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Tip 3: Consider Accompli for Mail
Anyone that left iOS for Android in recent years will be pleased to know that search in Mail does work reasonably well now. For Gmail users, it's therefore not as necessary to install the Gmail app just to find an email that's not stored locally.
But there are notable limitations to Mail on iOS. Unlike the native Android Mail app, Mail on iOS cannot attach files to an email. To send photos for example, the user must go to the Camera app, select forward, pick a photo and then choose Mail. It's minor but annoying obstacle to do something that's standard on desktop and on Android.
Fortunately, Acompli, a relatively new email app for iOS, will let you send locally stored attachments from within the app, in addition files that have been recently sent or received.
While adopting Android's more visual approach to email, the app also borrows from the iOS Mail app's archive action, using a swipe left action to bring up delete or archive email.
The app includes an easy way to send a contact your calendar availability or a map of your current location, as well as manage your calendar through the app, cutting out the need to go back and forth between the Mail and the Calendar app. And it's free.
The one downside is the lack of control over notifications. Every single email, no matter how unimportant, will deliver an alert. Notifications for the native iOS Mail app can be limited to people from contacts that are selected as VIP.
iOS 8 brings a number of improvements to the Mail app though, including a new VIP feature that notifies the user when they receive an important reply. The user simply taps 'Notify Me' to activate an alert for incoming messages on a particular thread.
The new Mail app also adds the ability to mark messages as read or unread or to flag them for follow-up with a swipe to the left or right. Swipe actions can also be customised.
Tip 4: How to restrict access
Android tablet owners can create multiple user profiles on one tablet, useful for controlling what apps children have access to, or to limit access when providing the device to someone else in a work environment.
iOS handles restricted access differently. Dealing with the kids first, iOS does allow the owner to set password-based restrictions in Settings —> General —> Restrictions, which can be enabled for in-app purchases, iTunes Store, installing apps, and Siri among others. Setting up restrictions in this way should address most of the app-related control issues parents face.
When you want to limit the device to just giving access to a single app, there's also Guided Access. It's found in Settings —> General —> Accessibility and sits beneath the title 'Learning'. After the owner enables Guided Access and creates a passcode, they can select the app they want the device restricted to by opening it and (with prompts) triple-pressing the Home button. The device then operates as if it only has one app and requires knowledge of the passcode to leave the designated app.
Image: Liam Tung
Tip 5: The walled garden is beginning to open up
The list of sharing options above would be a surprise to iOS owners who haven't used Android before. As the latter camp know, sharing links and content from an app with just about any other relevant app is one click away.
In iOS it hasn't been possible to send a tweet to Pocket or, for example, open a foreign language tweet in Google Translate. Even Twitter, a prioritised third-party app, has been limited to four actions: report tweet, mail tweet, copy link to tweet, and send to Reading List (a feature in Safari).
Developers thought Apple might enable better sharing in iOS 7 but it instead yanked what limited sharing was available, leaving iOS developers and users constrained by the lockdown.
Again, iOS 8 will finally open up its closed garden just enough to make iOS interesting again for users that had deserted the platform.
The new app data sharing is a part of iOS 8's new extension system, which should allow iOS users to do basically what Android users have been doing for some time.
But, with an eye on the home automation and health apps tied to the iPhone and possibly its long-rumoured companion iWatch, Apple has also introduced new frameworks to handle data sharing in these emerging areas of tech.
Using iOS 8's Health Kit, developers can build apps that will be notified when, for example, the user takes their blood pressure or if their blood pressure becomes too high. The Home Kit meanwhile opens the door for apps to discover and control networked devices in the home.
The other door Apple has opened up is its Touch ID fingerprint authentication system, which so far is more usable than rival systems. Owners of iPhone 5S and later will be able to open not just the device, but unlock apps with their fingerprints too. That it is now open to apps should help reduce the reliance on passwords. Some developers, such as the makers of password manager app 1Password, have already put that access to good use.
Image: Liam Tung