Should you upgrade your mobile OS?

Version 2 of iOS added push email, contacts and calendar, as well as security policies and the remote wipe facility, both critical for enterprise users. The crucial new feature for tech writers like me was the ability to grab a screenshot by pressing the power and home buttons together – a facility that Android phones lacked until very recently.

Should you upgrade your mobile OS?

The next major release, iOS 3, arrived with the 3GS. Until then, everyone (me included) had mocked Apple for not providing copy-and-paste ability on its phones, but version 3 filled that lacuna.

Alongside many other tweaks came a major upgrade to the Safari browser, which elevated the iPhone to being the best handheld web-browsing machine available, at least for a while. iOS 3 also added video capture, much-improved SMS and support for turn-by-turn satnav (although only on more recent GPS-enabled hardware).

You’ll find Apple does this quite a lot, the excuse being that it wants to guarantee the ‘best possible user experience’

The next significant release was iOS 3.2, which was for the iPad and has never appeared on the iPhone (nor on the iPod Touch, whose OS releases run pretty well parallel to those for the phone).

Version 4 of iOS arrived with the iPhone 4, and was initially available as an update for iPhone and iPod Touch only – not the iPad.

Significantly, this was the first iPod Touch update that Apple provided for free. If you have an old iPhone or iPod, this is where you may come unstuck, since iOS 4 won’t run on the original versions of either, and even on the iPhone 3G and second-generation iPod Touch its feature set is restricted.

You’ll find Apple does this quite a lot, the excuse being that it wants to guarantee the “best possible user experience” – detractors claim it’s to force you to upgrade your phone every few years, an accusation backed up by YouTube videos showing hacks of the new OS running just fine on older hardware.

Multitasking arrives

Multitasking finally arrived on the iPhone with iOS 4, although many users never realised (many still don’t) as it requires a double-press of the home key, which violates Apple’s usual high standard of UI intuitiveness.

An ability to create folders on the homescreen was also “easy once you know how”, but equally easy to overlook. The changes business users appreciated were support for multiple Exchange accounts and a single unified inbox.

Version 4.2 was the next significant release, providing unified support for the same version on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. To be honest, it didn’t bring many new features, mainly small things such as bug fixes and a couple of new fonts – nothing to get excited about for iPhone users, but for iPad users the first opportunity to bring their tablets up to iOS 4’s multitasking and improved email.

iOS 4.3 arrived with the iPad 2, and this version stranded a few more users by dropping support for the iPhone 3G and second-generation Touch. It brought AirPlay support for third-party apps, allowing them to stream video to other devices, and the iPhone version also included a personal Wi-Fi hotspot, although this was playing catch-up since other phones had already had this for some time.

iOS 5 was announced, along with the iPhone 4S, the day before Steve Jobs died. Once the bad news about Jobs had sunk in, commentators started announcing that the 4S was obviously released “for Steve”– but frankly, I find that hard to believe: given the tight-lipped nature of Apple’s corporate culture we’ll probably never know.

iOS 5 supports the same devices that 4.3 did but with a whole bunch of new features, including a unified notification centre that can be used instead of the previous pop-up type bubbles. iMessage is Apple’s answer to RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger, allowing instant messaging between iOS 5 devices across either 3G or Wi-Fi.

Newsstand enables users to subscribe to magazines to read on their phone or tablet, and works nicely. For the iPhone 4S only, iOS 5 also added support for Siri, Apple’s much-derided voice input facility. This release also provided online backup via Apple’s iCloud service, with 5MB of free space.

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