I’ve just written a post containing a long term review of the iPad now that we’ve lived with it for almost a year, so I thought I’d also write some thoughts on the recent upgrade to iOS5. iOS5 has some fundamental changes over the previous operating system and it did promise to address some of the things I thought were missing. In my review not long after getting the iPad under the heading ‘Whats Missing’ I said:
The ability to sync with my iMac wirelessy would be good just to save me plugging it in, but that is a software thing.
Wi-Fi Syncing and Backing Up.
This is now available in within iOS5, but I’ve yet to really get to grips with it. I’m beginning to get there though. In essence it looks as though there are two different things going on here. ‘Back ups’ and ‘Syncs’ and half the time I’m not sure what is doing what and what the real difference is. There’s also Wi-Fi syncing and syncing to iCloud. The latter seems like the way forward but as I don’t have Lion on my Mac yet then it won’t work. The iPad will sync with iCloud, but there is little use in that if I can’t then also sync my Mac to iCloud.
I therefore have the iPad set up to sync and back up to my Mac over Wi-Fi. More often than not this doesn’t seem to work. Sometimes the iPad shows up in iTunes, but whether or not it does is hit and miss, and even when it does if I then try to initiate a sync it often disappears without the sync taking place. I have sometimes managed to activate a sync or backup manually but I’ve yet to see it do it automatically without my intervention. For instance if I look at my iPad within iTunes at the moment it says it was last backed-up yesterday at 8:20 am. It is now 10:50am so that was over 24 hours a go… Surely another back-up should have run by now?
Similarly with the syncing. It does sometimes seem to do this when I plug the iPad into the power, but only sometimes and I’m not really sure what exactly is syncing. I’ve tried adding contacts and iCal entries both on the Mac and on the iPad and they don’t seem to sync either way. Surely that’s the whole point?
Is it just me? What am I doing wrong? Why doesn’t the back-up and syncing work automatically? Why don’t Calendars and Contacts get synced? Maybe it’s time to upgrade to Lion on my Mac and sync via iCloud instead?
Another new feature of iOS5 is Newsstand. I’ve been using this quite a bit, although it has to be said that it isn’t really very different from what I did before. Previously I had a folder on my iPad called Books and Magazines in which I had various relevant apps. Some magazines had standalone apps that I used to read certain publications, others I accessed through Zinio. I could buy magazines and read them within these apps. All was fine until the in-app purchasing stopped working when Apple changed the rules. I then had to buy the publications online and they would then download to my iPad when I opened the app, but other than that it all worked well and I could buy and read publications when I wanted.
Newstand works in exactly the same way. Within Newsstand I can browse and buy various newspapers, magazines and some specific iPad publications and then read them on my iPad. In-app purchasing does work which is good, but there isn’t really much difference between this and the way I was doing it before – except of course that Apple now get 30% of the profits!
However, I do use it a lot. The iPad is great for consuming magazine content and it’s nice to always be able to download a new magazine whenever you want one without having to go to the shops. The prices are usually a little less than the paper version too, although you do of course miss out on the freebies on the cover of many such magazines. There are lots of free back issues available at the moment as well as introductory offers so I;ve been making the most of that.
I’m not really into texting, and I don’t have a smart phone, but iMessage does give me the ability to ‘text’ people with mobile Apple devices (iPhones, iPads, IPod touches) for free. It isn’t new, it isn’t clever but it’s free so I like it.
Again, it’s not that clever, just a simple reminder app. I use my email inbox as my ‘to do’ list, so this one won’t see much use by me.
I’m not so sure about the new tabbed browsing in Safari. I love tabbed browsing on my Mac, but on the iPad with it’s smaller screen I think I preferred the ‘old’ iOS4 way of doing things. It works though and I’ll get used to it.
This is a definitie improvement over the old notification system and much more useful. It isn’t life changing and won’t even make that much difference to how I use my iPad or what I use it for, but it’s certainly a nice new addition.
So, iOS5 is OK, but I’m not really that impressed. Certain features are nice to have and I’m not complaining. If I can sort out the Wi-Fi backups and syncing to the stage where I’m comfortable that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing and that it ‘just works’ then that would definitely be a good thing and make the upgrade more than worthwhile. Once I have Lion on my Mac then maybe iCloud will be more use as well. The other additions are just nice to have but nothing really exciting. Of course, I didn’t really want for much before as the iPad was a perfect little device as it was.