iOS 5 has been available for some time now. Though there was great anticipation surrounding its release, in the end for me as an established iPad user iOS 5 primarily brings important but basically evolutionary changes in how I use the device.
For new users, it’s safe to say that iOS 5 is revolutionary, and finally delivers on the promise, pretty much without exception, of the iPad as a standalone computer. The required workarounds are getting fewer and further between. So if you’re new to the iPad, or contemplating making the leap, there’s no good reason I can think of to wait any longer. You truly can use the iPad Alone, and without much if any compromise.
Here’s my take on iOS 5, and how it impacts usability. Not a full review as there are slews of those around, just my take as someone who bangs on his iPad pretty much all day long. So without further ado…
The Longer Space Bar!
Here at long last, after being teased in early betas of much older versions of iOS (wow was that 3.x where these images first surfaced?) we finally get a space bar that extends further right to the exact spot my thumb lands. Hallelujah!! My typing errors have decreased by an order of magnitude. Yes, seriously.
The space bar has also disappeared from Safari when entering URLs though for the life of me I can’t recall if it was gone prior to iOS 5, and yes I am too lazy to check.
You Can Add and Rename Folders in Mail
This is a nice one, though to be honest it’s an incomplete function as you cannot nest a new folder within an existing one. Still need to fire up Mail on the Mac for that. Still, better than nothing and a feature I’ve now used more than once.
Up To 1000 Emails Per Folder
This is a big one too as it makes searches much faster since local emails obviously can be searched pretty much instantaneously whereas those on the server take some time
No Mac Required
I was of the view that no Mac was required even prior to iOS 5. You could simply plug an iPad into ANY Mac to set it up initially…at a store, a friend’s, wherever. But now even that limitation has disappeared. And along with Apple’s tweaks to the way we can now re-download apps any time and on any device, and perform cloud backups, the iPad really can and does stand alone now. Bravo! (And it’s about time…)
iWork file sync
This is a pretty neat feature though as a “file system” it still suffers from some pretty big drawbacks which I get into in my Dislikes below. I can’t help but think Apple will ultimately figure out this out. Still, it’s sort of disconcerting that the limitations still exist.
This one is really cool. It doesn’t seem to happen automagically as I believe it should whenever connected to a charging source, but it does seem to work when I select Sync Now in the iPad’s settings. Note I have the same experience with my iPhone.
Another cool one, though it’s not clear to me exactly what does and doesn’t get backed up. Specifically…user supplied content. Are 20GB worth of music or movies getting backed up if I supply it (as opposed to having been purchased from iTunes?). It says Documents but i can’t find a clear answer as to what that does or doesn’t include. And like Wifi Syncing, I seem to sometimes have to force this rather than have it happen automatically.
Finally. Enough said.
And now for the Dislikes
As per my note about the iWork document syncing above, there remains a frustrating issue here: you still can’t mix file types (by say subject matter) and you can’t manage the storage outside of a given app. So first, for example, if you have a Numbers of Excel spreadsheet dealing with your household budget, and some PDFs of scanned receipts and leases, you can’t store them in a single place. Second, if you want to delete a Numbers file, you can only do that within Numbers or the iCloud settings area which has limited functionality. I was really hoping that I could give up my Dropbox/dropDAV/Documents-on-Mac-syncing-to-Dropbox “file system” but alas this is not yet to be.
Lagging in safari
My second biggest gripe is the way safari now lags – pretty obviously – when typing in URLs. And yes it’s the same on both my iPad and iPhone, and no it didn’t do this prior to iOS 5. One step back. Sigh.
Mail folder controls are weak
The folder control functionality in Mail is very limited. Why? Why can’t I search the BODY of an email? Why can’t I create a new folder nested in an existing folder? Grrr.
Edit: Turns out that folder control is somewhat provider specific. With my gmail account I *can* create a new folder nested in an existing one. But not for my primary imap account. Hmm.
25000 song limit in iTunes Match
Who knew I had 26000 songs?? Technically not an iOS 5 issue but a man has to find a place to gripe, right?
More ram please for web page caching!
Again, this is not strictly and iOS issue, really more of a hardware thing. Switching tabs in Safari is better than ever, but still would be a whole lot better if the devices had more ram. Or simply even better memory management/prioritization.
Wifi syncing and Cloud backup wonkiness
I mentioned these above, but to sum up: sometimes these have to be forced as opposed to happening automatically when charging. And, it’s not 100% clear whether one obviates the other or whether they are complementary. What does the backup contain? What does it omit? Just make it clear please, and just make it work. (And before you call me dumb for not being able to figure it out, I’d ask you to read the marketing copy and see if you don’t find some pretty confusing if not contradictory info…)