iOS 6 is now officially available for downloading to your favourite iOS device, and for the most part it’s a worthy upgrade to Apple’s mobile operating system.
I’m still a little peeved by the elimination of the Google-powered Maps app, especially the super-convenient Street View option which, for now, remains a Google exclusive.
But what Apple takes away on the one hand, they also give with the other. Case in point: Inserting photos and videos into emails.
In past revisions of iOS, adding a photo or video to an email required you to know that you wanted to include one first – before composing your message. You needed to start in the Photos app, and then select the appropriate photos or video from your collection and then choose to share them via email.
The files would “fly” into a new email window and you could begin the somewhat tedious task of trying to arrange your text around these inline elements.
It wasn’t a bad system if all you wanted was to blast off a few pics to a friend, but if you actually wanted to describe a situation using multiple photos, with text in between, it lacked the kind of flexibility that other email systems offer.
But with iOS 6, all this has changed – and for the better.
Now, when you want to include photos or video, you don’t have to pre-plan.
Simply start composing a new email, then, when you get to the spot where you want to insert your file, simply tap-and-hold on the screen – the same way you would if you were going to copy/paste some text, and look at the dialog box that pops up.
You’ll notice that there is a small arrow to the right of the displayed options. Tap that arrow once, and you’ll see the brand new “Insert Photo or Video” option.
Tapping it takes you straight to your Photos app, where you can select your item (just one – no multi-select is available). Once chosen, the item gets dropped into your message, exactly where you tapped.
Here’s a fact that blew me away when I read it: The London 2012 Olympic Games will be the first Olympics since the launch of the iPad.
Think about that for a moment. If you own an iPad, or any tablet for that matter, you know how much it has changed your media consumption habits. Everything from how often you surf the web, check email, log on to Facebook or Twitter or watch YouTube – every one of these activities has become (for better or worse) a bigger part of your life.
And given that the Summer Games are taking place in London, England – a land that is at least 5 hours ahead for Canadians (8 if you live on the west coast) – there’s a good chance that the live coverage of events will be happening when you aren’t in front of your TV. That thought is bound to have Olympics junkies wondering how they’re going to get their fix throughout the day.
Fear not, my friends, Sync has you covered. Here is everything you need to know to stay on top of all the action whether you’re at home, at work or somewhere in between – even on vacation.
Let’s face it, all of that exciting sports action deserves the best possible screen and that is still (until something better comes along) your HDTV. Regardless which satellite or cable company you subscribe to (or even if you’re using free over-the-air) you’ll be able to catch the games on the official Canadian broadcasters: CTV, TSN, Omni and Omni2, SportsNet, OLN, RDS and RDS2 and V-Tele. If you can receive these in HD, you’ll enjoy crystal-clear image and sound.
If however, you are a Bell TV subscriber, there are two more features worth noting: Satellite subscribers can access a special channel known as the “Mosaic” – a screen that features 5 of the channels that are currently broadcasting events live from the Games. You can see each feed in real time in order to decide which you want to watch – or simply leave it on that channel and enjoy them all. If you have Fibe TV, the same channel will be interactive – use your Fibe TV remote to highlight the channel you want from the Mosaic and jump to it directly.
The next best place to catch the Games is your PC or laptop. Heading over to CTVOlympics.ca will give you the most comprehensive view of the Olympics along with scheduling, athlete profiles, contests, photos and interviews. Watching on your PC’s screen won’t always live up to the full-HD broadcast quality you can get from cable or satellite, but if you’re on the road and have Wi-Fi access, it’s definitely the next-best thing.
If you have an iPad or an Android tablet, you can download the free CTV Olympics app that essentially replicates the CTVOlympics.ca experience within a native app. You’ll find that navigating between the features and videos is easier than using the web-based version on a touch screen. Again, as long as you have Wi-Fi connectivity, you’re good to go.
Use Bell Mobile TV
If you find yourself outside of Wi-Fi reception, and you own a Bell smartphone, the Bell Mobile TV application is the only way to access live streams from the Games when on a 3G or LTE network connection. The Mobile TV subscription costs $5/month for 10 hours of streaming, with $1/hour thereafter. It costs more than free, obviously, but if you’re camping or even just taking the train home at night, it’s a great way to get caught up on the action. The app gives you access to all of the channels that are offering live coverage, plus an on-demand section for grabbing highlight videos from your favourite events.
Bell has created a custom app on Facebook called the Bell London 2012 Scheduler and it’s an interactive service that lets you find the events you want to watch or follow, receive reminder emails before the events starts, plus you can update your status automatically so your friends know what you’re watching. Better yet, if your friends use the app, you’ll be able to see who else is planning to watch at the same time – making it easier to plan group watching sessions whether online or, y’know, in real life.
Okay so this really doesn’t have much to do with the games themselves but it is pretty fun: Bell has created a free iOS and Android app called “Make It Epic” (look for this to launch shortly) which lets you shoot a short video of your friends engaged in the activity of your choice (anything from making breakfast to attempting a complex skateboard trick) and then isolate a portion of the video for the “Epic” treatment. Epic in this case means a super slo-motion effect accompanied by the Chariots of Fire theme. The results can be surprisingly hilarious. You can then share your creation using all of the typical choices including Facebook, Twitter, email etc.
Unless you’ve been sticking with the same CD collection you’ve owned since the 90s, or you’re one of the hardcore vinyl-collecting crowd, odds are good that most of your music is now sitting in MP3 or AAC format on your PC, MP3 player or smartphone. And while each of these devices are great for organizing your tunes and listening to them privately, they lack the group-listening vibe afforded by our stereos, boomboxes and home theatre systems. Fortunately, there’s never been a better time to widen your music’s horizons. Here are three ways you can get into the wireless streaming game so that you can enjoy your music wherever you are in your home and on any existing audio device.
1. RIM BlackBerry Music Gateway ($50)This tiny black module is the absolute cheapest and easiest way to get your digital music to flow through the speakers of your choice. As long as your music is stored on a smartphone or other device that is Bluetooth 2.0 (A2DP) compatible, you can pair it to the Music Gateway and then connect the Gateway to your home stereo using the included mini-jack audio cable. The Gateway needs power but you can use the same Micro-USB cable and AC adapter that you use to recharge your phone. The music is controlled straight from your smartphone. Bonus: If you own an NFC-equipped BlackBerry such as the new Bold 9900, you can skip the Bluetooth pairing process by simply tapping the phone to the Gateway – voila! Instant streaming. Keep in mind however, that Bluetooth streaming isn’t as flexible as Wi-Fi. Bluetooth typically maxes out at 10 m (30 feet) whereas Wi-Fi can often extend up to 300 feet, particularly when used outside.
2. Apple Airport Express Base Station ($99)The Airport Express might just be Apple’s best kept secret. This all-white unit, which is about the size and shape of a deck of cards is deceptively simple: A plug for AC power, an ethernet port, USB port and an analog/optical mini-jack. But the list of things it can do is impressive. Most relevant to this discussion is that it can turn any stereo system into a Wi-Fi (or wired) receiver for your iTunes music whether you keep that collection on your Mac, PC or iOS device. Apple’s AirPlay technology which recognizes the AirPort Express on your home network, treats the Base Station as a set of speakers that you can “push” your music to from your iTunes software.
Want to stream your music to multiple stereos? Simply add more AirPort Express Base Stations. Each one can be labeled according to whatever makes sense e.g. “Living Room”, “Kitchen” etc. and if you’re streaming from a PC or Mac, you can have them all receiving the music simultaneously. Each AirPort Express can be muted or volume-controlled from your computer, but it’s way cooler to do it remotely using your iOS device with Apple’s free “Remote” app. Want to stream from your iOS device instead? Again, each AirPort Express will show up as AirPlay devices in any app that supports AirPlay e.g. CBC’s Music app. The AirPort Express has some other cool features up its sleeve beyond music streaming: it can repeat the Wi-Fi signal from an Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station, giving your Wi-Fi greater reach; it can act as stand-alone wireless router when connected to your DSL/Cable modem via ethernet or if you’re in a hotel room with only wired internet access and finally it can act as a print server when a printer is connected to the USB port – now everyone on your network can print to the same printer.
3. Sonos Play:3 ($329) plus Sonos Bridge ($60) Long before Apple started to hype their AirPlay technology, Sonos was inventing the gold standard for wireless home audio. The company has been refining their very successful formula for years now and they’re still the company to beat when it comes to liberating your music. Every Sonos system starts with their $60 Bridge. It doesn’t look like much and it only does one thing: create the SonosNet proprietary wireless network, and allow Sonos devices to access online sources of content. From there however, Sonos users have unparalleled choice. You can buy Sonos Connect receivers that connect directly to your stereos or other powered speakers. Or, you can buy a more powerful Connect Amp which as the name implies, houses an amplifier so you can attach virtually any pair of bookshelf speakers. Or, if you want a more portable solution, their Play:3 and Play:5 speaker systems are all-in-one sound systems combining a wireless receiver, amp and speakers. N.B.: You don’t actually need to buy the Bridge as long as you’re ok with positioning the Play:3 in a location where you can wire it to your router with ethernet cable. In this situation, the Play:3 can create the SonosNet network and act as the Bridge on behalf of the other Sonos devices in your home.
While more expensive than Apple’s AirPlay scenario, Sonos offers more options too: Each Sonos unit can be individually controlled even letting you choose to stream the same or different music sources to each device. You can also access far more content – in addition to your iTunes collection, you can access subscription services like XM radio, Slacker, LastFM and others. Another plus is that if you keep all of your music on a Network Attached Storage device (NAS) you don’t need your computer to be constantly on to get to your music. Sonos can access it directly. Finally, some Sonos devices can be used as AirPlay devices, as long as you buy an AirPort Express and your Sonos component has line-in support (N.B.: The Play:3 is NOT equipped with line-in). Once connected and configured, the AirPort Express that is connected to your Sonos device will show up as an AirPlay speaker on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.
The entire Sonos network of gear can be controlled from any Android or iOS device through the free downloadable app. Sonos used to make a dedicated controller, but apparently the market for these dried up once people began buying app-driven gadgets. No surprise – you can pick up an 8GB iPod Touch for less than the Sonos controller and you can play Angry Birds!
Apple’s iCloud is possibly the best thing to happen to smartphones since the touch-screen. Not only does it seamlessly synchronize your data between all of your iOS devices, it does the same thing for your Mac or PC – and – it acts as a tether-free way to backup the contents of your iPhone.
When I recently switched from my iOS 5 equipped iPhone 4 to the loaner iPhone 4S I started using last week, I used the iCloud restore feature to port all of my settings and apps. The result was astounding. After the restore, which by the way was completely done over Wi-Fi – no tethering to a computer or iTunes – my 4S looked like a complete clone of my 4, right down to the wallpaper for my lock and home screens. The only thing I had to do was re-enter my Wi-Fi passwords.
But I digress…
One thing I noticed about this process was, while the backup and restore via iCloud was impressive, my backup size was really big. In fact, I had already come close to using up all of the free 5GB that Apple allots to all iOS 5 Apple IDs. If I only had the one device, that might not be the end of the world. But the iPhone is just one of three iOS devices I use under my Apple ID and there’s simply no way I was going to be able to back the other two up without needing some more room.
But it turns out there’s a simple way to drastically reduce the size of your iPhone backup.
When you go into your iCloud settings, and check out the options for Backup and Storage, you’ll see that each and every app on your device can be set to have its data backed up, or not. Including the Camera Roll. That’s key, because if you’re like most iPhone users and you make regular use of the awesome camera on these phones, you probably have plenty of photos and videos.
When I checked mine, it was sitting at 4.4 GB!
No wonder I was almost out of room. So I turned it off.
Huh? Yep, I turned it off and saved myself nearly all of the storage space I had been sucking up. I know what you’re thinking, but my photos are *still* backed up.
Here’s why: The PhotoStream feature on iOS 5, when turned on, automatically keeps a copy of the last 1,000 photos you’ve taken, regardless of which device you used, on a 30-day rolling period. And those photos do NOT count toward your Backup and Storage capacity. It’s free storage from Apple, and it’s even better than using your iCloud storage space. PhotoStream sends your photos to your computer which is ultimately where you want them anyway.
There’s only one caveat. If you take a lot of video on your iPhone or iPod Touch, you’ll need to remember to back these up manually, since PhotoStream doesn’t backup your videos – only your photos.
One last thought if you’re thinking that backing up your Camera Roll is something you want to keep doing: your iCloud storage space isn’t the only area that is impacted.
When your phone is locked and plugged into power and connected to Wi-Fi, it will automatically backup your data. For most people, that means overnight while you’re sleeping at home.
Consider that even a backup of 2GB can consume a good chunk of your bandwidth cap, it’s well worth keeping your backups as small as possible.
Make sure you check the full list of apps that are backing up to iCloud – most use virtually no room, but some can be hefty. Check out those Songify and Kindle items in the image above. Only 70Mb between them, but I have very few books or songs in there. It could go much higher.
I’ve never been a MobileMe user. So when I upgraded to iOS 5 the other day, I happily went along with the instructions on how to create a free account and never gave the experience another thought.
But that was decidedly not the case for one of our mobile developers here at Sympatico.ca. Chris Tsang has been a MobileMe guy for, well, a *really* long time. But this loyalty to Apple’s much-criticized product nearly had him tearing his hair out when he upgraded to iOS 5.
Let his experience be a cautionary tale (and a darn good explanation of what *not* to do) for all you MobileMe folks out there, especially if you want to use iCloud…
After downloading the ios 5 update, my iphone 4 was ready for me to setup. You’ll get to a screen that asks you for your Apple ID. If you previously had a mobileme account you need to make sure that you enter in your mobileme email instead of your AppleID used for iTunes purchases. If you enter in your AppleID you’ll find that you won’t be able to use icloud services with your precious mobileme email. If you go to iCloud settings and attempt to slide email to on, it will ask you if you want to create a free .me account which won’t make sense because you already have one.
To fix this, I had to erase all content and settings and start over. Once I got to the Apple ID screen again, enter your mobileme email address and then continue with the setup. Once you are finished with the setup you will see notice another unpleasant surprise in that you will notice that all of your apps are now missing. Don’t freak out just yet. You aren’t done yet.
The next step is to go to Settings>Store and then tap on your Apple ID at the bottom. Sign out and then sign back in with the account that you use for store purchases (your Apple ID that you have been using). Once you have done that you need to sync with iTunes once more and all your apps will come back.
This is actually an important step to transition from mobileme to icloud. In fact, if you don’t follow this process, you won’t be able to complete the iCloud setup on your Mac.
After doing all this you will be able to get access to all your previously purchased apps again and use the new iCloud services.
Got all that?