Delving into the world of betas on iOS.

Joys of iOS 9 on iPad

I was quite keen to have a look at the new beta of IOS 9 to see how it would work out on my iPad. I was particularly looking forward to using the News Application to see if the news channels from my websites were working. I didn’t get to see that because the application is only available in the UK and the US. My main account to use for my Apple devices is based in Spain so I saw none of that. The other thing that I wanted to have a look at was the keyboard enhancements. These worked fine in the beta of the operating system and I enjoyed the new way of working, much better than what we have at the moment. I had the iOS 9 beta software on the iPad for approximately one week and for the most part it didn’t have much affect on my usage of the device. I wanted to use some of the iPad art drawing and painting applications and experienced a few crashes as well as non-functioning of the stylus I use. I then decided I must go back to non-beta operating system software. I have to do some creative drawing and painting on the iPad from time to time. The only other problem was having to wait between five and ten seconds for Siri to start working. Even when Siri had initialised it didn’t work quite as well as previously. I love using Siri, None of these are complaints, as it was expected some of these problems would surface during this test. So I’m glad that I gave it a try, as it was the first chance to put public beta software onto the iPad. It was really easy to set up in the first place, but a little bit more difficult to return the iPad to the previous version.

Keyboard enhancements

It really baffles me and many other people to as to why Apple couldn’t have the keyboard showing lower case letters on the virtual keyboard. At the moment, all we have to show when we are going to type with uppercase is a different colour on the shift key. I can never remember the colour that it’s supposed to be showing when I’m going to get a capital letter instead of small letter. The third-party keyboards like Swift Key and Swype were able to remedy that problem quickly and easily. You have to worry why Apple just couldn’t be bothered to fix it for so many years. Finally though, with IOS 9 we will get this enhancement and it will be welcome. We still need to use the default keyboard due to the Siri dictation not being available directly from the third-party keyboards.

In iOS 9 you can use the keyboard like a trackpad to move the cursor/insertion point wherever you want it to go in your text. There are already some extra row cursor movers on keyboards in certain applications allowing you to move the cursor either left or right in the text. One such application having this extra facility is Editorial Text Editor. You can’t move your cursor up and down, just left and right. I found using the trackpad like facilities on the keyboard in iOS 9 to be very useful and I’ll be looking forward to having proper use of that when the finished version of the OS is available in September. The other thing you can do with this trackpad function is to select text and I have to say that it does work very nicely indeed once you get used to it.

Slide the second iOS application over

iOS productivity

This is the other big update to the iOS operating system. Using more than one application on screen at the same time is going to be useful for many people. At the moment there are a selection of Apple applications you can use with this new function. So you can drag from the right side of your screen and bring in a list of applications available for use. You’ll be able to use Safari, Contacts, Notes Application and a couple of others. When you drag across first of all, you have about a third of the screen and it is easy to switch from the main application to the other. You may also drag the dividing line between the two applications across to the centre of the screen to give both applications equal amount of space. It’s going to be useful to make notes on one side while looking at a webpage on the other side. There will be enhanced productivity on iPad whenever you can use the information from one side in an application to help you work in another. It’s going to take a little bit of time to get used to having this available and to embed this new way of working into our iPad workflows.

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iOS9 split screen

Changing back to iOS 8.4

One of the reasons for recommending ordinary users don’t try out beta software is the fact it is difficult to return to a previous version of iOS. I was able to do it, but it did take some time and there was a little bit of head scratching along the way too. Admittedly, part of my difficulties came from the Apple server giving some problems to users such as when I wanted the software update to be verified by the server. My first three times to download the software from within iTunes didn’t work at all and it may have been down to problems with my Internet connection. So to get round that I used an application called iGetter and I was able to download the operating system from a good source. Trouble is, for some reason or other the Apple server wouldn’t verify it when I tried to update from it. It may have been due to the server problems Apple was experiencing. So I ended up downloading it again, but this time from within iTunes and I got away with it!

It took me too or three goes to get the restoration to 8.4 iOS to work. It must have taken most of the evening with the downloading and doing the restoration of the software. It did take quite some time to get the operating system software onto the iPad and I wasn’t finished there. The next job was to restore from the backup I did before the upgrade. In order to do that I needed to go to the folder on my Mac where the backups are kept, in the Library folder. I had to delete the backup made during the time with iOS 9. I have a lot of applications installed on my iPad so there was more waiting time. The last task to complete was to go through my applications that were either bought or installed during the week and to reinstall them.

Was it worth it?

The answer is probably yes and no! I did like seeing first-hand one or two of the new things. In particular it helped me understand how the keyboard trackpad selection of text worked. It was worth doing in terms of the exercise of doing an upgrade like this and following it with a downgrade. Taking into account the amount of time it took to get things back the way they were, overall it would have been better not to have done it. There were too many things that didn’t work properly and if it had only been one or two things I could have stuck with iOS 9. The acknowledged wisdom is that the average user should not try out beta software, especially if it is a beta of the operating system. So as a non-average user I’m glad I did it for the experience. Something for me to write about and to take the bullet on your behalf. Life’s little challenges.
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