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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

iOS 5 lets you share Web pages via email and Twitter, as well as print the page to an AirPrint-compatible printer. iOS has separate Search and URL boxes, which are less convenient than Android's unified URL and Search box -- you have to be sure to tap the right box on iOS. You can also search the current page in a separate field that displays. You can select text and graphics on Web pages, as well as copy text and save images to the Photos app.

The onscreen keyboard displays the .com button when entering URLs, which is a significant timesaver. And it pops up a list of alternative domains, such as .edu and .org, when you tap and hold the .com button. Safari has settings to control pop-up windows, search engines, JavaScript, cookies, history, cache, form data, passwords, image loading, autofill, fraud warnings, and debugging.

User interface It's often a throwaway comment that Apple's UIs are better than everyone else's, and it's not always true (as the soon-to-be-discontinued MobileMe service attests). But in mobile, iOS is in fact a better-designed UI, one that makes accessing capabilities and information easier and faster. iOS 5 doesn't mess with what you already know from previous versions, but it does enhance the UI further with the Notification Center, improved gesture support, much simpler synchronization capabilities, and a few enhanced settings. Then there's the iPhone 4S's Siri, which opens up a whole new, hugely convenient way to interact with many apps and services.

Operational UI. Apple is smarter than competitors about bringing common capabilities to the top level of iOS apps' UIs, so they are accessible through a quick tap -- yet they don't clutter up the screen, even in the screen-constrained iPhone. iOS also has strong UI support for the visually and hearing-impaired, such as options for zooming text, presenting screens in high contrast, and enabling text-to-speech for text selections. In iOS 5, these are augmented with gesture assistance for those with motor coordination issues.

A nice change in iOS 5 is the ability to set custom sounds to various alerts. Now, in a room full of iPhones and iPads, you have a better chance of knowing whether it's your device that just beeped. Plus, you can set custom vibrations for individuals.

Text selection and copying. In iOS, you tap and hold where you want to insert the text cursor (sort of like using a mouse), and a magnifier appears to help you move precisely to where you want to go -- no competitor offers such assistance. You then add and delete text at that location. Additionally, controls appear above the text for selection and other services (such as copying and pasting, and formatting in Mail or dictionary suggestions in Pages). It's easy, intuitive, and universal.


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