By Jaime Rivera | December 28, 2011 3:00 PM
Whether the gift-wrap is off, or you simply strolled into an Apple Store on Christmas day, your iOS device is here. We know you decided to wait a while and see if it was really worth purchasing one in the first place, and as results show so far, Apple’s current line-up of iOS devices is worth every penny.
Now, with all that hype regarding all the new features included on iOS 5, or the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of apps on Apple’s App Store, you’d wonder where to begin. While we know some of you have owned iOS devices for some time and already know your way around, we also know there are some of you who have just unwrapped your first Smartphone. Here’s a list of five different things we’d recommend you start with immediately:
1. Set-up iCloud
Let’s face it, the future of both desktop and mobile computing lies in the cloud. As data speeds continue to improve, rates become somewhat cheaper, and storage media more demanding, there comes a point where you just don’t want to compromise what to carry and what to leave behind on your phone. Apple hit a homerun with their recent offering of iCloud for the incredible price of free.
If you own more than one iOS device, a Mac or even a Windows PC, iCloud will give you a free option to sync your Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Safari Bookmarks, Notes, Documents and even your Photos. The great thing about this feature is that everything is pushed around your devices, which is ideal if you want your battery life to remain at its best.
It also includes a cool feature called Find My iPhone, which allows you to track your lost phone, or even to make it play a sound on vibrate if you’re sure it could be somewhere under the bed. You can remotely lock your device and even send the finder a message of how to contact you, so that the guy doesn’t become a keeper.
Last but not least, you can activate a @me.com email address. Just like all your PIM data, anything that falls on your me.com email address is pushed to your device. In my case in particular, I’ve chose to forward all my email accounts to iCloud in order to have all my mail pushed more efficiently to my devices.
2. Back up your device
Speaking of iCloud, Apple offers two ways for you to back-up your devices. You can either do it through your computer, or use iCloud. Syncing to your computer will definitely be faster, but if you own a portable computer, that most likely won’t be the safest place to keep your data. Another very important thing to consider is that iOS back-ups can take a very large toll on your hard-drive. I currently own a 32GB iPhone and iPad, and my back-up size ended up being 30GB at some point.
What’s cool about using iCloud is that Apple approaches that backup differently. Your apps aren’t stored as part of that backup. It’ll do a progressive backup every time your device is being charged and connected to Wi-Fi. If you choose to restore your device from any previous back up, it’ll load the apps from the App Store first, and then pull your app data from the iCloud back up. It’ll take a little longer to restore depending on your Internet connection, but at least you’re sure you can restore your device on the road if you run into any problems.
iCloud offers 5GB of storage for you to back up devices and sync your documents. You can purchase more storage space if you want, but in my personal experience, that’s not necessary. You can choose to selectively remove back up data from games and other non-crucial things and keep things tightly and free.
3. Load your device with Apps
What separates any iPhone from a productive one is your selection of apps. Probably one of the reasons why iOS has become such a game changer in how fast customers have adopted a smartphone is Apple’s App Store. There’s virtually no limit as to what apps will allow you to do with your device, and that list continues to grow by the minute. Even though your device’s mobile browser is far superior to many competitors, it’s never as efficient in allowing you to get things done as apps do. Surely you can browse your Facebook, Twitter and email accounts on your mobile browser, but you can’t upload photos or get notifications from a browser.
Apple has revolutionized your ability to interact with your device through apps. You no longer have to worry about checking your bank account information on their website since most of these banks offer apps that’ll keep you up to speed with your account changes through notifications. Apps like Instagram will allow you to turn any typical photo into a masterpiece. Games like Infinity Blade will make you wonder if it’s ever a good idea to spend money on a portable game console when your iPhone can do a decent job in providing you with that same gaming experience.
Sadly one of my biggest complaints with Apple’s App Store is the lack of a wish list. There are lots of apps that are free, as cheap as a Dollar, or some that aren’t so cheap. The good thing is that this holiday season is always a great time to find deals on lots of games. Write down all those apps that you’d love to have, but don’t feel worthy of the current price tag. Come back later during the year and you’ll most probably find it on sale at some point.
If you’re also planning on having an iPad join forces with your current iPhone, remember there are always universal apps that work on both devices. All you have to do is look out for the “+” sign on the price tag of any app, and you’ll know it works on both devices.
Last but not least, go to Settings/Store and make sure you activate automatic downloads for Music, Apps and Books. It’s awesome to see how fast Apple pushes apps across your devices without you needing to sync the new apps or music you’ve just purchased. You’ll find this same feature in Preferences/Store within any Mac or PC.
4. Get the Emoji Keyboard
If you’re planning on doing a lot of texting, you’ll be disappointed on the fact that none of the iOS variants of any app that provides service for a chat system like AIM include emoticons. It’s probably just another one of those unsolved mysteries as to why Apple has chosen to scrape their apps from this feature, and it can be quite dull to try to chat with somebody without any way to express what you mean through smilies.
Lucky for us, Emoji is an app that will create a separate virtual keyboard full of all the smilies you need. All you have to do is download any of the free Emoji variants from the App Store, launch it, and later go into Settings/General/Keyboard/International Keyboards/ and search “Emoji” within the keyboard options. You’ll later notice that your iOS keyboard now includes a little globe icon beside the spacebar. Just hit the globe icon and you’ll now see Emoji’s icons in different categories for you to choose from. Surely this solution doesn’t beat the ease Apple could provide if they allowed smilies to work, but at least you get a quick and easy solution to get it done.
If you have more than one international keyboard, I’d personally recommend that you tap and hold that globe icon instead of pressing it more than once. This will give you a separate window to jump on any of the keyboards that you need instead of cycling through the list.
5. Consider iTunes Match
Along with iCloud, Apple also launched a new service called iTunes Match for $25 a year. What it does is skim through your iTunes library and replace any of your ripped music for a fresh 256 Kbps version of that same song from Apple’s iTunes Store. It’ll upload any music it can’t find on the store for you to have on your iTunes match account.
Now you’ll ask why is it worth it? Well, the price difference between a free 8GB iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and a 16GB iPhone 4S is $100 or even $200. If you chose to go for a 32GB iPhone 4S or even the 64GB device, your wallet could take a dramatic hit. iTunes Match offers the beauty of keeping all of your music library on iCloud. You can stream your music to your device, or selectively download your favorite music, and keep all the other music you don’t care much about anymore in the cloud available for streaming. It would take you four years to match the price you’d have to spend for more storage on any higher-capacity iPhone or iPad. Obviously as apps get larger in storage requirements, having a higher capacity iPhone makes sense, but iTunes Match is a great way to get music out of that storage capacity need.
Another really cool reason to consider iTunes Match is the fact that you won’t need to sync your music across all your devices anymore. Just have one computer become your primary iTunes Match source, and then activate the feature across the rest of your devices to keep them up to date.
And the list goes on. There are tons of things you can start doing with your new iOS device starting today, but we hope this list of five helps you gets started.