iOS 5 Feature Roundup

 

As Apple announced last week just before the new iPhone 4S launch comes the release of iOS5 today. We’re pretty amazed by all the new stuff in the next mobile OS from Apple. Seriously, there’s a ton of new things in this release, making even our “old” iPhone 4 seem like an entirely new phone. Released today, and available right now, here’s what iOS has in store for us all!

Hit the jump to see all of the great new features of iOS 5.

iOS 5 – All the Best New Features

 
Apple has announced that there are over 200 new features in iOS 5. While many are minor tweaks and improvements, the official “big” features are Notification Center, Newsstand, Reminders, integrated Twitter, an updated Safari, Camera, iMessage, and the integration of iCloud. Also, if you have the iPhone 4S, there’s Siri, the new “intelligent assistant” beta, to look forward to. Smaller but equally interesting enhancements include a better Mail app, multitasking gestures for iPad, Airplay Mirroring for iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S, improved Game Center, over the air set up, backup and sync, and new accessibility features. And that’s just the official stuff. Seriously, this is a giant boatload of stuff – we’re not sure how Apple is cramming it all into one OS.

 

Siri

 

While not available on any devices other than the iPhone 4S, Siri could be the most impressive new feature. Siri lets you speak commands and hear back verbal responses from your iPhone 4S. Think of it as a sort of digital personal assistant. Take a look at the intro video from Apple for details on some of the things you can do with Siri.


 
But how does it work in real life? The video below from Stuff.tv gives some better examples of how Siri will look like in real life use.

 

Notification Center

Next up, Notification Center. This is a feature that looks to be ripped straight from the Android operating system, with all notifications, previously showing up as badges, being sent to a single screen, available with a tap swipe from the top of the device screen. The default settings show the weather and stock widgets, which can be turned on or off in the Settings app. Other apps can be turned off or on, set to show up to 10 recent notifications, or show either as a top banner or alert badge. The badge app icon can be set off or on, as can the option to view in the lock screen. In my weeks of using iOS 5 beta, I’ve found this to be the most useful and intuitive of all the changes made. Notification badges no longer interrupt other activities, and they’re always available at the swipe of a finger. I’ve turned on more notifications for more apps than I ever did in iOS 4 for this reason alone.

 

Newsstand

 

Newsstand is basically iBooks for magazine and newspaper apps, allowing users to see all their subscriptions in one place. New issues download in the background. The app store will have its own section for magazines and newspapers, as well. Time will tell if this feature will take off, but the larger format of the iPad alone may make this feature worthwhile.

 

Reminders

 

Reminders combines both to-do list and location awareness functionality in one single app. Users can create reminders on the fly, adding both due dates and locations. Reminders is location aware, so will be able to shoot out a reminder when a task is due in a specific location, using a geo-fence – basically setting a radius around a specific GPS location and using it to trigger reminders when entering or leaving that area. Get to the store, and an alert will pop up reminding users to grab milk, eggs and butter. Of course, location services will need to be enabled for this to work. Reminders works with iCal, Outlook and iCloud, so that any changes made on any device and calendar will be pushed to all the other devices connected.

 

iMessage

 

iMessage is an entirely new messaging service for iOS 5 users, allowing them to send unlimited text messages, via WiFi or 3G data connections, to anyone with an iOS enabled iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. The messages can include text, photos, videos, locations and contacts – much like the current messages app. The real revolution here is the ability to include non iPhone users in the conversation, and the cross device conversations: start a messaging thread on an iPhone, and pick right back up on an iPad. This brings text messaging to the core iOS system for all devices – my kids can now text me from their iPod touch (as long as they have a WiFi signal), letting me avoid an actual texting phone contract for just a bit longer.

 

Twitter

 

Twitter is now integrated directly into the operating system, accessible from Safari, Photos, Camera, YouTube, or Maps. I was surprised to not see a similar functionality for Facebook, since that’s also a common sharing destination, but perhaps that will show up in a future patch – I can’t think of any other reason not to do it but licensing. The addition of easy social networking makes my iOS device even more useful as a computer replacement, allowing me to tweet links, photos, and map locations much more easily than I could with the Twitter client for iOS.

 

Camera & Photos

 

The Camera app is revamped as well, showing up in the lock screen to let users shoot a quick photo without having to type in a passcode. For the security conscious, this does not let unauthorized users access any data. Even the camera roll that is accessible through this method will only include the photos taken in that specific session. As soon as the home button is pressed, or any other app is accessed, the passcode lock screen shows up. Quick access to the camera is essential in our increasingly mobile world, and this is a fantastic step in the right direction. In addition, the volume up button can now officially be used to snap the photo. It’s about time, Apple! I’m sure we’ve all missed a shot or four just due to the lock screen issue alone. This is a fantastic – and overdue – improvement. If users have Photo Stream enabled in iCloud, the photos will automatically download to all other iCloud enabled devices.

Photos is also improved, with the aforementioned iCloud ability, auto-enhance, and an automatic red-eye removal available. Basic editing like crop and rotate are there, as is album organizing, all right on the iOS device. I’d imagine future iOS photographers snapping pictures on their iPhone, having iCloud send them to an iPad, and using the large, luxurious screen to edit and publish the photos. What a world, what a world.

 

Safari

 

What’s new with mobile Safari? Well, tabs are available for iPad users, for one thing. Safari Reader re-displays web pages without ads or other website clutter to allow a more streamlined reading experience. There’s a built in instapaper-type function, called Reading List, that saves articles to read later. iCloud gets in the game here, as well, updating bookmark lists across devices. Reader has transformed my use of mobile Safari on my iPhone 4, making websites with tons of clutter and itty bitty columns of text a thing of the past. I’m reading more website content on the iPhone with this new functionality, bound to be a sleeper hit of the OS.

 

Mail

 

Mail allows more formatting options, indenting, drag and drop addressing, message flagging and searching within the body of messages. Apple is also bringing back free email accounts via iCloud, keeping it up to date on all iOS 5 enabled devices. Calendar adds a year view on iPad and a week view to smaller devices like iPhone and iPod touch. Users can now tap to add events, a la Google Calendar, and change calendar details directly from the iCal app. iCloud (again) allows easier calendar sharing and syncing across family, friends and devices. While many of us have moved to Google calendar for this sort of syncing, this could be a viable option for folks that haven’t.

 

Game Center

 

Game Center now includes profile pictures, friend recommendations and new player discovery right in the app. Adding AirPlay mirroring is a gamer’s (and game developer’s) dream, letting users mirror their entire iPad screen to a HDTV or LCD projector via HDMI. Imagine Real Racing HD on the big screen, no wires in sight. The console makers need to worry, and worry now. Business users that present on the iPad now have one less reason to carry a laptop, as well.

 

PC-Free

 

The PC-free future is upon us! Users can now sync their devices via Wifi, never again being a slave to the cord. In fact, this wireless capability extends to setting up devices as well. No longer will we see the dreaded “connect to iTunes” screen, hindering many users without a newer computer from setting up their iOS device. The iPad gets new multitasking gestures, allowing us to use four and five finger gestures (that just sounds dirty) to access the multitasking bar, return to the home screen, and switch between apps.

Another big part of the PC-free future is iCloud. iCloud is the name of a group of features for iOS that allow you to sync and access information from anywhere on your iOS device. We’ll have more coming up soon on iCloud. For now, here’s a little intro video that gives more details.

 

Accessibility

 

Accessibility gets even better with more connections available for hardware devices, custom LED flash and vibration settings for vision and hearing accessibility, and improvements to VoiceOVer. Apple continues to lead the way in systemic accessibility for people with mobility, hearing, vision and cognitive disabilities.

 

How to Upgrade to iOS5

 

First, note that iOS5 is only available for the iPhone 3GS and newer, the third generation iPod touch or newer, and any iPad. The update is rolling out now. You should be able to connect your iOS device to your computer, fire up iTunes, and click Check for Update. That will check your device for compatibility and download and install the latest version of the iOS, 5.0.

And that brings us to one of the last features of iOS5 — over the air updates. This will be the last time you will need to connect your iOS device to your computer to update. After this, you’ll be able to update all on the device. Untethered updates. So much easier.

 

Summary

 

That’s it, as if that weren’t enough. Apple has really brought the new features in this iOS. Take a look at the video below for more on iOS5 and how all these new features work together.

iOS 5 is paving the way for a future without desktop boxes, enabling more functionality with a better and more intuitive user interface. Apple’s mobile operating system simply continues to improve by leaps and bounds. With the OS extending across iPod touches, iPhones and iPads, users can count on an integrated experience matched by none. iOS 5 will be released today, October 12, and will be able to be used by the majority of iOS device users.

Let us know what you think of iOS 5 on your device. We think it’s a pretty huge leap forward for users and have been enjoying using it these past few months. We’re thrilled and hope you are, too!

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