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iPhone 4S soars with Siri

Galen Gruman | Dec. 30, 2011
The beefier hardware is welcome, but the star of the show is the voice-controlled Siri personal assistant

You can move apps to new locations by tapping and holding an app until the icons wiggle, then just drag it to the desired location. The first home screen is reserved for Apple's apps, so new apps aren't added to it, though you can move apps -- including Apple's -- to and from that first screen as desired. iOS also lets you create app folders (just drag an app onto another one to create a group), which can be useful to reduce scrolling among home pages. Unfortunately, the folder icons are still too small to make out, so knowing what's in a folder is not always easy.

iOS alerts you to app updates by using a badge on the App Store app's icon, indicating how many updates are available. You can download them wirelessly, or sync them from iTunes. iOS also lets you manage apps -- including their home screen arrangement -- and update them via iTunes, in addition to from the iPhone itself. iOS 5 adds the ability to update the operating system itself wirelessly, as well as to set up a new or reformatted iOS device without a computer (you need a Wi-Fi network available, though).

iOS 5 has copied the Android-style notifications-tray capability in what it calls Notification Center, but Apple's version is better. In iOS 5, you pull down from the top of the screen to get a pane of notifications, and tap any to open it within its app. You can also delete groups of notifications -- such as for mail messages -- by tapping the X icon to the right of the group's name. I like iOS 5's notifications better than Android's because iOS's notifications are much easier to read and Notification Center shows individual messages and tweets, whereas in some cases Android shows only a group alert, such as "5 new mentions," rather than list them. (iOS lets you specify a max number of notifications per type to display, by the way.)

iOS 5 can also display notifications on the lock screen, and by sliding a specific notifications icon, you can open the app and the relevant notification item, such as an email. Plus, unlike Android, iOS 5 lets you decide which apps may present notifications on the lock screen and elsewhere -- you're not restricted to a predetermined set. Not only does iOS 5 let you turn notification on or off on a per-app basis, but you can specify whether the notification sounds a tone, whether it appears in the lock screen, whether its badge updates with the number of relevant notifications, and how the notification appears onscreen (as an overlay in the middle of your screen or just in the Notification Center pull-down pane). You get to choose when and how you are interrupted.

 

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