Sunday, September 25, 2011
With the release of the iPhone 5 and iOS 5 (Apple’s mobile operating system) likely within the next few weeks, I thought it would be helpful to preview some new features that will be of interest to legal writing professors who use iPhones and iPads. In addition to being the operating system for the iPhone 5, iOS 5 will be available as an upgrade to the current operating systems on Apple devices including the iPhone 4 and both versions of the iPad. The official release date is still under wraps, but Al Gore (a member of Apple’s board of directors) let October slip as a potential release date for the iPhone 5. Presumably, Apple will release iOS 5 on or near the date that it releases the new iPhone. So professors using one of these devices will have the benefit of iOS 5’s features in the near future.
iCloud Rollout and Integration
Apple is expected to rollout iCloud, its cloud computing service for home and business users, at or near the same time it releases iOS 5. This service will make it easier for legal writing professors to go paperless and have easy access to all class materials from any device, anywhere. The term “cloud computing” refers generally to storing user content (like word files, photos, or music files) or running applications from remote web servers. The key benefit of cloud computing is having your documents available from any device, anytime without having to physically “sync” your devices. Some iCloud features have been available for a few months, including some cloud-based music storage features.
But iOS 5 and iCloud should hopefully make document synchronization between Apple devices available. Currently, great third-party apps like Dropbox are filling the gap, but iCloud should make your documents instantly available on every device without the extra app. This means that if you run a paperless class, you will have access to your handouts, PowerPoint presentations, and students’ work from any network connected device. If you make comments on your students’ drafts on a Mac or PC in Word, you can make the drafts and your comments available on your iPad or iPhone for student conferences or for your own review without physically syncing the devices.
iOS 5 will deliver SMS/text style messaging to all of your iOS 5 devices through a feature called iMessage. You can even group message (a feature that has long been lacking with standard text messaging). iMessages will not count against your text message bill because they are sent through the internet, not your wireless provider. This tool has great potential to aid student communication through group chat, but unfortunately it appears to only support messaging between Apple devices. Many students do not have an iPhone or iPad. I hope Apple (or a third-party developer?) finds a way to bridge this gap so that I can have group chats about class topics with students via iMessage.
Adding a built-in task list to the iPhone/iPad is a major improvement that needed to happen years ago. Apple is making it happen with a new feature called Reminders. This new feature will allow users to manage to-do lists and sync wirelessly with both Outlook and iCal. iPhone/iPad task lists will benefit legal writing professors and anyone else who relies on electronic calendaring.
Finally!! iPhone/iPad users will be able to format email using italic, bold, and underlined font. For legal writing professors who answer citation questions via email, this feature will liberate you from your laptop and allow you to send properly formatted citations from your mobile device.
Apple is rolling out a number of other features that may not be directly relevant to legal writing but are cool nonetheless. Improved Twitter functionality, camera features, calendar views, and news reading capabilities are among the features iOS users can expect.
Who knows the specific date Apple will make iOS 5 available. When it does, you can upgrade your compatible device for free by synching with iTunes on your desktop or laptop.