sync music and movies from one library while syncing podcasts from another. To do this, simply configure the initial sync settings via USB on each computer before enabling Wi-Fi sync. In this case, you will see each configured computer listed under the “iTunes Wi-FI Sync” settings and can choose to initiate a sync with each one individually.
The addition of Wi-Fi synchronization also brings another significant change to the sync process—synchronization with iTunes now occurs in the background. You can continue to use your device without seeing the “Sync in Progress” screen that appeared in prior iOS versions; instead, a rotating arrows sync indicator is displayed in the status bar at the top of the screen while a sync is occurring. During a sync, the Home Screen will display ghosted app install progress indicators for apps that are being installed from iTunes, in much the same manner as downloading an app directly from the App Store; music and other media content will appear greyed out with sync progress indicators while it is being transferred.
iOS 5 also introduces built-in integration with Twitter, including the ability to tweet out pictures from the Photos app and links from the Safari, YouTube and Maps applications. You begin by configuring your Twitter account(s) under the Twitter section in the Settings application.
Once configured, a “Tweet” option will appear in several of the built-in applications allow you to post the current content to Twitter, along with options to enter text to go with the photo or link, and add your current geo-location to the tweet.
Third-party applications can also take advantage of the built-in Twitter integration to compose tweets or import the Twitter accounts. As of this writing the official Twitter app and Tweetbot have both been updated to directly read in accounts from the iOS 5 Twitter settings, and a number of apps are beginning to appear on the App Store that take advantage of the new iOS 5 Twitter APIs for posting to Twitter. Apps are required to request permission before accessing the Twitter APIs, and the Twitter settings in the Settings app will display a list of those applications that have been authorized to access Twitter via iOS, plus the ability to toggle these permissions on or off.
The Twitter settings also provide an option to update your iOS Contacts with photos and Twitter usernames based on matching phone numbers or e-mail addresses in your Contacts. An option to install the official Twitter app for iOS is also provided on this screen, although all this provides is a shortcut to the App Store page for the application.
Other General Changes
iOS 5 brings several other system-wide changes to the overall user interface.
Music and Videos Apps
iOS 5 does away with the “iPod” app on the iPhone and iPad, replacing them with a “Music” app similar to the one found on the iPod touch. Notably, the iPhone also gains a separate “Videos” app much like the iPad and iPod touch. While this may be initially confusing to iPhone users, it has the advantage of unifying the user interface across the three devices. Music and other audio content can now be found under the “Music” app and synced video content under the “Videos” app regardless of which device you’re using. iPhone users will see a note to this effect the first time they open the “Music” app on iOS 5, advising them that the Videos have now been moved to a separate app. Our editors are split on whether the division of these features into two apps is a good or bad thing for iPhone users, particularly in light of iOS 5’s ever-increasing number of pre-installed apps, and continued inability to turn off unwanted apps in the Settings menu.
Redesigned UI Controls
One conspicuous difference in iOS 5 is the replacement of the traditionally rectangular on/off toggle controls in various UI elements with a softer oval design.
iOS 5 now includes a built-in system-wide dictionary that can be accessed from the text selection menu. In addition to the usual copy and text selection commands, a “Define” option now appears when selecting a single word that will open a dictionary definition for the selected word.
Text shortcuts can now be configured in the Keyboard section of the General Settings. This allows users to create short abbreviations for frequently-used phrases such as “omw” for “On My Way” or “brb” for “Be Right Back” that will be expanded automatically when typed.
As yet another step in the direction of allowing iOS devices to stand by themselves, Apple has added the ability to configure an AirPort Base Station—Express, Extreme or Time Capsule, directly from the iOS Wi-Fi Settings. When a new AirPort unit is detected on the network, a separate entry will be displayed beneath the normal list of Wi-Fi networks, identifying the AirPort and providing options to configure it.
The setup process will walk you through a series of simplified configuration steps, providing options for joining the Base Station to an existing network, creating a new network, or even replacing an existing Base Station. The setup module tires to make some reasonable assumptions, providing common options based on any existing network configuration—for example if it detects another AirPort Base Station it will offer to extend it by default.
Visual diagrams are shown throughout to help the user understand the process. You can specify a name when creating a new wireless network and choose to either use a single password for both Base Station administration and to join the network or specify separate passwords for each.
Note that this feature is designed for setting up a new AirPort Base Station, and you will not be able to access these setup screens once your base station has already been configured without resetting it back to its factory defaults and setting it up again. Apple has, however, released a standalone AirPort Utility app for iOS 5 that can be used for more advanced AirPort network configuration.
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