Dig Deeper into iOS 5
While Apple is known for being uber secretive, iOS 5 has been no secret; we got a significant preview this past summer at the Worldwide Developer Conference and there have been multiple betas that were immediately picked apart for clues.
Apple has proclaimed more than 200 new features in iOS 5, from the over-the-air updates (about damn time) to the Newsstand app to iMessage allowing you to bypass the texting limits of carriers, there's a lot to like in this new OS.
Still, some great features manage to slip by that deserve special highlight, which we will do. Also, keep an eye on this thread on MacRumors, where people are accumulating all the little features they find.
Death-Grip Is Gone
Almost as soon as the iPhone 4 came out there were reports of dropped calls if the phone was held a certain way. The "death grip," as people called it, occurred most commonly when the phone was held in the left hand.
My phone has it, but I wasn't too bothered since my iPhone 4 went into a hard rubber Incipio case immediately and will stay in the thing for the life of the phone, only occasionally coming out for a cleaning. Every iPhone owner should protect their phone on all sides. But "Antennae-gate" as it was called became a royal headache for Apple.
Well, a number of sites have run tests and found that the problem is indeed gone. Gizmodo notes no death grip, Daily iPhone Blog, and AppAdvice all report the problem fixed. We tried to force the issue our Tom's Guide test unit and couldn't reproduce the failed call problem.
Big Safari upgrades
The Safari browser got quite an overhaul in this release. For starters, it's much faster to load Web pages, but there's a lot more to it than that.
* Hide your activity: Launch settings and find Safari. Select Enable for the Private Browsing tab. The browser will no longer record everything you do and pull up the last page you visited every time you open the app. You can also clear your history from settings.
* If you remember Lynx, the text-based browser for Unix shell, then you will like Reader, a feature that strips all the junk out of a Web site and shows just the text, similar to Readability and Instapaper add-ons for desktop browsers. Look in the URL window after a page loads, and you will see a gray button marked "Reader." Tap it and the page is rendered without the other junk.
* The Reading List feature from desktop Safari has also gone mobile, allowing you save articles for reading at a later time.
* For iPad users, iOS 5 finally brings tabbed browsing to the iPad. As can be seen above, you will now be able to switch tabs with just one touch.
Take pictures with your headphones
One of the major headaches of the iPhone was the lousy quality of photos taken by the camera. The iPhone 4S features a very good camera, but there's a nice little hidden gem for iPhone 4 and 4S users alike.
Now, users can take pictures by tapping on the volume increase button on their headphones. This may seem trivial, but it does make the iPhone 4S a point-and-shoot camera. It also gives you a few feet of room because you no longer have to hold the camera up to your face to take a picture. You can use the length of the headphones wire to take a picture.
Alternate routes in Map
This is one update I really would have thought Apple would highlight, now that I know what it does. If you've ever used Google Maps to plot a course, you know that you can click on the colored path and drag it around the map for alternate routes. iOS Maps didn't allow anything that… until now.
When you look for directions in iOS 5, it will now give you up to three possible routes (Route 1, Route 2, or Route 3). Tap each route to view its path on the map or tap the bottom-right button to view the list of directions for that route. You can also choose "Show Traffic," a feature that has been there from the start, to see traffic along each route. Once you choose a route, hit "Start" to get directions.
Create custom vibrations and LED flashes
We all know about the unified Notifications function, but there's a few other features that deserve some attention.
First up is personalized vibration. Go into Settings, General, Accessibility, and turn on Custom Vibrations. Then choose someone from your Contacts list, select Edit, where you will see Vibration right below Ringtone. Choose from the collection or create a new vibration that you can tap on the phone.
Second is LED flash alerts. Turn this on in the same location as custom vibrations. When you set your phone to silent mode, you'll get blinking notifications through screen flashes instead of a vibration or sound.
This feature first made its way into iOS 5 at beta 3. It's a feature found in the Accessibility section that lets you record a screen gesture and attach a function or action to it. It was designed for people who are otherwise disabled and not able to perform certain functions by doing with one finger what normally requires two or three.
But it's not limited to the disabled. Anyone can make custom gestures for their own use. For example, you swipe left to right to unlock the phone. Well, you could make a custom swipe from right to left to lock the phone.
This is actually a pretty comprehensive feature I'm just digging into and might warrant its own story-guide in the future. We shall see.
User-Defined Keyboard Shortcuts
This is a feature I use all the time in Microsoft Word. It comes in handy when I'm doing an interview and people are using long words. I tend to type abbreviations just to keep up and these autocorrections save me having to fix it later. Under autocorrect, I have shortcuts, like 'biz' is automatically converted to 'business' and 'dev' is 'development.'
iOS 5 has something similar. Go into your Settings menu, pick General, then Keyboard. At the bottom is a prompt to add a new shortcut. Just type in the word or phrase that deserves a shortcut, and then plug in the shortcut itself.
It won't spare you the embarrassment of Autocorrect's interesting and dubious choices, but it will make typing easier and faster.
Check App Usage
This will be especially handy for those of us with 16GB iPhones and iPads. My phone is near capacity and I have more than a few apps that were downloaded and forgotten. If your iDevice is filling up, check in Settings, General and Usage to see how much space each app is taking up. For me, Monopoly was taking up a fair amount of space and I've pretty much stopped playing the game. So, off it comes.
Split/Un-dockable Keyboard on the iPad
This is also exclusive to the iPad. With the advent of tablets we've seen a new style of typing: thumb typing. People hold the tablet with their four opposing fingers and just type with their thumbs. It's clumsy, and even clumsier when the keyboard stretches across the screen.
So Apple split the keyboard in half and moved the two halves to the edges of the screen. This works in both landscape and portrait modes.
You split the keyboard by placing both thumbs in the middle of the screen on the keyboard and pulling them apart. The keyboard will then resize and float slightly, as well as become translucent.
Faster picture access
Normally with the camera, you have to tap the icon of the camera roll in the lower left corner to access the images. But with iOS 5, you just swipe left to right and you quickly go into the camera roll. To get back to the camera, just swipe right to left and when you get to the last picture, you're back in camera mode.