The past two weeks have seen major changes to the dedicated Apple fan. An upgrade of the software to iOS5, swiftly followed by new hardware, the iPhone 4S. So after spending some time with both, it’s now time to digest on how the changes have impacted the experience.
A source of constant frustration, notifications were long overdue for a revision. There’s no hiding it, Apple ripped off the new iOS5 notification system from Android. Turns out, it works incredibly well. No more interruptions mid-game, or mid-movie, instead the top slide-down notifications let you continue the task in progress, while letting you know there’s something waiting. When you have a chance, pull down the notification drawer and deal with the notifications.
With a quick swipe from the top the notifications draw slides down. The applications that are displayed here, along with their order and amount can be customised in Settings > Notifications. This helps to refine the notifications so they perform to suit individual needs.
One neat feature is the long-awaited addition of notifications to the lock screen. This gives a quick overview of what’s happened on your phone since you last had it out of your pocket – 30 seconds ago. Something you may not know, is that each of the notification types can be swiped to the right to not only unlock the phone, but automatically jump you into the associated app.
One of the biggest selling points of the iPhone 4S, is its upgrade in camera megapixel count, optics and video stability. Combine that update with the built-in basic editing function for photos and the camera upgrade should be a compelling change.. but is it ?
The short answer is yes. Like any camera, in the right hands, the results can be absolutely stunning. The optics in the iPhone 4S provide clarity that lacked in previous versions. Combined with new auto-exposure and 5-step HDR on the software side, photos can look amazing. You can also still manage to take blurry shots, so be careful to be as still as possible.
Remember that in iOS5 you can use the volume up button to take a photo. This comes in handy when taking self portraits, which you’ll need given the front-facing camera is still rubbish. The camera launches a lot faster so you don’t miss that time-sensitive shot, as long as you don’t have to enter your pin to unlock, then find the camera app buried in a folder.
Apple clearly thought through this problem, or looked at WP7’s pocket to picture feature and decided to ‘borrow it’. To fire the camera quickly from the lock screen, simply double-press the home button and a camera button will appear. Regardless of how this feature got there, it does make a massive difference to the camera’s usability.
Here’s a tip for those running iOS5, when in the camera app, try swiping to the right and you’ll have quick access to past photos. Yep, this feature is stolen from Windows Phone 7, detecting a trend yet ? You won’t find this feature listed or promoted on Apple’s website, but also makes a lot of sense and is a good inclusion.
The reality of using Siri in Australia is that it’s significantly limited. Businesses and therefore maps, cannot be interacted with using Siri if you are outside of the US and using a voice language other than US English. Very disappointing. Given Siri is currently in beta, there were bound to be things that weren’t complete.. this is one of them. Let’s hope Apple iterate quickly and add local support.
While scheduling calendar appointments and meetings, or creating reminders and alarms is typically a tedious thing, Siri handles this incredibly well. It’s actually much more time efficient to use Siri to set these, rather than launching the app and configuring a myriad of minor details.
The good news about Siri is that voice narration is actually pretty accurate. Unfortunately the same can not be said about the dictation feature accessed by pressing the new Microphone button on the virtual keyboard. I found this voice translation to be terribly inaccurate, to the point where it feels like an entirely separate voice engine is being used.
The new A5 dual-core processor in the iPhone 4S, is noticeable when performing intensive tasks like rendering video. For day-to-day actions, it’s slightly faster to launch applications, but not as big of a difference as expected. What’s more noticeable is the speed of apps accessing data, not due to the processor, but using a network provider with decent speeds – Telstra.
With the combined upgrades to hardware, software and network I’ve experienced over the past couple of weeks, the end result is a significant improvement to my mobile experience. I can’t help buy think if I’d had only 2 of these 3 that I’d be feeling a little underwhelmed by it all right now. As an iPhone 4 owner, you shouldn’t feel a burning desire to upgrade, but 3GS or other feature phone owners should seriously consider Apple’s latest offering.