This review will go over numerous new features of iOS 5.
edit: whoops, we jumped the gun a bit on the release. will be released shortly (usually at 1PM EST, 10AM PST). Our apologies on the early posting! The review still is solid, though.
Perhaps one of the most underappreciated and misconstrued features of iOS 5 will be iCloud. iCloud is Apple’s response to being able to store media away from your device while still having admittance to it from your device. iCloud is fundamentally a server on Apple’s end that holds your information so that you can access it on the go from any of your devices, that includes PC’s and Macs.
iCloud will permit you to store your Mail accounts, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Safari Bookmarks, Notes, Photos in Photo Stream, and iWork Documents. iCloud offers 5GB of storage for free, 15GB of storage for $20/year, 25GB of storage for $40/year, and 55GB of storage for $100/year. These prices are on par, if not somewhat cheap for a lot of its competition. But, aside from storing data, (because that’s boring), iCloud does a lot more.
iCloud is also your iDevice restore center. If you plan on taking advantage of iOS 5’s PC-Free option (explained below) then iCloud will allow you to back up all of your iDevices on iCloud instead of using iTunes to make backups. This means that you can restore your devices from iCloud backups. These backups will eat into your data space.
To begin, the app that we all know and love Find My iPhone is now fully controlled by iCloud. iCloud has taken the stage away from MobileMe and now all MobileMe services are on iCloud. Given this tidbit of information, Find My iPod and Find My iPad also work off of the iCloud service. A newfangled feature, Find My Mac, will now allow you to see your Mac on a Google Map from your iDevice running iOS 5 as well – thanks to iCloud being integrated into Mac OS X Lion 10.7.2.
Alternatively, the new Application Find My Friends will permit you to use iCloud to discover the location of any of your family or friends that are choosing to share their location with you. Say, for instance, you are at Disney World with your family and you choose to take your son on one ride while your wife takes your daughter to another side of the park to gaze at animals. Well, using this app, you will be able to see where on a Google Map your family is so that you can find them more easily. Don’t worry; you can turn off the location services on demand. The Apple police won’t pursue you.
As an added bonus, imagine taking a photo on one device and it suddenly becomes available on all of them. It is usually a very annoying hassle to get photos to your computer from your iPhone. Either you have to tether it up with the USB cable and drag it over, or you have to Email it to yourself and bother with signing into your Email on your computer and then saving it. With iCloud, when you take a photo on your iDevice, the photo will automatically appear in your Pictures folder on your PC or your Mac. This means easy and fast access to all of your photos for editing and sharing. This is called Photo Stream, and iCloud will push up to 1,000 streamed photos at a time to all of your devices. You have a choice from Settings>iCloud as to which devices will have access to the photo stream, so you don't have to worry about unwanted eyes seeing your precious photographs.
Notification center is a widget-based system that can be accessed by pulling down on your status bar. It encompasses pre-installed widgets that show you the stocks of your chosen stocks in the stocks app (swipe left or right to view or just watch as they pan through) and the weather widget uses your current location to give you a weather summary and a 6-day forecast (swipe to the right or left). Along with widgets, all of your notifications will appear here. As revealed in the image above – any text messages, Facebook notifications, Words With Friends moves, and notifications of this nature will appear there too with a small preview of what the notification is about.
As well as the widget pull-down menu, the lock screen acquires a major renovation too. Now, instead of those annoying blue popups, you get an elegant Lock-Info style notification feed on your lock screen. To act on one of your notifications, you can slide the small app icon to the right and the iPhone will unlock and present the app, which you had the notification in. At the same time, you also could have unlocked the iPhone and pulled down the notification center and opened the app from there, too.
The last and greatest feature of the new notifications in iOS 5, is that no longer will you get an annoying blue popup in the middle of your screen when you’re playing an important game. Instead, a banner will flip up at the top of your screen, leaving the screen accessible for you to play your game without having to pause at an imperative part. Imagine being in the middle of a game of fruit ninja and getting a text message. It used to be that the game would pause and the popup would appear, breaking your concentration. Now, instead of breaking your concentration, you can leave the text alone and finish your sixty-second game before replying to the message. Now of course – what would innovation be if it didn't give you the alternative to go old school if you didn't like it? That's right folks. You can go into the Settings app and switch back to iOS 4 popup notifications if you prefer them. I have a feeling however, that the iOS 5 notifications will catch on faster.
Another astounding new feature of iOS 5 encompasses iMessage. iMessage is a text messaging system that works among iOS devices. In other words, you can text your friend’s iPod touch from your iPhone. Or you can text your friend’s iPad from your iPod touch. It works in any mishmash of the three. The iPhone will still be able to text other phones as usual, and the iPad and iPod touch cannot use iMessage to text any phone other than an iPhone. iMessage works over any Wi-Fi or cellular network and can send both text messages and picture/video messages. You can also commence a text message on one device and pick up on another. Imagine commencing a text message on your iPod touch and then your mom calls you into the living room to vacuum the carpet – well you just happen to see an iPad laying there, so you can pick it up and finish your text message before you begin vacuuming. iMessage is worked seamlessly into the iPhone’s Messages application. iMessages blend in with your text messages. They are discernible because blue chat bubbles indicate iMessages while text messages are still indicated by the usual green chat bubbles. There are settings for iMessage that allows you to hide or show when you or a friend is typing. It will show the ellipses, "..." when either of you are typing. For privacy, you can turn this on or off depending on your mood. We are really enthusiastic about iMessage because it will bring communications to more iOS owners without any kind of monthly costs.
iOS 5 also touts a newspaper and magazine subscription service. Some are free, and some are paid, but from here you can read everything that you subscribe to. The newsstand app is comparable to a folder. When you tap on it, it will not appear as an app, it will open in a folder-like manner with an iBooks look to it. From that menu will be your newspapers and magazines on the shelves. The subscriptions that you subscribe to will update automatically if you are connected to the Internet. This means that while you are sleeping, your iDevice can automatically renew your newspapers and magazines. After doing so, a little label will emerge over the newly downloaded newspapers and magazines that reads, “New.”
Subscribing to newspapers and magazines is very laid-back. In the newsstand app there is a store button at the top right. Tapping on that transports you to an App Store-like interface where you can select companies to subscribe to. Subscribing to a magazine will make sure that that magazine is downloaded every time a fresh issue is discharged. You will be capable of accessing these new issues directly from the newsstand app at any time that you wish to.
Reminders is a new app that functions a lot like notes does. The only thing that is distinctive between Notes and reminders is that while in Notes you can jot things down, Reminders will go beyond that and furthermore send you a notification constructed on what you jot down. For instance, if you want to remind yourself in twenty minutes to take out the trash, then you can input that data into the Reminders app and it will present a push notification in twenty minutes telling you to take out the trash. Reminders works for setting daily reminders too. You can assist in reminding your kids to brush their teeth every night. Moreover, Reminders has a calendar view that lets you set Reminders throughout the entire month. This way you can plan out your doctor’s appointments and prioritize your life.
Reminders not only allows you to set notifications based on time but also based on location. You can use location services to tell Reminders to remind you to get dinner after departure from work. Now when you get into your car, Reminders will detect that you are no longer within GPS location of your workplace and it will inform you to drive to the local burger joint to grab some quick dinner for your family. Location services can be disabled – so there is no worry that Apple will be scrutinizing you. This is a very convenient feature that could replace using Notes to remind you of things. Notes doesn’t even remind you of anything, it’s so stone age!
iOS 5 has Twitter baked right into many of its features. The first thing you should do after installing iOS 5, if you have a Twitter account, is go into your settings app and under Twitter; sign in. iOS 5 will make use of your username and password every time that you tweet something from the device outside of the actual Twitter app. The Settings app will also prompt you to install the Twitter app right above where you sign in. It’s always good to install the app too, so that not only can you double check that your tweet made it to Twitter, but also so that you can read other tweets by other people that you follow.
Directly from your camera roll, you can tweet your photos and videos to Twitter by tapping the action button and then selecting, “Tweet.” A window that looks like a piece of loose-leaf paper will appear like the picture above and you will be able to add any commentary along with your media to be tweeted. It doesn't end with media. You are also able to access Twitter from the following apps: Safari, Photos, Camera, YouTube, and Maps. The Contacts app in iOS 5 even takes your friends' Twitter Handles and profile pictures and applies them to your contacts so that when you want to mention someone or @reply to someone, iOS will automatically be able to add their name to the tweet granted you begin typing their name. The Tweeting system in iOS runs very deep. You can add location to your tweets from any app that you choose to.
When Apple says that iOS 5 allows you to tweet from numerous apps, they aren't lying. You can tweet an awesome video that you find on Youtube, a special location from Maps, or even URL's from Mobile Safari. Here is an example of how tweets are composed from apps outside of your Camera roll:
As far as tweeting photos and videos is concerned; it's a straightforward process. Open up your Camera roll, find a picture you want to tweet, tap the action button > Tweet > add your comments > Send; as shown below:
The stock Camera app gets a substantial refurbishment in iOS 5. New features have been added that many of us have wanted from the beginning. The first major thing to cover is in the photo above. It used to be that when you sought to use your camera on your iPhone that you had to input any passcodes you had, then struggle with finding your Camera app on your Springboard, then finally locate and open your Camera app. This is no longer a free-for-all. When on your lock screen, you can merely double-tap your home button and a camera button will appear. Tapping that button will launch the Camera app directly from your lock screen – completely bypassing any passcodes necessary. There isn’t a need to worry about security though, immediately closing the Camera app the user will be prompted to input the passcode to enter the device. In this case, you get full controls of the camera directly from your lock screen without ever having to unlock your device. Even more beautifully; the iPhone 4S, which will be shipped with iOS 5, takes photos almost a third faster than the iPhone 4 which means point to shoot photos are now faster than ever.
Additionally, another feature that has been added to the Camera app is the ability to use the hardware volume buttons to take your photo. No longer do you have to use the touch controls. Granted, the touch control to take a photo is still there and fully utilizable, but now you have the choice between the two. This was a greatly sought after feature as it was added to Cydia for more functionality and downloaded numerous times back in the days of iOS 4.
It doesn’t stop there. The auto-focus and auto-exposure abilities of the iPhone 4’s camera have been enhanced, offering more user control than ever before. Now, instead of just tapping and letting the camera do all of the work, you can actually go into the action yourself by touching and holding a subject in the photo for a few seconds to lock the auto-focus and auto-exposure on that subject. Even while moving the camera around, the iPhone will continue to lock onto that subject. By tapping on the screen once, you can unlock the auto-focus and auto-exposure. You can still use the tap method, however the tap and hold to lock method works great for video or super clear shots.
The final major reinvigoration of the Camera app involves composing your shots. First off, you might notice right off the bat that they ‘removed the ability to zoom in.’ Well this is not the case. The new command for zooming in is to pinch in and to pinch out. Tapping on the screen will no longer bring up the zoom bar. As far as composition goes, in the ‘options’ button at the top of the Camera app, you can facilitate a new feature, which puts grid lines over your screen. The grid lines will not show up in the final photograph, however they will aid you in applying the rule of thirds to your photography. This is an extremely important composition rule for photography – with the iPhone 4S boasting an impressive 8 megapixel camera capable of macro shots, this is an important feature. In the option menu there will also be the usual HDR option. Another thing that you can do now is swipe to the right to pull up your camera roll, directly from the camera without tapping on the camera roll button near the ‘take picture/record video’ button.
The Photos app for the iPhone used to be completely inadequate. What good was it except for observing your pictures? Now, with iOS 5, it actually does something! The picture above shows the new photo editing options that are built into the Photos app. The options are rotate, auto-enhance, remove red-eye, and crop. After indicating one of the editing options and saving it, the original photo will be deleted. The iPhone will only save the recently edited version of the image.
As shown by the first image above, tapping on one of the options brings up a save button. The auto enhance is named as such because tapping it will automatically change the photo. The settings will not be adopted until you save the photo. After tapping the auto-enhance button, an auto-enhance indicator will appear in the bottom left. The second image above shows the before and after effects of auto-enhancing a photo. As shown, it corrects some lighting and makes the photo look more lively.
Above we have a before and after visual of the red-eye removal tool. Despite today's technology, we still have immense problems with red eye in photos that we take all the time. The LED flash on the back of the iPhone is very bright and will cause vast numbers of red-eye problems if the flash is enabled. With this new tool, you can simply tap on the eyes once each to remove the red-eye. Moreover, you can tap again to undo if you make a mistake. It works beautifully from experience. Parents who adore taking photos of their children during birthday parties will appreciate this new editing feature.
Last but not least, we have the ability to crop and rotate the photos we take. Now you have the ability to shrink a photo instead of zooming in and reliquishing quality in order to do away with the overwhelmingly large background compared to the subject. This is a feature that caught on in the App Store as there are many free apps that offer this functionality. It’s very nice that it’s now baked right into iOS 5. With the rotate function, you can take a screenshot in landscape mode and rotate it into portrait mode without having to crook your neck over at a 90º angle. It’s also great if you want to switch landscape orientation over to portrait orientation or vice-versa. Both of these features will probably be the most widely used amongst the new Photos app features.
Safari comes packed with another new feature entitled the reading list. Sometimes there is a time when you are trying to look something up. Imagine that you find precisely what you are looking for – however the bell for next class rings, or the traffic light turns green. Reading list makes it so that you can add a specific web page to a list that you can go back and read later.
The best part is, Reading list is sent to all of your devices. It’s basically a to-do list for Safari that you can pick up from any device, any time.
Safari even comes with tabbed browsing for the iPad in iOS 5. It brings a true browser experience to the big screen.
Perhaps one of my favorite features of Safari in iOS 5 comes from a famous jailbreak tweak called Covert. By going into the Settings app, under Safari, you can enable private browsing natively in iOS 5. This feature allows you to browse the internet without any history of where you have been being stored. Shown above, private browsing is indicated by a black Safari browser window.
The PC-Free feature of iOS 5 means that you don’t need to own a computer anymore to own an iOS device. Everything you can think of: restores, updates, syncing, setting up your iDevice, all of these things can be accomplished without ever using a wired connection to a computer ever again. Moreover, you can still use iTunes if you want to.
Above, I have included screenshots of PC-Free’s most amazing features.
- Top Left: When you get iOS 5 right out of the box you’ll never need to set your device up with iTunes again. The iPhone is capable of settings itself up independently with some help from the user, that is. You will be guided through the steps necessary to set up iCloud, Find my iPhone, Apple ID, Internet, and the iPhone itself. The graphical interface is very nice as well.
- Top Right: Using a cable to sync to your computer is so iOS 4. With iOS 5 you can go into your Settings>General>iTunes Wi-Fi Sync and sync over your Wi-Fi network. This feature will not work over 3G; so don’t ask. This feature looks for your computer on your local area network. Obviously your computer isn’t on a local 3G network. 3G networks are wide area networks. You can set up your computer to sync with the iPhone over Wi-Fi from iTunes. All you do is click the check mark that says, “Sync iPhone over Wi-Fi.” This will be one of the only times you ever have to connect to a computer. Once you do that you will be able to sync from the Settings app as stated earlier.
- Bottom Left: When an update for iOS 5 is released, you will be notified via a badge on your Settings app. You can now update your iDevice over an Internet connection instead of updating through iTunes. You can also check manually. This function is found under Settings>General>Software Update. Unfortunately, those of you who use iOS 4 will not be able to update over the air to iOS 5. You will only be able to update over the air once you are running iOS 5 as it is an iOS 5-only function. Updates are considerably smaller this way because it’s easier to release updates as patches this way versus re-flashing your device with a new firmware through iTunes every time an update comes out. We are pleased to have gained this feature.
- Bottom Right: This feature has been in iOS for a long time, although it plays a large role in being PC-Free. This feature allows you to restore your device from the device itself without having to connect to iTunes to do so. This can be found under Settings>General>Reset.
Several Miscellaneous Features/Changes
The Mail app has been fine-tuned a little; bringing you threaded Emails – when emails of the same subject and sender are stacked on top of each other to save room, in this case to reduce scrolling. It also features the new ability to format text with effects such as bold, italics, underline, and more. All you need to do to format text is highlight it by selecting it and navigating through the Action Menu-like copy/paste UI. Mail also supports Microsoft Hotmail now, whereas it did not in iOS 4 (you could still use it but there wasn’t support built into Mail for it specifically, where you will find in iOS 5.) As well as being able to search through your inbox with a dedicated search bar for specific Emails, iCloud comes into the picture to keep all of your Mail accounts synced amongst devices so that you don’t have to erase and read all of the identical messages over and over on each device.
The Calendar app realizes a ton of revamping as well. A new view – year view, has been added to the app permitting you to see all twelve months and anything planned in them all at once instead of independently by month, week, or day. Now, to create an event, simply tap – and you can drag to adjust the duration and time that the event will go on for. The power of iCloud lets you sync your calendars amongst your iDevices for a lustrous experience.
Game Center sees its largest update to date in iOS 5. Now, you can add profile pictures to your Game Center account to help your friends recognize you. Game Center in iOS 5 even recommends players to you based on the friends that you already have and the games that you play, similar to the ‘people you may know’ function on FaceBook. Game Center is an underappreciated app for iDevices, but with iOS being the world’s leading gaming platform, users should really learn to tap into its power. It can be used to share scores, achievements, and even play multiplayer games online. This is a really cool update to check out.
Has it ever been your wish to be able to take advantage of the massive mutlitouch screen on the iPad instead of relying on buttons to input your commands? Those beloved gestures that can be used to navigate throughout iOS have finally been realized. Using four or five fingers, swipe up to reveal the multitasking bar, pinch to return to the Home screen, and swipe left or right to switch between apps.
This new feature allows you to mirror what is on your iDevice screen to a larger display. Airplay now supports video mirroring – in HDTV quality. You can rotate your screen to any orientation that you like, the larger display will follow suit. This could be good for casual home users to want to stream Netflix, or play games on iOS using the big screen. It also seems to brighten the opportunities for educational institutions because now they have a more interesting way to teach kids. This feature is pretty cool, although I must admit that I’ve never tried it.
The Weather app ended up with a nice addition as well. Not only can you set it to use your location instead of manually punching in your location for weather each time you set up your iDevice or go somewhere dissimilar; but, it even gives you a nice hourly summary of the day in extreme detail.
The Maps app seems to have gained some quiet features. It now lists more than one route when you ask for directions. It usually routes between one and three different ways to get somewhere but the one that always defaults is the fastest way to get there. This feature allows you dodge traffic in one way and go another way, but it also shows that there is more than one way to get places. The walking feature seems to have been updated to be better with calculating how long it takes to get form point A to point B at walking speed.
The general consensus appears to be that iOS 5 is an awesome and worthy upgrade from iOS 4. It comes with security improvements, speed enhancements, and overall speed increases. The Springboard moves around and opens apps much more fluently. On the iPhone, the unified iPod app has been broken apart into Music and Videos just like we are used to on the iPod Touch. You now have the ability to delete songs from your iDevice without having to delete them from iTunes and then syncing. You can also delete photos from your iDevice that you have synced via iTunes. With over 200 new features – and a suspected untethered jailbreak on its way, this update is well worth it the free download. Developers are porting numerous Cydia tweaks over to iOS 5 and this is going to be one heck of a change for all of us!
What do you think about iOS 5? Will you be upgrading? Leave a comment below!
Images used in this review are Copyright © 2011 Apple Inc.