Thursday, 13 October 2011

iOS5, the good, the bad and the general view

It was with eager anticipation that Apple users awaited the release of iOS5 yesterday.  Many said that they would wait to download and install it to their iPhones/iPods/iPads, as the demand was expected to be high, but in the end I think many just couldn’t wait and installed it anyway. 

As a self-confessed iPhone geek I decided not to hold out until the demand slowed and downloaded the update last night. 

For months now people have raved about the new improvements, so I thought I would give my own view on iOS5 and what I consider to be the pros/cons. 

There are three features which people have most anticipated, the notifications centre, iMessaging, and the iCloud. 

I have to say that I found the notifications centre to be quite impressive.  Even as someone who uses few notifications, I like the idea of being able to look in one place to see whether I have had responses to my tweets/direct messages/text messages, if you are a player of lots of games and a user of Facebook I imagine this particular feature would be especially useful.  And the best thing about it is that it can be accessed from anywhere on the phone. 

A feature which had been widely anticipated was iMessaging, which can be used for iPhone/iPad/iPod users to be able to message other users.  This is not a feature unique to Apple – in fact Blackberry messenger has been available for years. 

I have to say that I have some reservations about this feature.  While Blackberry Messenger is an app in its own right, Apple’s iMessaging is essentially part of the text messaging facility already built into the phone, and now presumably the iPad/iPod.  I think this has great potential for confusion, as an iMessage is exactly the same as a text message, and you therefore have no idea whether you are sending someone an iMessage or a text message, so therefore also have no idea whether it is potentially costing you money if you’re on a text plan.  It’s potentially not an issue to many, as people would iMessage the same people they might ordinarily text, but I think that it is somewhat deceptive.

The iCloud is a feature which enables you to store everything, music, contacts, etc without having to interact with iTunes.  Instead of your data being stored on a computer it will be stored on the iCloud.  I have personally not enabled this feature as I am not altogether comfortable with the notion of all my music/contacts/details being stored under Apple’s control. I also think that with recent events during which the Blackberry servers have suffered massive downtimes having all this information stored in one place like that is not necessarily a good thing.

There have been lots of improvements in terms of accessibility features for disabled users, both visually and hearing impaired as well as those with motor skills impairments.  I am a voiceover user and have noticed some of the changes already, although these will become more apparent the more I use it. 

Another feature which was widely talked about is the new voice recognition system.  This is only available to iPhone 4S users, so as I am a 3GS user I have not been able to experience it.  However contrary to the demonstrations which showed people jogging while speaking their text messages into their phones/making their appointments/reading and writing emails, I can’t help thinking this will be a gimmick which does not have lasting appeal.  As much as I think there is a certain element of fascination at being able to talk to a device and it essentially talking back to you, in truth I think very few people will want to be sitting on busses/trains/walking down the street shouting their text messages into their phones in the hope that the device will convert the speech to text accurately and then read the responses out loud for all to hear.  I think the novelty of that will wear off fairly quickly for most.  As someone who has played with dictation apps such as Dragon, the accuracy is rarely to a degree where you wouldn’t have to spend time editing anyway, so you might just as well type out your texts and maintain your privacy. 

Of course if you potentially have dexterity problems which make typing on the phone difficult then voice recognition is undoubtedly an excellent feature.  But I can’t see it being appealing to the mass market as Apple would have us believe. 

In conclusion – on the whole I think that iOS5 is not a bad update to Apple’s devices.  But I think that it is not without criticism either..

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