Months of hype are finally over. The iPhone 4S is on sale and iOS 5 is finally rolling out to millions of iPhones and iPads around the world. So, how does the new OS measure up?
Is it really the revolutionary step change that Apple claims. Or is it actually a minor boost that doesn’t bring much to the party? We’ve struggled with Apple’s servers, loaded-up our old school iPhone 4 with the new OS and have taken it for a spin. Here’s what we made of Apple’s latest software update.
This new feature is stunning in its simplicity and utterly gazumps having to write out to-do lists in the native Notes app, which you’d then promptly forget.
Alarms can be set to remind you of tasks either at specific times or, brilliantly, by location. You can either be reminded as you leave a place or arrive.
The former is perfect when you’re about to leave the house and would otherwise have forgotten to pick up a letter to post or, you know, switch off the gas. It’s a doddle to get to grips with and endlessly fun.
Found built into the native Messaging app, iMessage is a breeze to use and works almost exactly like the now-free WhatsApp iPhone app. You can send text and images to other iOS users for free, pitting it right against BlackBerry Messenger at a time when that rival service is coming off of the back of a disastrous week of down time.
Messaging friends is simply a case of tapping out texts and letting iOS do the rest. It knows if the users you’ve messaged has iMessage and therefore will use the feature instead of sending an SMS. Simple, intuitive and great to use.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of iOS 5 is the change in speed. The iPhone 4 is far snappier after it’s been upgraded and this is particularly notable in Safari. Web pages load in lightning quick time and browsing is great on Wi-Fi and 3G.
The new Reader function makes scrolling through articles much easier on the eyes, while the reading list is great for staying up to date on the latest articles without having to bookmark them.
Camera and photos
Although the iPhone 4S’s 8 megapixel camera and 1080p video set it apart from the iPhone 4, iOS 5’s camera and photo editing changes give the old snapper a new lease of life. Being able to use the camera while in lock mode, as well as using the volume up button to take shots is great, but long overdue.
The controversial Camera+ app did the latter months ago before being told to change its ways by Apple. Cropping and touching up photos on the fly is brilliant and very easy to do, but again this is a case of Apple playing catch-up. These camera and photo features have been central to rival Android phones for some time.
It’s not hard to improve on iOS’s original notifications procedure. Invasive and badly designed, it was utterly anathema to Apple’s usual design nous. Thankfully the new notification centre is fantastic, offering a simple drag down menu to see all the messages, reminders and calendar info you need.
That it’s been heavily inspired by Android shouldn’t come as a surprise. This is an area Google has excelled in and Apple has clearly seen the error of its ways. Not having to dismiss every notification before using the phone is a blessing that’s been needed for years.
Ideally suited to the iPad, Apple’s new subscription service is fantastic, offering automatic delivery and updates to newspapers and magazines. For the iPhone, reading papers and mags on the small 3.5-inch screen remains somewhat awkward, but there’s no denying this is a feature that will catch on.
Deep social integration has been badly missed on iOS 5. Twitter’s presence in Safari and Photos, among others, is very much welcome and brilliantly thought out. Contacts work seamlessly, bringing up @ replies automatically from your address book.
However, not having an @ button on the first virtual QWERTY you see is a real miss. And while having Twitter is great, Facebook really should have been brought on board too. It’s time for Cupertino and Mark Zuckerberg to sort out their differences.
You can compare iPhone 4S deals at uSwitch.com.