Robert Hampton

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13th October 2011

iOS, I like the way you dress

Last night I got home, plugged my iPhone into my computer, and got this message:

"A new iPhone software version (5.0) is available for the iPhone 'Robert's iPhone'. Would you like to download it and update your iPhone now?"

Yes, after a summer of feverish anticipation, iOS 5 has finally made it out of Apple HQ and onto the flash drives of eager users everywhere.

Well, almost. The first time I tried to download it, the download aborted after about 50 megabytes (although I think that might have been my dodgy wi-fi). It worked the second time, but that proved to be the easy step, as every attempt to install it was met with this message:

"The iPhone 'Robert's iPhone' could not be restored. An unknown error occurred (3200)."

I wasn’t the only one. Error 3200 was trending on Twitter for much of Wednesday evening. It didn’t help that the “More Information” button linked to an Apple support page which didn’t even mention error 3200 (although it has now been belatedly added).

Error 3200 is, at it turns out, a network connectivity issue. You see, before iTunes updates the iPhone software, it verifies the download with Apple. It’s a reasonable precaution, as a bad download could turn your handset into a £500 paperweight. But with millions of people worldwide, all trying to download at once, Apple’s servers overloaded.

3,200 is also the approximate number of times I had to repeat the installation before it succeeded. It took a while, as every attempt to update was preceded by a complete backup of my phone data, taking about 15 minutes each time. Yes, much of my Wednesday night was spent clicking dialogue boxes and watching progress bars slowly filling up to 100%. THIS IS WHAT MY LIFE HAS BECOME.

I had an idea to spread the load: release the software for different devices on different days. Let iPhone 4 users download the software on Monday, iPhone 3GS on Tuesday, iPad on Wednesday, etc. If you’re reading this, Tim Cook, feel free to show your gratitude for my idea by sending one of those lovely £4,000 Mac Pros my way.

Finally at around 9.30pm I was finally able to contact the update servers. It was another 45 minutes or so before the upgrade was completed (including the time it took to restore all my data to the phone).

The first thing the phone asked me to do after rebooting was whether I wanted to use iCloud. After a resounding “hell yeah!” response from me, I used my existing Apple ID to sign in.

My contacts and calendar were automatically synced straight away. E-mail wasn’t activated, presumably because I didn’t have an existing MobileMe account. I wanted to use e-mail, so I went into iCloud settings on the phone to turn it on. I was immediately prompted to create a e-mail address, at which point the e-mail account was set up automatically, appearing in my iPhone Mail app alongside my other e-mail inboxes.

Once I’d signed up on my phone, I found I could log in to the iCloud web site on my PC:

Screenshot of iCloud web version, showing Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Find My iPhone and iWork buttons

These buttons all do as you’d expect: Find My iPhone works the same as previously but has had a minor cosmetic overhaul. iWork needs the equivalent iOS app to function, so I didn’t use it.

Mail is the webmail system, which looks surprisingly basic. There are few of the bells and whistles found on (for example) GMail. It’s functional enough, but I wonder if it’s a bit too simple for most tastes.

Contacts and Calendar work in a similar way to the equivalent iOS apps. Tonight I edited some of my contacts using the iCloud web site and was pleased to see that the updated contacts appeared immediately in my phone. As promised, there is no need to tap a “Sync” or “Refresh” button. The auto-updating Calendar caused a bit of confusion when all my appointments and reminders suddenly appeared twice – it seems that my phone synced with iCloud and then resynced with my computer. Turning off computer syncing seems to have fixed this. A minor niggle.

Screenshot of iOS 5 Notification ScreenBack to the phone: the new Notification Centre. A vertical swipe from the top of the screen brings up a list of new notifications, along with a stock market ticker (um, yay?). It’s a great step forward, but really Apple are quite late sorting this out: it should have been changed to be like this a long time ago.

The Weather app now automatically detects your location and gives you the appropriate forecast (you can still swipe through your list of predefined cities you want). An hourly forecast is now offered alongside the daily summary.

The much-heralded Twitter integration is not quite what I thought it would be. There is some integration – Safari now has an option to tweet the current page, it’s possible to add Twitter usernames for your Contacts and send tweets to them, pictures can be tweeted direct from the photo album and the YouTube app similarly has an option to share using Twitter. For day-to-day tweeting and following, however, you are still going to be using the Twitter app.

Screenshot of iOS 5 Safari with tweet dialogue openOne little oddity is the disappearance of the iPod app, replaced with two new apps: Music and Videos. Music essentially behaves as the old iPod app did and holds all your music, as well as Podcasts – which, as my friend Seb pointed out, are not music.

It seems strange that Apple would want to drop the well-known iPod name. Maybe they want to reserve it for the device itself, rather than just being a subset of the iPhone’s functionality. There’s still something a bit unsatisfactory about the new arrangement.

Sometimes it’s the little things that work best: it is really lovely to be able to take a photo using the Volume Up button. Half-arsed self-portraits (as seen on The Station Master blog) will be much easier to do on the iPhone from now on.

So, in summary: iOS 5: iLike it! On the Hampo scale, it gets four and a half asterisks out of five.

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