Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 5.0
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Safari on iOS 5 includes several new enhancements, including tabbed browsing on the iPad, the Reader feature from the desktop version of Safari, and a new built-in Reading List for saving articles for later.
Safari on the iPad gains a new tabbed browsing interface similar to the desktop version. Dispensing with the previous thumbnail page view, each page now appears in its own tab at the top of the browser screen. There’s no way to turn the tabs off, and their addition modestly decreases the amount of screen real estate for viewing web pages.
New tabs can be added by tapping the plus sign at the right of the tab bar, or closed using the small x at the left side of each tab. Tap-and-drag gestures can also be used to rearrange the order of open tabs. The Safari section in the Settings app also includes a configuration option to automatically open new tabs in the background.
Another feature borrowed from the desktop version of Safari, Reader provides clean, reformatted versions of web articles that focus on presenting the relevant text and images in a more readable form. A small “Reader” button will be displayed at the right of the address bar whenever a web page contains content that Reader can optimize; tapping on this button presents the optimized Reader view.
In addition to reading content on the screen, the Reader feature also adds the ability to send the content of the current article out via e-mail; the action button will provide a “Mail this Article” option in place of the usual “Mail Link to this Page” entry.
Reading List is a new feature in Safari on OS X Lion and iOS 5 that allows users to save a list of pages for later reading. The feature also integrates with iCloud to synchronize the content of the Reading List across multiple devices, making it a handy feature for saving links to web pages on the iPhone for later reading on a larger screen such as an iPad or Mac.
The current page can be added to the Reading List from the standard actions menu in a similar manner to adding a bookmark. Reading List is accessed from the top of the Bookmarks section and displays a list of saved page links alongside their icons and a few lines of summary text for each. This feature also tracks read status for each item, allowing users to filter the view to show only unread items, or all items in the list. Individual items can be removed using a standard swipe-to-delete gesture.
Note that the Reading List only saves links to pages, not the content of the pages themselves, meaning that it cannot be used to catch up on content without a data connection, such as on a plane or in the subway. Further, Reading List currently appears to be available only within Safari and does not provide any APIs for third-party developers to tie into it, meaning users will need to open web pages in Safari in order to save them into their Reading List.
Safari on iOS 5 now also includes support for another long-time feature of the desktop version of Safari, “Private Browsing.” When enabled, Private Browsing prevents the saving or caching of web pages, browsing history, cookies or any other information that may identify sites you had visited on your device. The setting can be toggled from the Safari section in the Settings app, and will offer to close all current tabs already open in Safari when enabling or disabling the feature.
When enabled, the Safari browser frame will be displayed in black instead of the usual blue or grey as a reminder that Private Browsing is enabled.
iOS 5 also adds several new improvements to the built-in Mail app, including support for simple text formatting, message flags, S/MIME signing and encryption and several other smaller changes.
Rich Text Formatting
Basic text formatting is now available when composing new mail messages: bold, italics and underline can all be applied along with increasing or decreasing the quote level of a section. The new formatting options are available by tapping the arrow in the context menu that appears when selecting text.
Messages can now be flagged from the individual message view and list views. This is done from the individual message view by tapping the “Details” link to the right of the from address and then tapping the “Mark” link to the right of the subject line. From the list view, the multiple item selection now includes a “Mark” button in addition to the Move and Delete buttons.
iOS 5 also introduces S/MIME support for sending and receiving signed and encrypted messages. While this feature will primarily be of interest to security experts and large corporations, it helps to improve the usefulness of iOS in organizations where secure messaging is required for compliance reasons.
S/MIME certificates are normally installed using the iPhone Configuration Utility. Once a set of certificates has been installed, S/MIME can be enabled from the Advanced settings for a given account in the “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” section in the Settings app.
Separate options are provided for signing or encrypting messages. S/MIME cannot be toggled on or off on a per-message basis without returning to the Mail account settings; if S/MIME signing is enabled for an account, all messages sent with that particular account will have a digital signature included. Likewise, enabling encryption for an account will attempt to encrypt all messages sent with that account whenever a recipient certificate is available. The Mail application will indicate in the heading whether a message will be sent encrypted or not and for which recipients and encryption certificate is available.
Similarly, Mail will indicate received messages that are signed or encrypted. Tapping on a sender address in an incoming signed message will display certificate details for that sender with options to install the certificate in the local keychain so that it can be used to encrypt messages back to the sender.
Other Small Mail Changes
Mail in iOS 5 includes several other smaller enhancements that are worth noting.
When composing a message, address can now be dragged between the To, CC and BCC fields.
Mailbox folders can be added and removed for IMAP accounts directly within the Mail app. These changes will synchronize with the IMAP server, resulting in any new folders being added on the server, and any removed folders being deleted (along with any messages they contain).
The iOS 5 Mail app now searches message body text when searching for messages. Prior versions only searched From, To and Subject fields.
Mail now has direct support for configuring Hotmail accounts. This notably works to provide your iOS device with access to even unpaid Hotmail accounts.
The Calendar app in iOS 5 includes new views and improves the management of calendars and events. Turning the iPhone or iPod touch into landscape orientation now displays a scrollable week view, and the iPad now adds a new Year view that displays a calendar for the entire year, with a yellow-orange-red color spectrum used to illustrate the number of appointments for a given day.
Calendars can also now be created, edited and removed from directly within the Calendar app where supported by the online calendar service being used. Notably, iOS 5 introduces the ability to set colors for each calendar—a particularly welcome feature for Microsoft Exchange and Google Sync users, where colors were previously chosen randomly by the device and often did not correspond to the actual calendar colors on the server.
Calendar events can also now be adjusted more intuitively through touchscreen gestures. New calendar appointments can be created by tapping and holding in an open area and existing appointments can be rearranged by tapping, holding and dragging the appointment to a new time slot. Tapping on an existing appointment will select the appointment and provide selection handles that can be used to adjust the start and end times.
Although Mac OS X has long supported basic to-do list capabilities in iCal, the ability to manage tasks and reminders on Apple’s iOS devices has been mysteriously lacking. iOS 5 rectifies this with the introduction of a new “Reminders” app that not only synchronizes with iCloud and the Reminders section in iCal on OS X, but also provides several more advanced iOS specific features such as location-based reminders.
The Reminders app provides a straightforward method of creating one or more lists of to-do items and view items by list or by due date. By default, new tasks are entered in a simple list view, making it easy to quickly enter several tasks. Tapping on individual tasks brings up a more detailed view where additional options can be set, such as a reminder, priority or notes.
Location-based reminders can be set for each task to provide a notification when you either arrive at or leave a specified location. Unfortunately, the options here are limited to choosing either your current location or selecting an entry from the iOS Contacts list; there is no way to enter an arbitrary location such as a business address without first creating a contact entry for it.
If both a date-based reminder and location-based reminder are set for a task, a reminder will be triggered when the user arrives at or leaves the location OR at the scheduled time. Tasks with date-based reminders can also be set to repeat on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly cycle. Repeat settings are not based on the actual completion date, however, but rather on the original due date, which means overdue daily-repeating tasks may actually end up stacking up if you don’t complete them on time.
The Reminders app also lacks any means of sorting or reordering items; items are displayed on each list in the order in which they were entered and no editing or sorting options are available in the Reminders app.
The Contacts section in iOS 5 has undergone few changes from the prior version, with the main changes being Twitter integration and support for assigning custom vibration patterns to individual contacts.
Tapping on a Twitter address in a contact record will provide the option to either send a public tweet to that contact or view the contact’s tweets. The latter option simply opens the official Twitter app, if installed, to the select user’s Twitter page.
If Custom Vibrations have been enabled under Accessibility settings, you can also assign a custom vibration pattern to a contact in much the same way as assigning a contact-specific ringtone or text tone.
The built-in Maps app has also been modestly updated, adding support for printing maps via AirPrint and displaying up to three alternate routes, where available, for a given set of directions.
Game Center on iOS 5 has been improved with support for profile pictures, friend recommendations, and game recommendations. App Store integration has also been added to allow users to view the App Store page for a game and purchase it directly from within Game Center without having to switch over to the App Store.
Game Center now also provides overall achievement scores—a point system designed to sum up a player’s accomplishments across all of their Game Center games.
iOS 5 introduces the ability to mirror the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S screens via AirPlay to an Apple TV. To support AirPlay Mirroring, the Apple TV must also be running the corresponding software update. AirPlay Mirroring is an extension of the HDMI mirroring feature first introduced in the iPad 2, and works in much the same way. In fact, AirPlay Mirroring appears to capture any output that would normally be sent over the HDMI output, meaning games and other applications designed to support dual displays should also work with AirPlay Mirroring with little or no modification. This is going to be a huge new feature of iOS devices going forward, though it will require continued work by developers to make the impact we’re expecting.
First released for limited testing by developers in the iOS 4.3 betas, multitasking gestures have been made available for general consumption in iOS 5. The gestures can be enabled or disabled from the “Multitasking Gestures” option in the “General” section of the Settings app—once enabled you can use four or five finger gestures on the touchscreen, swiping up to reveal the multitasking bar, swiping left and right to switch between applications, and pinching inward to return to the home screen.
Miscellaneous Changes and Settings
iOS 5 includes several other miscellaneous changes and settings worth noting.
As part of the move toward “PC Free” setup, it is now possible to rename an iOS device without iTunes. The option for this can be found in the “About” section under the General Settings.
The “Usage” section in the General Settings has been expanded to display storage capacity and usage, in addition to the previous cellular data and battery usage information. This section now displays a list of applications installed on the device, sorted in descending order by the storage capacity being taken up by each. A summary of iCloud Storage is also displayed here along with a “Manage Storage” option; the iCloud information basically mirrors what can be found directly in the iCloud Settings. Cellular Usage has been moved to a subsection.
The Location Services settings now provide a bit more information on what the various settings and indicators mean. The Find My iPhone feature is now included here as well and provides the option to display the status bar icon when the device’s location is being tracked using this service. Location access can also be turned off for system services from a sub-menu at the bottom, and the System Services also offer an option to display the status bar icon when they are in use.
A “Diagnostics & Usage” section can be found under “About” that allows users to choose whether or not to send diagnostic and usage data to Apple. This question is asked during the initial setup wizard, but can be changed from this screen. Users can also browse through the diagnostics and usage logs that have been collected and stored on the device.
The Spotlight Search section adds the ability to search the descriptions and notes associated with Voice Memos and Reminders.
The Restrictions section now includes an option to choose whether to require a password immediately following an App Store purchase or only after 15 minutes have elapsed.
Several new Accessibility features have also been added in iOS 5:
A Hearing Aid Mode can be toggled on to improve compatibility with hearing aids in some circumstances.
AssistiveTouch is a new feature for users who have difficulty touching the screen or need to use adaptive accessories. The feature allows users to trigger specific actions using touchscreen gestures. The triple-click of the home button can be optionally configured to toggle AssistiveTouch on or off.
Incoming Calls can be automatically directed to a headset or speaker.
The iPhone 4/4S rear LED can be set to flash on incoming alerts to provide a visual notification.
Custom Vibrations can be enabled to provide unique vibration patterns for incoming calls from different contacts.
Language and International Settings
iOS 5 adds three new software keyboards: Emoji, Hawaiian and Hindi and several new Region formats, including Azerbaijan (Cyrillic & Latin), Barbados, Belarusian, Bermuda, Cherokee, Dutch-Aruba, French-Mayotte, French Guiana, Guyana, Portuguese-Angola, Portuguese-Sao Tome and Principe, Tonga, Uzbek-Afghanistan and Uzbekistan (Latin & Cyrillic).
The core features of iOS 5 are centered around Apple’s new iCloud service, allowing iOS devices to be setup and used without requiring access to a PC or Mac. For users who have found this computer-to-device relationship cumbersome, iOS 5 will go a long way to improving the experience. On the other hand, users who follow a more traditional “iPod-style” use pattern may not care nearly as much about the new wireless, cloud and “PC Free” features. If you’re accustomed to plugging your iPhone into your Mac or PC every night, many of these new features aren’t going to make much of a difference.
That said, iOS 5 and iCloud are clearly paving the way for a world in which iOS devices will stand on their own. iTunes is rapidly becoming just another client device on a big cloud network in the sky. It seems that the upcoming iTunes Match service, scheduled to be released at the end of the month, will effectively provide this option for managing music content, and Apple may already be taking steps to ensure that other media content is not far behind. Things are changing very rapidly in what used to be called the “iPod + iTunes” world, and going forward, it looks like almost everything you need to do with Apple’s devices will be handled directly from their own screens. iOS 5 continues to make using these pocket and tablet devices more powerful, engaging, and computer like—without any software upgrade fee. That’s good news for everyone.
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