You can’t start a conversation about mobile technology without discussing the operating system that really brought the smartphone into the hands of consumers.
Before the release of the Original iPhone, smartphones were based on Windows Mobile, Blackberry, or a handful of other minor operating systems. Blackberry was designed more for business, and Windows Mobile was a smaller version of the computer operating system.
With iPhone OS 1, Apple brought the concept of Apps, functional Touchscreens, and an integrated lifestyle to the masses.
What is iOS? Apple touts it as “The world’s most advanced mobile OS”. While many would argue that point, that’s not what I’m here for.
iOS is the Operating System developed by Apple for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad lines of products. It is a touch-based interface that revolves around the use of apps to make a user’s everyday life a little simpler.
A quick, and necessarily biased, primer on iOS can be found at Apple’s website but I thought I would look beyond the press release and give you a couple of Pros and Cons to iOS, from a student’s perspective.
A great place to read about some of the basics of iOS’s evolution is the online magazine Feel Desain. You can see the evolution of the visual interface and some of the features throughout the years.
Some of the major changes came with the 2nd Generation iPhone, the iPhone 3G. This device, and the accompanying upgrade to the iOS (called iPhone OS at the time), introduced the iTunes App Store and ability for 3rd Party Developers to get their apps out in front of the public.
Other major evolutions included: iOS 3, which introduced the ability to record video, send and receive multi-media messages, and “Spotlight Search” which allowed users to search the entire device for specific keywords and information.
iOS 4 introduced face-time to the public, allowing iOS users to video chat with each other through a native app, and the inclusion of HD picture and video capture.
Siri, Apple’s voice-activated assistant, was introduced in the fifth iteration of iOS, along with the iCloud storage mechanic and iMessage: a way for iOS users to message each other when cellular service wasn’t available.
iOS 7, and the sensor built into the iPhone 5S, brought TouchID, which allows iOS owners to use a fingerprint to unlock their device and verify identity to other apps, including the App Store. It was also with iOS 7 that Apple changed their Design from a rounded, glossy look to a more flat design.
One of the biggest “Pros” to iOS for Students is the high level of integration and so-called “native” syncing capabilities – meaning that the devices talk to each other at the base level of the operating system. What this provides for the average student is the ability to work on a project on one device and seamlessly transition to another device to continue.
iOS, being the first consumer friendly smartphone operating system, also holds an advantage in adoption rates across various mediums. Many student-centric or at least student-useful apps are exclusive to iOS.
A great example of this is the app Acompli. It’s an email client, calendar app, and more rolled into one big ball. Writing for The Verge, a very popular tech-blog, Casey Newton wrote of Acompli: “Acompli’s design encourages you to start thinking of your iPhone as a workstation in its own right. There’s something highly satisfying about responding to an emailed request for a meeting with a couple of taps.”
It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction for students who are looking to shed the bonds of laptops and desktops and move to an exclusively mobile lifestyle.
Another exclusive to the iOS sphere is Apple’s own suite of productivity apps, available for free through the App Store. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are Apple’s answer (and replacement of) Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Included free with every MacOS and iOS product, these apps mean you don’t have to worry about picking up a copy of Microsoft’s own software, and that’s more money in your pocket.
Another pro for iOS is the continuity of the interface. Whether you’re using an iPhone, an iPod Touch, or an iPad, your experience is going to be as close to identical on each of the devices as you can get. Even Apple’s desktop and laptop operating system (MacOS) has moved toward the same design standard as their mobile offerings.
A unified interface means less time figuring out how to do things on each device – or trying to remember which device does things which way – and more time working on papers, homework, and research. Apple even has a developer’s style guide for iOS, further ensuring that everyone gets a similar experience no matter what they’re doing with their mobile devices.
iOS isn’t, however, without its drawbacks.
While the operating system and interface have come a long way since their inception, it is still relatively restrictive in what it allows you to do with your device. Customization – such as organization of your homescreens on mobile devices – is still far behind other options. You’re relegated to organizing your grid of icons into neat rows and columns, rather than setting up an experience that might be faster to navigate.
And it doesn’t just extend to visual customization. As I’ll show in later posts, other operating systems allow you to set default apps, that is apps that are automatically delegated the task of opening specific types of files and links. If the app that comes with the device isn’t up to my standards, I’m able to download a replacement and make it my default.
Here’s a simple example: if I don’t like the way that Apple PDF opens files, I can download Adobe PDF and set it as my default. Whenever I click a PDF, Adobe automatically loads rather than Apple PDF. On iOS, this isn’t an option.
A second drawback to iOS is a simple matter of cost. With few exceptions, Apple products are more expensive. For a college student, that’s a problem. On the desktop and laptop side of things, this increased cost is offset by longevity and reliability, but in the rapidly evolving mobile space, devices are not going to relevant for long enough to justify the expense.
iPads, clocking in at a minimum of roughly $500 (compared to roughly $300 for a competing operating system) for a current generation model, will last 2-3 years before they start to suffer from age, and will be supported for maybe 4 before they are no longer capable of supporting the newest updates.
The Wrap Up
iOS has many benefits and a few not-insignificant drawbacks. It’s a great operating system and has come a long way since it’s launch, making it a contender for college students in search of mobile technology to streamline their lives. Continue reading