Apple unveiled the iOS 5 platform and iCloud at WWDC last week and we thought it would be fun to show you how this thing looks on the iPad or iPad 2. With notifications, iMessage, a much-improved browser and more, the software may help the iPad stay ahead of the competition.
I have to warn you though, the iOS 5 SDK is definitely living up to its beta name, as there is general sluggishness throughout. It’s not as bad as previous builds have been but it’s definitely not as smooth or as polished as it will be when it hits the streets for consumers. Also, I’m using this on an original iPad, I’m sure the iPad 2′s horsepower would make it shine.
I have an Apple iOS developer account, so I simply downloaded iTunes 10.5 beta and the iOS 5 beta for the iPad. There is an NDA but no one seems to be following it, so I guess I don’t have to either. I had a hard time just downloading the software and updating, so I had to restore my iPad using the iOS 5 beta software. It worked well enough but having to restore took some extra time.
One of the coolest things about iOS 5 is that it removes the need to use iTunes to truly set up an iPad, as you’re greeted with a live screen the first time you turn it on. You can then sign in with your Apple ID or not, and you can activate it over the air or plug it in with a cable to restore from your computer with existing content.
You have to slog through a few screens to connect it to WiFi and to enter your Apple iD information but you’re then shown a little animation about iCloud and Find My iPad to toggle these on or off. Many of the cool features in iCloud won’t be live until the Fall but I turned it on anyways.
The browser on the iPad is pretty darn good for casual browsing but it’s a nightmare if you’re actually trying to be productive with it. Hopping between tabs seems to take forever and I’ve relied on third-party solutions. With iOS 5, the Safari browser finally gets tabbed browsing and I love it. It appears to max out at nine tabs right now and that does push the limits of these increasingly-creaky iPad 1. You can also add stories to a reading list for later viewing but I don’t quite find this as good as Instapaper just yet.
Overall, you’re going to dig the new Safari browser. It’s not a quantum leap in terms of performance but the usability improvements with the tabs and the enhanced keyboard should make a lot of people happy.
The iOS 5 software on the iPad lets you do more things with the virtual keyboard and this is small but much-needed improvement. You can now undock the keyboard from the bottom of the screen and you can enable a split keyboard which makes it much easier to do thumb typing. I’ve found this split keyboard works pretty well in both landscape and portrait mode but I still wish you could adjust the actual sizes of the keyboards like you can on the upcoming HP TouchPad.
The Newsstand app will now sit on your home page and this aggregates all the news and magazine apps into a single place. You can download new apps from a custom part of the App Store and this should be a solid way to keep track of your news apps. I’m not a huge news and magazine app guy, as I generally stick to the browser or Flipboard.
The Reminders app is trying to displace programs like Remember the Milk and it’s not quite as polished as some of the third-party solutions but it’s a decent way to keep track of things you need to do. It will stay in tune with your mobile versions via iCloud, so some of those proximity-based reminders may be more useful on an iPhone. Not super impressive but a neat little addition.
The iOS notification system has been reviled for a while now and the iOS 5 version on the iPad takes away the annoying pop-up menu in the middle of the screen whenever you get a new notification. You can now swipe down from the top to reveal your notifications. This works extremely well for the Mail app, as it’s finally easy to get a quick glance at your inbox without having to launch the Mail app entirely.
I’m still a bit partial to how Android Honeycomb does notifications but iOS 5 on the iPad should make it a much better device for getting things done. I’ll update this as I spend more time with it.
The Photo app has been redesigned and it looks gorgeous. It’s easy to find your recent pictures and albums and the interface is great for the big screen of the iPad. Once the Photo Stream app is live via iCloud, this will be a very popular app for keeping track of your pictures. For now, it’s just neat on the iPad but not a game changer. It’s probably better with the iPad 2 and its cameras.
The iCloud features aren’t really fully operational yet but it is a blast to open up the App Store and iTunes and see all the previously-purchased apps and music quickly available for re-downloads. Once this fully rolls out in the Fall with Documents in the Cloud, Photo Stream and more, I think it will actually be an extremely compelling feature for Apple tablet owners.
I’m still playing around with this, so I’ll add some more things that I notice with iOS 5 on the iPad. Let me know if you’re looking for anything in particular.