Apple iOS 5 for iPhone, iPad and iPods – why you should upgrade

Written by Gary on October 16th, 2011

Upgrading to iOS 5 seems a no brainer – it is free, and generally upgrades without issue as long as you have a few hours up your sleave and don’t do it when it is first released when the servers are over-loaded.

BEFORE you upgrade, make sure you update iTunes to version 10.5 then backup your device to your computer using iTunes and doing the sync will transfer apps to the computer.

If you have encrypted your backup, make sure you know your password for the backup.

Make sure you know your AppleID email account and AppleID password.


No. 1 reason to upgrade: iCloud

My biggest beef with Apple until now has been that you MUST sync and backup your device to ONLY ONE computer and without physical access to THAT computer and user logon, you are NOT able to sync or backup your device.

iCloud potentially changes this – it essentially creates a copy of your device data, photos, apps, etc on an internet server BASED upon the AppleID account that you set it up with.

Perhaps just as importantly, you no longer need a computer to set up your new device – very handy if you buy one whilst on holidays after your last one was stolen.

Optionally you can elect to use Photostream which sends all your photos taken with the device to iCloud Photostream folder as you take the photos – this might be handy if you take holiday snaps with your iPhone and it gets stolen before you get to back it up. The Photostream can be synchronised automatically across various devices.

There are a few issues with iCloud:

  • you only get 5Gb data storage for free – if your device stores more than this, as most do, you may have to pay for more storage, or, disable backup up and sync of part of your data (eg. your videos, music or photos) which defeats the purpose of iCloud.
  • if as a family, you share an AppleID for Apple Store for app purchases, you will need to ensure each family member creates their own AppleID for iCloud and iMessage and configure their devices in Settings to use these AppleIDs instead of the shared Apple Store AppleID – see here for details.
  • given the recent issues with overload of Apple servers when new upgrades are released, will Apple be able to ensure adequate upload/download speeds from their iCloud, particularly during peak activity periods? My experiences in download speed of iTunes updates taking a very long time does not give me confidence that this will work as seemlessly as they suggest.
  • using iCloud for documents seems problematic and of course they are only available for Apple devices, so most people would probably best using a service such as DropBox for their web-based document management rather than using iCloud.

No 2 reason: Notifications

The annoying behaviour of popup screens for notications has now been addressed and you can configure in Settings:Notifications the apps that appear in the Notification Centre which is a pull down screen accessed by downwards touch gesture.

No 3 reason: rapid camera access

The iPhone camera is not bad as a last resort for when you don’t have your camera with you or it is too inconvenient or not appropriate to use.

Until now, you had to unlock your iPhone, tap on the camera icon, wait for the AF to lock on your subject, then tap the screen to take the shot, all of which was time consuming and you may miss the magic moment, and tapping on the screen caused camera shake.

Now with iOS 5 you can double click the home button when the screen is still locked, and a camera icon will display, just tap it to open the camera,zoom using finger gestures (which also activates a zoom slider control), wait for AF to lock, then use the VOLUME button to take the photo in a similar way to a camera shutter release button.

Much nicer interface.

No 4 reason – improved Safari web browser

I have never been a fan of Safari on the iPad or iPhone with its many frustrations and limitations.

iOS 5 at least improves Safari on the iPad by adding tabbed pages (not available on iPhone though), and removes ads while giving better performance.

No 5 reason – improved email reader

Again, the iPad and iPhone email functionality has not been brilliant compared to Outlook, but it gets some improvements with iOS 5 including:

  • ability to format text with bold, italics, etc
  • ability to flag important messages
  • ability to add or delete mailboxes
  • search now also can search the body of emails
  • a free iCloud email account if you wish

No 6 reason – improved calendars

I was not impressed with the iOS 4 calendars and used a 3rd party app (Saisuke) to sync my Google calendars.

iOS 5 has improved the calendar functionality by adding:

  • ability to share calendars with family and friends via iCloud but only if they use iOS5 – so just use Google calendar and ignore the Apple proprietary nonsense
  • a few minor editing and reading improvements
  • I can’t see the improvements justifying me changing from Saisuke and Google

Other reasons – all the other little niceties or gimmicks

  • optional automatic sync/backup to PC over WiFi when device plugged in to power supply to recharge overnight
  • iMessage – send messages via internet to other iOS 5 users, and if not possible, default to SMS text service. You can do this now using 3rd party apps such as Skype, WhatsApp, etc and your target device does not need iOS 5 installed, just the app.
  • Newstand – just a folder to encourage you to spend more money on publication apps, but it may be useful to some.
  • Reminders – a To Do task list but perhaps not as useful as it is made out to be as the location services is not as flexible as one would like. There are 3rd party apps that do this better, but I am not a fan of such lists.
  • Twitter integration – for twits to make it easier to rapidly publish messages to the world without thinking of their ramifications.
  • dual thumb typing interface for iPad users – does anyone really like typing on these devices?
  • multitouch gestures for iPad2 only
  • AirPlay mirroring for streaming HDTV over WiFi to an Apple TV from iPad2 or iPhone 4S only
  • Siri voice commands – iPhone 4S only, and only really useful within the US it seems
  • Find Your Friends app – a double edged sword, may be great for travellers with internet access from their devices, or perhaps for meetings, but runs considerable risks of 3rd parties tracking you when you want your privacy – of course, you can disable it if you remember it is on. Requires iCloud account.

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