Secrets of iOS 5

Whenever a major new version of Apple software is released, the high-profile features get a lot of attention — but of course plenty of other changes are also worked into the update. Now that iOS 5 is out, we can focus our spotlight on stuff that we feel is cool, overlooked, or both.

iPad Split Keyboard — If you type with your thumbs while holding an iPad in both hands, or if you want take the new Show/Hide keyboard button out for a spin, check out the new Split Keyboard feature. To begin parting the Red Sea, drag using your thumbs outward from the middle of the keyboard to split the sections. To put the keyboard together again, put a thumb on each section and push them together.

But wait, there’s more. That Show/Hide button at the lower right of the keyboard now lets you practice your gesturing skills:

  • Tap it to show or hide the keyboard. Nothing new here.
  • Touch and hold on it to reveal a menu with commands that replicate the gestures.
  • Flick up on it to split an unsplit keyboard. This may take practice.
  • Touch and drag on it to move the keyboard vertically onscreen.

(If things don’t seem to be working, turn on the split keyboard in Settings > General > Keyboard.)

Calendar Week View on the iPhone — Here’s a long-awaited feature: On the iPhone, open the Calendar app and rotate the phone to its landscape orientation to reveal a scrolling week view.

A New iPad Mailboxes View — In Mail on the iPad, in portrait view, swipe left to right with two fingers to display the mailbox list, which slides as a panel from the side of the screen. I don’t know why the list doesn’t appear as a popover, as it used to — perhaps Mail will become the iTunes of the iPad: the place where Apple experiments with interface.

Location-Based Reminders Missing on iPad — On an iPhone running iOS 5, you can create a task in the Reminders app that produces an alert based on location. For example, you can specify not only that you need to call someone, but the reminder alert will pop up when you reach your office. To do so, create a new reminder, tap it to view details, tap the Remind Me button, and then tap the At a Location button.

Unfortunately, that feature seems to be limited to the iPhone. When I do the same thing on my iPad 2, there’s no At a Location option, even though it’s an iPad 2 with 3G and a GPS chip built in. Fortunately, reminders with location alerts that I create on the iPhone don’t lose that information when synced to the iPad via iCloud.

Swipe to Advance in the iPad Calendar — The lack of this feature was a pet peeve of mine in previous versions of iOS on the iPad. Although the Calendar app was designed to look like a real desk calendar, even including bits of torn paper at the top of the “sheets,” it wasn’t possible to swipe to turn the virtual pages. Instead, you had to tap the linear navigation that appears below the calendar.

Now, finally, you can swipe to advance the pages of the calendar views. In fact, you can drag a finger slowly from an edge or corner to gradually turn the pages, as introduced in the iBooks app.

Wireless Sync without Power — One of my favorite iOS 5 features is syncing devices over a wireless network. With the Wi-Fi Sync option enabled, the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch initiate a sync when plugged into a power source. So, for example, you can plug a charging cable into an iPhone and sync, even if the computer it belongs to is running in another room.

It turns out that even the charging cable isn’t required — it’s just a convenient way to start an automatic sync. To initiate a manual sync with a device that’s been set up with Wi-Fi syncing, go to Settings > General > iTunes Wi-Fi Sync > Sync Now. Or, in iTunes, select the device in the sidebar and click the Sync button.

Enable AirPlay Mirroring on iPad 2 — I include this tidbit because the control wasn’t easy to find. The iPad 2 can mirror its screen on an HDTV through an Apple TV running the latest version of its software, wirelessly, using AirPlay.

  1. Bring up the multitasking bar (by either pressing the Home button twice, or, on the iPad 2, swiping up with four or five fingers).

  2. Scroll left-to-right to reveal the brightness and audio playback controls.

  3. Tap the AirPlay button, and tap the name of your Apple TV.

  4. Tap the Mirroring switch to turn it on. The screen appears on your HDTV.

Others? — These are just a few cool features of iOS 5. As you run into others, I encourage you to share them in this article’s comments section.


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