About a week before WWDC I was thinking ahead to the iPhone 6 launch this fall. What I was pondering was if a larger iPhone was what I needed, or, given how much I use my iPad, if splitting the difference and getting a LTE iPad mini might be a better idea. I would get a dashboard mount for my truck, and the larger screen would be great to use when I need a GPS. Since it would have a cellular connection, I could still get my iMessages on the road. Plus, I’d get the 128GB version and just keep all my music and books on the one device; currently, my iPhone houses all the music while my iPad 3 contains my books and large media.
In the end, I dismissed the idea as hogwash. While I don’t make calls on my iPhone much, I might. I wouldn’t get my Android texts on my iOS devices. Because the iPhone was the central hub for my communications, it made more sense to upgrade that device.
Monday’s keynote may have changed my mind. During its two-hour keynote Apple announced that iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite will be about using the right device or app at the time. Using features like Continuity and iCloud Drive, it really doesn’t matter what Apple device I’m on.
Continuity is what perked my ears up. Going back to my example of the iPhone being the central hub of my communications, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed a call from a family member because my iPhone was in my office and I was on the couch with my iPad. With Continuity, now my iPad will get a notification that I have a call coming in and let me answer it. This also works on the Mac, as well.
I will also be able to get my SMS messages on all devices; not just my iMessages. Again, non-iMessage messages used to be isolated to my phone as well; now, those too will also go to my iPad or Mac. This alone has me thinking that an iPad mini or Air might not a a bad idea. As long as my iPhone is in my truck, I’ll get calls on it. Messages would be handled directly on the iPad.
The notion of handoffs, where you can start working on a document, email, text message, etc. on one device and continue working on it on another, is intriguing. On the one hand, I think a lot of these use cases will be handled through either iCloud if you’re using Pages, or drafts for email. The flip side though, is what if non-Apple apps like Word can support this? It would be very interesting to be working on a file on my Mac and continue working on it on an iPad in a meeting. Yeah, I know the same type of iCloud thing can occur but with OneDrive, but I think not having to remember to save might be useful. Also, I’m curious of this will work with iMessage. I think we’ve all had those moments we realized too late we didn’t hit send on a message.
Last week I wrote about my Year of the iPad, six months in. In it, I griped about the need for a central file system, but didn’t think it would ever happen:
The concern I have is since Apple really loves sandboxing and there are valid concerns over what happens if an app corrupts the file, this feature will never see the light of day.
Well, so much for what I can predict, huh? iCloud disk is pretty much a return of iDisk, especially on the Mac. While you could access your iCloud documents, sorta, by going to “Library\Mobile Documents,” it wasn’t really a recommended or supported mechanism. Now iCloud disk will show up on your sidebar. It also looks like, finally, you can nest folders.
On iOS, unfortunately there isn’t an app that shows you all the files. Instead, when you go the iCloud document picker you will be able to open them there. I’m curious how this will play out and if apps like iBooks will also be able to open PDFs from iCloud.
Still, this is a pretty big deal. Up until now, all your data was sandboxed inside that app. This meant you couldn’t open a file created in one app with another app. Take something a simple as a text file. If I use Byword to create a file, but later find a better Markdown editor, I either need to copy and paste the data or hope that the app has “Open In.” The unfortunate downside to all this is I’ll end up with two versions of the same file, or I have to remember which text editor was my editor of choice that day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve launched an old text editor and gone, oh, so that’s where that story was. Now, all my text files can be opened by any app that can handle that file type.
Almost every year I’ve had a version of this on my iOS wish list. Seeing it actually happen (along with extensions and 3rd-party keyboards) gives me tremendous hope that Apple sees iOS as a true production platform. With features like Continuity and especially iCloud disk, I’m looking forward to using the device I have at my hands, not the one I might feel forced to.
I’m still haven’t decided on a mini or iPhone 6. I need to see the screen sizes and new features in the new iPhone. My gut feeling is the decision will come down to the Health app. If the Health app is also on the iPad, the mini may win this battle