iOS5 and iCloud. Initial impressions.

So, I made the jump. Downloaded iOS5 on its first day of public release.

(Some of you will have little clue what the heck this means. If that’s you, feel free to ignore. Heck, why not look here for some alternative entertainment. Go on: it’s fun!)

Here’s Apple’s own promo video for iOS5. Because I know you want to watch it.

So much has already been written about the download and upgrade process, so I’ll not really have anything to add but my own experience. But, hey, that’s what a blog’s for. Innit?

I’d already upgraded iTunes to the latest release, having read that you’d need to do that first, so thought I was all ready  to go. And indeed I was. But so was everybody else. the Download took ages (I was downloading both iOS5 and the updated version of OSX Lion simultaneously, which may not have helped) and once downloaded the iPhone update failed. Several times. Over the course of several hours. Reports were circulating on twitter about many people having problems getting started. Apple’s servers were simply struggling to keep up with demand so we had to just keep on trying. Or, I suppose, I could have just waited till the next day. Naaah.

Anyway, eventually my (borrowed) iPhone 3G(S) was up and running with its shiny new software. Question is, what’s changed?

Well, a few things. Over 200 things, apparently, but I don’t suppose I’ll ever find what they all are. Here’s a couple of things I’ve noticed or fiddled with so far.

Camera and Photos

Yes, the updates to the camera seem good. Great to have quick access to the camera from the lock screen, especially as I have a passcode set on my device. They’d made a big thing about this, so it was a little disconcerting to find I couldn’t see any camera button on my home screen after the update. It took one of several visits to the discussions over at apple.com to discover that you have to double-click the home button to make the camara button appear. I can’t say I’ve used the camera much but the pinch-to-zoom does seem more consistent with the rest of the system, and the built-in editing facilities in Photos are welcome, if a little basic. I suspect I’ll still be using third-party apps for some things.

Notifications

The old notification system sucked. If you had more than one notification come in, only the most recent was visible. If one came in while you were doing something else, it interrupted what you were doing and got in the way.  The new system is completely new, and from the little I’ve seen so far seems so very much better. I’m still a bit confused about how best to set it up. Some things come in as “banners” others as “alerts”, and I’m not sure it’s completely consistent when you see them or not yet, but that’s only with very limited usage so far. But on the whole a big improvement. Largely inspired by the system used on Android phones, I understand.

Reminders

Looks to be a well executed “to-do” list. I’m hoping I’m going to make a lot of use of this. Get myself organised. We’ll see.

There are many other changes. Updates to the Mail app, the Calendar App, Wireless syncing, but one of the main things I’d been looking forward to was iCloud, the cross-device syncing system. Well, I’m not completely sold yet.

iCloud is made up of several different elements, not all of which were of interest to me. But these ones were:

Email

I have set up a fairly convoluted system for managing email. We have several addresses that we use for various reasons, and access them on the iMac at home, an old iBook occasionally, and my iPhone. One day I’ll hope to replace that iBook with an iPad. At some point we may even become a two-iPhone family. Maybe. All email comes to the iMac, and that’s proably still were most of it is sent from. But that will change over time. I’ve set it up so that only the iMac deletes messages from the server, and even then only after a week. The mobile devices never do. That was we still get to keep a full email archive on at least one device.   Email sent from mobile devices is automatically blind copied to myself, and when it arrives at the iMac it’s automatically filtered off to the relevant “sent mail” folder, so we have a full archive of sent mail, too. But it’s all a bit convoluted and I was hoping that iCloud would allow me to simplify all this.

Apparantly not. The syncing capabilities for email in iCloud are restricted to one email address that you set up specially for that purpose. So, no use for me there then. I’m told that if I change all my current emails from POP to IMAP I’d be able to maintain a much better synchronisation in any case.

Contacts and Calanders

This one works great. Took a bit of fiddling to get it working, but now if I add, edit or delete a contact on my phone, the mac address book is updated automatically. As will be the iPad when it comes. Or a second iPhone. Likewise calendar events. make a change to one, it’s made to all.

Photos

Now, this one really really appealed. Take a photo on my phone, and it’s instantaneously there on the mac. Just like that. Brilliant. What I hadn’t realised was that I’d have to update to the latest version of iPhoto for this to work. Which I duly did, like a sheep, at a cost of £10.95. And now I wonder – what’s actually so great about that functionality? Didn’t photos I take on the phone end up in iPhoto soon enough already? Sucker.

Hey, here’s the iCloud promo from Apple. You know, because I can.

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