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iOS 5 Update Review

October 14th, 2011 Posted in Moble

So, a quick review of my twin iOS 5 upgrade. I have two iPad 2 devices. One for me, consulting (just invaluable for reading!), and one for the wife, homemaking. Which of the two is more “business critical”? :-) I’m not saying outright but let’s just say, I’m the CEO and she’s the COO at home. Everything starts at home, and she runs a tight ship, so… I’ll let you go figure from there. :-)

My CEO Upgrade

My upgrade may be of some interest because… for sake of simplicity, when I originally bought my iPad 2, I didn’t yet have a Mac. I still had a company owned PC and I didn’t want to sync to that. So I sync’d to her Mac with her id. Maybe a bad decision at the time, with the completely inexplicable need to have the original iPad 2 even have to plug in to get started in the first place, but that drove that decision. (We were completely taken back and absolutely amazed at the time that Apple actually made you plug in a cable to wake up a mobile device — to this day, that still amazes me, and then later the belated capability was touted as a “check this out” feature by Apple when talking about iOS 5… Really?! :-))

So I decided for the iOS 5 upgrade, I would get back on my own Apple ID. I half expected my backup to backup all the apps “we” had bought and restore them to my iPad 2 and still be maintained. I was 50/50 on this. Ehhht. No dice. So I have to buy my own copy of Pages and whatnot. But… The upgrade did retain all my settings for apps like Mint.com, Box.net, Dropbox, etc. (Hey Mint!! When are you going to get with the program and release your iPad 2 application!!?? C’mon!! Way overdue!!)

Needless to say, my Cydia jailbreak was going to be toast. But I was prepared to live with that. The biggest asset for having a rooted device previously was extending the number of sites I could have open at one time in Safari and the geek factor of being able to SSH into the iPad 2 from a command line on my Mac. And some Springboard modifications and features, but… No big deal losing on any of those fronts and the new iOS 5 Safari was going to fix that, so… we’ll see what happens with Cydia comes out with a jailbreak for iOS 5.

Other than losing all my apps and my Jailbreak, the upgrade came off without a hitch. I don’t need iCloud so I didn’t elect for that and everything went about as smoothly as one could ask.

Upgrade Caveat

After the upgrade, you are brought through a wizard to get the device up and running. This is where you would elect to go with iCloud or not as well as make a few other decisions. I did notice that… if you press the Home key while going through this process, it gives you access to adjusting your wireless settings. If during your own upgrade you run into some unforeseen circumstances and you feel you need to adjust your wireless settings, but feel you are locked into the setup wizard, just press your Home key and you’ll be presented with the opportunity to adjust your settings from there, right in the middle of the wizard. This may be important for some.

Her COO Upgrade

Her upgrade came off without a hitch except I DID want to get her signed up for iCloud and that didn’t seem to work within the wizard. Now we’re behind a “corporate” firewall and proxy server here at home, and that may have had something to do with it. If for whatever reason you cannot connect to iCloud during the setup process, you can of course change this later in iTunes. It’s easier just to elect not to use iCloud initially and change it later if you are having setup issues at that point.

But all her apps, settings and everything can back after the upgrade and restore. Not one single problem other than the iCloud issue.

Features of Note

  • Safari Tabs and Sessions. For those of you who have not enjoyed the advantages of being jail broken, you will begin to enjoy the experience of many more than nine browser sessions opened at once. The wife and I have been jail broken for a number of months now and I for one have gotten used to having between 10-15 sessions open at a time. So this isn’t new for us, but nice to see the tabbed interface in Safari with the ability to have more than nine (9) sessions open at a time.
  • The Reminders app is respectable. I have my own way of organizing, but as a builtin, this is very workable. Reminders by location holds some promise for someone who travels, but I don’t have anything to report here yet. I’m constantly reworking how I organize and I need some stability here, so I’m loathe to try out yet ANOTHER personal organization tool that is platform specific. But this is worth noting, my personal prefs aside.
  • Notification Center. Notification Center. Notification Center. All I can say is FINALLY!! Nothing drove me nuts more on the iPad 2 than the stupid 1990’s “popup” approach to notifications. It’s obnoxious. They finally caught up to Android here. Notifications on my HTC EVO 4G are bliss. The iPad 2, previous to iOS 5 was absolutely maddening. In fact, the iOS 5 upgrade is worth it just for Notification Center, in my opinion. As big as Apple has been in the past on usability, I’m really surprised at the past method of notifications, but this is now fixed.
  • Split keyboard. Awesome. One of the biggest uses my iPad 2 gets is up in bed at night, the COO fast asleep beside me, and I’m laying flat with the iPad 2 in the air trying to type something with my two thumbs on that big keyboard. No more. The split keyboard is fantastic for people who drive with two hands. I’m looking forward to this.
  • Wireless Sync. Again, I think this is way overdue even for Apple. But it’s finally here and seems to work just fine. I have seen some reports already that you cannot wireless sync unless you are plugged in. Which makes no sense. And if that was the case, it wouldn’t make as much sense. But there are two ways to wirelessly sync with iOS 5:
    • One, you set up wireless sync to automatically sync while charging. So when you do plugin your device to any power source, your iPad 2 wirelessly syncs automatically. This can be an AC adapter power source. Some are complaining about this, but this is a nice feature. If on, and the iPad 2 detects you have plugged in, it begins the sync automatically. Nothing to complain about here.
    • Two, you can choose to sync from your settings panel at any time, plugged in or not. This works; I’ve already done it and it seems to work reasonably well from a speed standpoint. But it’s way overdue. Good night, my Palm III 10 years ago would wireless sync via infrared. So this is a long overdue feature, but we’ll stay off the diatribe and just say, it’s finally here. :-)
  • Strong Twitter Integration. I’ve been tweeting more and more lately and having this integrated throughout is nice to have. A subtle Twitter integration enhancement I haven’t seen anyone mention yet… subtle but terrific thought: The hash key (#) is now present on the first level of the keyboard when tweeting, as the at-sign (@) is for emailing. Nice touch. I can’t say what Facebook is losing out on here with such nice Twitter integration, but it’s got to be something. I plan on tweeting this post from an integration point on the iPad 2 when I’m done proofing the post. Touché.

“Meh” Features

The new Messages app is “meh.” We’ve been locked into AOL’s AIM and then Google’s GTalk for years now, the whole family. We still shoot messages to each other cross platform and having an in-platform messaging feature isn’t a big deal for us. It’s kinda “so what?!” Maybe it’s great for some, but for us, this is nothing ground breaking like Facetime was and still is. Facetime is a compelling reason to opt into a platform specific communications channel. But the win for iOS 5 messaging, the Messaging app isn’t in my opinion.

I’d love to hear how it’s a win for someone; maybe there’s something I’m missing here. I hear how it’s being touted, but most everyone I know is either on unlimited texting plans or using some other cross platform messaging tool that is also free, so I still don’t see the win here and I don’t like being locked into an inplatform messaging app (and therefore locked OUT of a broader spectrum of recipients.) Again, not seeing the win here.

Cydia and RedSn0w Jailbreak

Obviously and again, I lost my Cydia jailbreak with this upgrade. I see Red Sn0w already has a jailbreak for iOS 5. I’m not heading over there yet, but if it takes Cydia a while to get around to it, I might check out Red Sn0w which is supposed to allow you to load Cydia, so we’ll have to see and report back later on this. Not sure about some of the others JBs like Green Pois0n, etc.

Conclusion

Painless. Worth it just for Notification Center alone to get rid of the pesky 1990’s style notifications. Normally I wait for at least one dot release on any platform before taking a major upgrade, but I watched Apple really work this well through their beta channels and I think this one is worth adopting out of the gate.

This review from CNET seems to agree and discusses other features of the upgrade which I have not, if you’d like to check it out. As always, YMMV.

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