iOS 5: What's new?

With iOS 5 now official and headed our way for Autumn 2011, we thought it best if we broke down all the new additions to Apple's mobile operating system, so that you know what to play with when you get it.

The latest version the software has brought with it some pretty major changes that bring it up to speed with the rest of the smartphone landscape as blurted out at WWDC. With things occurring at such a rapid rate, even the biggest of iFans might have missed something. Fear not though, we at the Lint Towers have grabbed it all and made this, your easy to digest iOS 5 roundup.

New and improved notifications

After lengthy pleas from anxious fans, Apple has finally revamped the iOS notification system. Materialising in the form of a notification centre, these new notifications are aggregated into one swipe down menu from the top of the screen. Whilst things are not looking quite as slick as somefan made concept videos, the new system definitely does a lot to improve on previous iOS offerings.

In much the same way that Android operates, the drop down menu will appear briefly mid app but not obscure whatever it is you're playing/watching or doing. It's rather like Growl in Mac OSX, with notifications received slowly receding back up top. Notifications can also be erased by clicking the little x icon sitting next to them in the drop down menu.

Lock Screen Improvements

The notifications changes are also incorporated into the iOS lock screen with iOS 5. Swiping a notification will cause the relevant application to automatically open. Swipe a text message for example and the messaging app and conversation will load immediately. No dedicated widgets on the lock screen however..for that you will need Android.

Widgets

Android anyone? iOS 5's drop down notification bar will also include widgets. The usual things like stocks, weather and the like will be included. Whether or not these will be downloadable from the app store remains to be seen.

Newsstand

This app acts a bit like iBooks but for newspapers and magazines. Apple has deals with major publications to bring content to the newsstand app. New issues of newspapers and magazines that are subscribed to are automatically downloaded in the background, appearing ready to read when you want them.

Twitter

Twitter has finally got itself properly integrated into iOS. One single sign on will allow multiple apps to integrate and tweet directly onto your feed. The camera app for example has an action button which will allow you to tweet a photo directly from within the application. Locations and Safari articles can also be tweeted. Also included is an Android style contact integration with Twitter handles now added into your address book. Web pages can now also be tweeted.

Safari Reader

Safari reader is designed to drop all the various iOS gubbins off the screen, clearing up the screen and leaving just whatever it is you're reading. This makes for a much cleaner browsing experience and should be of great benefit to those who like to consume plenty of content on their iPhone or iPad. Reading List is also a new feature. It's a sort of checklist of sites that you think you should read but would prefer to catch up on later. Finally there's tabbed browsing which brings with it lightning fast switching between windows.

Reminders

Reminders can now be location sensitive, stored in lists and given specific dates. "Geofences" are used to make the reminders activate when you leave or enter a location. Keeping up Apple's infrastructure, reminders will of course sync across devices and with iCal.

Camera

The camera app has seen some major improvements with iOS 5. Perhaps one of the most useful is exposure based on the element of the shot you tap on, along with pinch to zoom from within the actual camera app itself.

Photos can be edited in-device, images taken can be cropped, have red-eye reduced, rotated and even enhanced. Apple has also finally decided to enable the volume up button as a key with which to take photos. The Cupertino based company has also made it so that it is no longer necessary to exit the lock screen to take a shot. Current pics are password protected but new photos can be added straight from your iDevices' lock screen.

Mail

Improving message formatting and composition appears to have been the order of the day here. Apple has included controllable indentation and rich text formatting. Draggable addresses, content search of entire messages and better flagging have also been added. Security fans will also like the S/MIME functionality which adds an all important level of safety (BlackBerry however probably won't).

Dictionary

Unsure of what a word means? Spelling not too good? Well, Apple has come to the rescue with iOS 5's complete Dictionary integration. Simply tap a word and pop open the dictionary definition.

PC-free

iOS 5 will be the first Apple mobile device OS that does not require a USB connection when you take things out of the box. The initial "welcome" greeting is crucial here, allowing in device setup. Better still updates are now sent out over the air and arrive in the form of delta updates, stopping big data downloads.

Calendars

Calendars can now be deleted on iOS devices directly without need to connect to the computer.

Game Centre

Recommendations are now being incorporated into Game Centre. Both friends and games can be recommended. Competition has also been included in the form of scoreboards.

iMessage

iMessage is a new unified messaging client between all iDevices. It allows the same sort of functionality you get on the iPhone on both the iPad and iPod touch. Photos, videos, contacts, text messages and group messaging. The idea is that conversations can be shared between devices, with the same messages being received on both iPhone and iPad.

Airplay

Airplay can now mirror your device directly to your TV wirelessly.

iTunes WiFi sync

At long last we can sync with iTunes without the need for that pesky USB cable. It looks like iOS is aiming to be a wholly wireless affair from now on.

Gestures

The multitasking brought in with the previous generation of iOS now has dedicated flick gestures to allow you to switch between apps without needing to double-tap that home button.

iCloud integration

Apple's cloud based syncing service has got some serious iOS integration. First up is the contact-pushing which sees any new details sent straight to the cloud and shared between all iCloud compatible devices. Similarly calendar is now shared between devices using the cloud. Apps and iBooks purchased on different devices can be 'pulled' locally onto whichever iDevice you choose directly from within the app store. Absolutely everything is backed up over WiFi including music, photos and videos, apps as well as device settings.

Documents

Pages, Keynote and Numbers now share information and saved files in the cloud. Make something on your iPhone, save it and then it can be read straight from the cloud on your iPad.

Photo Stream

Photos are kept in iCloud for 30 days after which they need to be moved to an album. Whatever you shoot on your iOS device can be then synced wirelessly to your PC or Mac. The idea as with documents is to keep everything syncing simultaneously and sharing information between all Mac devices, be they iOS or not, wirelessly and through the cloud.

iTunes

Just as with the app store, anything which has been purchased elsewhere can be dragged down onto any iOS device you choose, without costing you extra. Songs will automatically download onto any iDevice when purchased, keeping a unified song library across everything iOS powered. This could present problems for those who have different devices with different amounts of memory however Apple will undoubtedly let you control what gets sent to what. Software will also scan iTunes libraries and match it with tracks in the store meaning that which you may have ripped from CDs should in theory get pushed wirelessly from iCloud to iOS. Impressive eh?

The end

Phew! Talk about announcements aplenty. Expect things to get really exciting when iCloud launches alongside iOS 5. At the moment it doesn't look like many competitors can offer the kind of wireless device interactivity that Apple is promising. Crucially Apple has brought the basic functionality of iOS up to speed with Android and Windows Phone 7. With as major update as iOS 5 Apple has once again returned to the boxing match that is iOS v Android.

Excited about iOS 5? Or sticking to Android?...



>