It’s a couple of months since the unveiling of iOS 5 at WWDC 2011. iOS 5 beta 5 ahs been made available for all developers to preview and every now and then a new feature surfaces. We already know that there are about 200 new features that will make their debut in this new software version for Apple devices and although we can list them all, we thought we’d focus on the ones that we considered to be of true value above the rest of the goodies coming our way. Take a closer look.
1 – iMessage
This is Apple’s all-in-one messaging service for text messages, photos, videos or contact information for anyone on an iOS 5 device over Wi-Fi or 3G. Sounds familiar? Yes. It’s Apple’s answer to BBM. This means users will be able to message each other with attachments and also send group messages. They will be able to track messages, see when the other group member is typing, or pick up the conversation from another iOS device. So, like FaceTime, iMessage can work with your phone number as well as your e-mail address making it available on the iPad and iPod Touch. Of course, this is restricted to just iOS devices.
2 – iCloud
Steve Jobs’s in his keynote at WWDC said, “A lot of people think the cloud is just a hard drive in the sky. We think it’s way more than that.” So let’s see the three reasons why and how it’s different. iCloud is more push than pull. Most cloud computing services pull content up rather than push it down or around. With iCloud the difference is this: Most existing cloud services require manual processes for uploading or downloading content. iCloud does most of this work automatically, and it's designed to push content to devices rather than hold it in the cloud. Secondly, iCloud fundamentally is a synchronization service. Though iCloud is likely to look like an online storage service like Dropbox, it's not just that. Storage is available to facilitate syncing across multiple devices. Other services primarily sync to the cloud, while Apple's service uses the cloud to sync content among devices.
It's all online now
Thirdly, with iCloud, soon-to-be-axed MobileMe is free, and there is 5GB storage available. But Apple doesn't count purchased apps, eBooks or music and photos against the storage capacity. Why? Because, iCloud is not a storage service – it's about syncing. Should you wish to purchase more space you can for $20/year for an additional 10GB, $40/year for 20GB and $100/year for 50GB.
3 – PC-free
When Scott Forstall announced at WWDC 2011 that the next iOS version will be PC-free the crowd seemed quite pleased. So what does PC-Free mean? With iOS 5, you’ll no longer need to sync your device to a Mac or PC during its initial setup, or during software updates; you can handle all of those actions from the device itself. And when you combine another service like iCloud, you can now use any of the iOS devices as a stand-alone device – which means now you can buy an iPad 2 and it will serve as the primary device, without being dependent on a Mac or a PC.
No more iTunes for upadtes
4 – Notifications
Sure this is already available on other mobile platforms but Apple takes it further with iOS 5. At present, new alerts pop up in a dialog box that interrupts you between game play, watching videos et al. And if you have multiple alerts, it’s just too cumbersome to navigate through those various alerts. Notification Center provides iOS 5 users with an innovative way to easily access all notifications â€• text messages, missed calls, calendar alerts, app alerts and more – all in one place from anywhere in iOS 5. When they arrive, notifications appear briefly at the top of the screen in a banner form without interrupting what you’re doing. With one swipe you can see all your notifications, and a simple tap will take you right to its app for more detail, very Android-like. Notifications also appear on the lock screen, with the ability to be taken to the notifying app with a swipe. You can also configure notifications by individual apps.
Quite familiar isn't it?
5 – Twitter Integration
On an iOS 5-powered device, you will now have a Twitter option in the settings. Selecting this option will allow you to do three things; install the official Twitter app, enter your Twitter credentials to enable integration and finally synchronize Twitter handles with contacts on your phone. By default, Twitter is enabled in Safari, Photos, Camera, YouTube, and Maps and you won’t need a separate client if you want to tweet your location, share a photo, video or a webpage. Basically, tweeting becomes seamless with iOS 5. Also a “Find Me by Email” option allows people to follow you by searching for your email with the “Tweet Location” slider, tagging your tweets with geo-located data when you tweet from your device.
Android goes FB, iOS goes Tweet Tweet
6 – iPad keyboard enhancements
Now you can split the keyboard into two by just using a natural tap and spread gesture, and you’ll end up with roughly half of the keyboard on the left, and roughly half on the right. To put it back together you can use fingers again to tap and push it back together, or you can tap and hold on the Hide Keyboard key and choose Dock and Merge. That will merge the keyboard back together and place it back down at the bottom of the page, in its ‘docked’ position. On the iPad the keyboard can also be moved up and down on the screen. To do this you just tap and hold the Hide Keyboard key and drag it to where you’d like it placed. You can move the keyboard around when it is split and even when it is merged back together.
A split keypad for faster two handed typing
7 – Home Screen Camera Launch
A new and quite handy feature that made its way to iOS 5 is the ability to launch the camera directly from the lock screen. So many times you might have missed the perfect shot because it took you too long to unlock your phone and launch the app. Well, not any more. Now you can launch the camera app by simply hitting the home button twice while on the lock screen. This will bring up the camera icon that can be launched with a single tap. Additionally you can now use the ‘Volume Up’ button as the shutter release.
No more loosing out on those spontaneous moments
8 – Mail Enhancements
We think that enhancements on Mail app are really convenient. And out of all the improvements, Rich Text Formatting is the handiest one. Why? Well, those of us who constantly reply to mails from an iOS device, it’s nice to add a personal touch by making the text bold, italic, or underlined.
Better looking emails
9 – Safari Improvements
This September iOS 5 will bring an improved web browsing experience to the iPhone and iPad users offering new features in Safari. The ones we liked best are the Reader and Reading List. Content viewed in Safari Reader is stripped of extra images, formatting and advertisements. It is presented with black text on a white background, and the font size can be quickly increased or decreased. The appearance of text in Reader is similar to iBooks. The Reading List is similar to a current iOS app, Instapaper. If you like a link, simply add it to the list for future reading. But the best part is that you'll be able to access your Reading List, from your other iOS and Mac OS X devices, as well.
10 – RemindersThe last feature (an app in this case) we think is worth mentioning is Reminders. At first look, the new iOS app ‘Reminders’ appears to be similar to 3rd party apps to tell you what you're scheduled to do and when. But the twist is that you can set reminders to be location-specific. You can set up a “geo-fence” around a location, and when you leave that area, it can provide a reminder. For example, you have set a reminder that you need to pick up grocery when you leave work. Once you've left your office, a reminder can pop up to tell you to visit the grocery store.
You'll always remeber what needs to be done
So these are the 10 features and services we felt were worth exploring. However, that’s not all. As Apple said there will be 200 plus features available for iOS 5 releasing this fall.
This is the list of features that are currently available on the Beta Version 5 of iOS 5. Well, this list could alter with the public release, but for now they have put Android, Symbian, WP7 and BlackBerry firmly on notice. So let us know what your Top 10 features are.
The full list of iOS 5 features can be downloaded here. Let us know what you'd pick as your top 10 favorites.