There’s been little change to the management of contacts and the way you call people in iOS 5. It’s all fairly familiar and easy to use but it definitely lacks a few features compared to the competition.
For a start, while contacts can have basics like pictures added to their contact information, they don’t link to social networking handles or even show a message conversation. This makes the interface simple but it can be a bind if you just quickly want to check what the last thing was that you said to someone, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter or text message – on the iPhone you’ll have to check all three separately.
Also missing is smart dialling. This makes matching contacts appear as you start typing a number, making it quicker to get to the person you want, and it’s simply not present here. Otherwise, the calling process is a cinch and call quality is excellent with a clear, relatively loud earpiece, good noise cancelling and a very good loudspeaker.
There’s also the matter of signal strength, which the iPhone 4 rather suffered thanks to its external antennae. It was all blown out or proportion but thankfully, the new two-antennae design finally puts the issue to bed by providing much more consistent signal strength.
When it comes to messaging, the iPhone 4S has a new trick up its sleeve in the form of iMessage. This is a BlackBerry Messenger-style service for all iOS devices that uses a data signal (including Wi-Fi and instead of texts) to send real time messages back and forth. It provides read receipts and shows if the other person is typing but, most intriguing of all, it isn’t a separate app. It integrates with the main messaging app, kicking in whenever it detects the recipient is also an iOS user. It’s an interesting addition for the phone but it’s most useful for iPad users as, assuming a decent number of their contacts also use iOS devices, they can keep in touch without putting their iPad down.
One small new feature of iOS 5 is that when you scroll through messages, the keyboard will move out the way, allowing you to see more messages. There isn’t, however, a way to close the text box to re-read previous messages when you’ve written so much already that the text box fills the screen – a little bugbear of ours.
As for email, the iPhone has long had an excellent email interface in terms of ease of use with most email accounts being very easy to setup and the presentation of the messages themselves being very intuitive and simple. The ease with which you can view HTML emails also puts Android to shame, with the latter not offering a zoom function.
However, there are a few more power user features it still lacks, and one in particular really annoys; you can’t attach anything to emails. You can send an individual photo from the pictures app, and do likewise for various other file types in various other apps, but if you just want to send a document along with a couple of pictures taken with your camera, there’s no way to do it with one email.
When typing out messages, the onscreen keyboard is still class leading, with superb word and grammar prediction, easy text editing features and an intuitive, clean keyboard layout.
There’s a new addition, too, in the shape of Siri. We’ll talk more about Siri’s other abilities later but one use for the voice recognition service is it can dictate messages. Just tap the microphone shaped button and speak away. The success rate is good but not amazing with clear diction and a steady speaking pace required – colloquialisms are a no no. It coped well with noisy environments, though, so dictating a text message while in the car shouldn’t cause it too many problems.