iOS 5 which brings them all together in the palm of your hand, let’s take a look at the 20 top features of iOS 5 — including some you may not have heard of.
1. iCloud (obviously)
iCloud is without doubt the crucial feature to iOS 5 which brings all of your devices together, from MacBooks to iMacs, iPod touches and iPhones — even to the web. You can synchronise almost anything over the web, from mail to contacts, notes and reminders, to photos and music. iCloud also offers ‘iTunes in the Cloud’ bringing your music to you wherever you are, and iTunes Match which takes your pirated music collection for $25 a year and ‘legitimises’ it.
Notifications are not new to iOS 5, but how it stores and displays them is. You can now see all of your notifications in one place by swiping down from the top of the screen, and display notifications in a different, more discreet way. If you are playing a game, it bubbles up from the top without interrupting your game play.
iMessage is Apple’s equivalent to the BlackBerry Messenger service. So many people flock to the BlackBerry to have encrypted instant messaging conversations with their friends; well, Apple now has its own encrypted, secure messaging solution. In a very similar fashion to “BBM”, you can send messages, photos, and other content — and see when messages have been delivered and read.
4. Lock-screen camera access
Though only a small thing, and hardly a ‘major feature’, Apple has now put a camera button on the lock screen. To access it, you can simply double-press the Home button to enable the button. You can then take a photo even faster without having to enter a password. Your photos are still safe though, as it locks out your other pictures until you enter in the Home screen password.
5. Camera improvements
For those who take the rule of thirds seriously, or even amateur photographers who want to use the new 8-megapixel camera in the iPhone 4S, you can display a grid on screen to ensure photos are captured to align shots up perfectly. Granted, I know nothing beyond “point and click”, but this will be a useful feature for photographers, I am told.
6. Twitter integration
Twitter is deeply embedded within iOS 5, and available to install from the Settings. No longer is the App Store required to download and install — it is ready to go from the word, well, “go”. From almost anywhere within the operating system, you can bring up available options and tweet your pictures, notes, messages or nearly anything for that matter.
7. Improved emailing
Email has been improved with previous HTML redding capability, but now HTML email creation. Crucially, you can indent text but add emphasis on words — such as bold, italics or underline text — simply by selecting it. Because iCloud is heavily integrated, you can set up an iCloud email account as well as the other email accounts, from Exchange to IMAP or HTTP web email.
8. Improved calendar functions
Under the ‘PC-free’ ethos that iOS 5 seems to have, users can now delete, add and rename calendars directly from an iOS 5 device; previously requiring a iTunes connection to do this. Attachments are also accessible through the calendar without the need to switch applications, and of course — iCloud integration, so all your calendars synchronise across devices
9. Over the air sync and software updates
Following on from the ‘PC-free’ ethos, iPod touches, iPads and iPhones running iOS 5 no longer need a PC or a Mac to perform software updates or synchronise their iTunes. All they need is a Wi-Fi connection and users can update or synchronise their iTunes and operating system wirelessly.
10. Newsstand and subscriptions
Newsstand allows users to download magazines and newspapers from the iTunes App Store. Newsstand is similar to iBooks in a way, but allows you to download up to date magazines and newspapers in the App Store. You can read all kinds of content straight from your iOS 5 device — as though you were reading it with that magazine or newspaper physically in your hand.
11. Integrated dictionary support
Not the most important of features, I grant you this, but having native dictionary support is something you will miss once you don’t have it. From nearly any application, you can select and highlight text and “define” it with iOS 5’s included dictionary, allowing you to look up words and find out what it means.
12. (iPhone only) Custom vibrations
For iPhone users, iOS 5 includes custom vibrations as part of its accessibility feature set. It allows you to tap and create a custom vibration pattern for those who are visually impaired to determine who is calling or sending a message — or simply to know who is calling without even looking at your iPhone. It also features an LED blinker to notify when a message has come through. Very useful for migrating BlackBerry users.
13. Reminders and geo-fencing
A very useful feature, you can “geo-fence” your reminders, so when you leave a particular location — such as work — it can alert you to go and do something, like pick up milk. Again, another tiny feature you will greatly miss should you move on to Android, or worse — a BlackBerry.
14. (iPhone 4S only) Siri intelligent assistant
Without doubt, Siri’s intelligent voice assistant is one of the killer features to the next-generation mobile operating system. You can speak to it like a real person and get a real-life response. It’s incredible — something you have to try for yourself. Ask it what the weather like is in any location, and it will tell you. Ask it to send an email on your behalf, and it will politely oblige. A voice recognition software like you have never experienced before.
15. (iPad only) Split keyboard
For iPad users only, a split keyboard at last so users can hold onto either side of the device and type with their thumbs; instead of propping it up against a surface. It’s only a small feature but it’s something you will surely notice if you upgrade your iPad to the next-generation operating system.
16. Custom ringtones
At long last — customised ringtones. Not only could you buy ringtones from the iTunes App Store, now you can load and synchronise new ringtones for text messages and other text-based content from iTunes on your desktop.
17. (iPhone only) Unsecured call warnings
Apple is very conscious when it comes to call security. In iOS 5, it now includes a message to let users know when their calls may be on an unencrypted network, such as a fake cell tower. Call interception is not new, but with the increased likelihood that cell calls could be intercepted, iOS 5 now initiates a warning before as you make that call.
18. (iPad only) Multitasking gestures
For the iPad, multi-tasking gestures are now brought to Apple’s tablet computer. While these have been available in the iPhone for some time, you can now pinch to access the Home screen, swipe up to reveal the multitasking bar, and swipe left or right between applications.
19. Safari reader
Reading Lists allow you to keep articles, posts or websites for later, so you can read them at another time. iCloud as you would expect updates these across the cloud, so you can see something you like on your iPhone and pick it up later when you reach the office.
20. Find My Friends
And finally, with the help of iCloud, you can now not only “Find My iPhone” but also “Find My Friends” — by displaying a map showing the location of your friends’ iPhone location. But don’t worry about security and location privacy. Users can temporarily display their location and have it auto switch-off later, and parents can restrict this feature for their kids, too.