What's New in iOS5?

Greetings from San Francisco! Chris Grove and I are at the Apple WWDC conference all week learning about all of the new features coming out from Apple very soon. In Monday’s Keynote, several things were announced including details on the new Lion OS, iOS5 and iCloud. As a participant of the conference, we received access to the iOS5 beta and there’s a lot of great new features. Here are some of the ones that are of particular interest.

Notification Center

The current notification system on the iPhone is pretty weak. There’s no way to review or respond to them individually and they interrupt whatever you’re doing (e.g. playing a game). With iOS5, all of your alerts are now in one place, including new emails, texts, friend requests and more. In addition, you can have stock quotes and weather displayed. From anywhere on the phone, simply swipe down from the top of the screen to enter Notification Center. When new notifications come in, they briefly display at the top of your screen without interrupting what you’re doing. When the phone is off, the Lock screen displays notifications as they come in, and you can interact with them with just a swipe.

iMessage

iMessage is a new messaging service that replaces the old Text Messaging system. You can now send as many text messages as you want from your Apple device to anyone with an Apple device. You can send text, photos, videos, locations, and contacts and as you can now track messages with delivery receipts and read receipts. When in a conversation with someone, you can see when someone’s typing similar to instant messaging applications. Because all messaging is stored in iCloud, you pick up where you left off on any of your other Apple devices.

Newsstand

Newsstand is a new built-in app that manages your magazine and newspaper subscriptions. Whenever you buy new newspaper and magazine subscriptions from the App Store, they will be accessible in this new app. Apple has deals with the six major publishers and with the rise of online publications, whatever your read should be available in this new app.

Reminders

Up until now, you had to create calendar appointments to create reminders. iOS5 introduces the new Reminders app for organizing tasks with due dates and, optionally, locations. If you opt to use locations, you can be reminded based on your location. For example, the reminder could be “Call Tracy when you leave work”. When you leave work, Reminders will detect the location change and alert you. Reminders also works with iCal, Outlook, and iCloud, so changes you make update automatically on all your devices and calendars.

Twitter

When Twitter first came out, I didn’t get it. It took awhile for me to really see benefits, but now I check out Twitter pretty much every day. Whether you like it or not, Twitter is huge and not going away. In fact, it’s only getting bigger…so big, it’s now completely integrated into iOS5. You only need to setup your profile once under Settings, and then you can tweet directly from Safari, Photos, Camera, YouTube or Maps.

Camera

My kids are in just about every sport possible...baseball, soccer, swimming, hockey…you name it. I like taking lots of pictures and because the iPhone camera is so good, I use it more often than my Canon SLR. Sometime I need that camera ready in 2 seconds and it’s a real pain when you have to click the On button, slide the unlock slider, maybe exit the current app, find the camera app and click it. That can take a good 10 seconds…add a few more seconds if you have to type in an unlock code. No more! With iOS5, you can open the Camera app right from the Lock screen even if you have a lock code. Also, the camera screen now has grid lines, pinch-to-zoom gestures, and single-tap focus and exposure locks. And do you hate the button on the screen to take photos? Now you can press the volume-up button to snap your photo. And if you have Photo Stream enabled in iCloud, your photos automatically download to all your other Apple devices.

Photos

One of Apple’s main goals was to eliminate the need for a computer (see next feature for more). With iOS5, you can now crop, rotate, enhance and remove red-eye without leaving the Photos app. With iCloud, you can automatically push new photos to all your iOS devices. It’s automatic...nothing for you to do. And it’s free!

In the example below, I took a picture taken on my iPhone from my daughter's ballet recital, clicked the Enhance button to bring out the colors and then cropped it. Only three taps of my finger and it looks so much better.

PC Free

Wasn’t it annoying when you opened up your iPhone for the first time and the first thing it showed is that you need to plug it into your computer? With iOS5, you no longer need a computer. Now you can activate and set up your device wirelessly, right out of the box. And with iCloud, back up and restore your device automatically.

Wi-Fi Sync

If you’re like me, you have multiple Apple devices. My wife and I have iPhones, we have an iPad, and my work laptop is a MacBook. Sometimes I buy music or apps on my iPhone, sometimes on my Mac, sometimes my wife buys stuff…how do we keep it all in sync? We have to constantly sync our devices on the Mac each taking turns to centralize everything and then re-sync…a nightmare. iOS5 ends that! You will soon be able to wirelessly sync your device to your Mac or PC over a shared Wi-Fi connection. Every time you connect your device to a power source (e.g. overnight for charging), it automatically syncs and backs up any new content to iTunes.

iCloud

What is iCloud? In a nutshell, iCloud is an online storage system where all your music, apps, latest photos, email, contacts, calendars, etc. are stored so it’s always accessible from your devices. By utilizing iCloud, all your devices stay in sync without manually syncing! Oh, and it’s free!

iTunes Match

I saved possibly the best for last. Do you rip your old CDs and load them onto your Apple devices? Or maybe buy MP3s from other websites? That’s a lot of work and isn’t it a pain how they are treated differently from iTunes songs. iTunes Match solves all of that. iTunes Match allows you store your entire music collection in iCloud for just $24.99 a year! But instead of taking hours (or days for those of you with a huge music collection), it only takes minutes. iTunes already has pretty much every song every recorded (over 18 million so far) and can match your files to theirs. It only needs to upload the few they don’t have. And as a bonus, all the music iTunes matches plays back at 256-Kbps iTunes Plus quality even if your original copy was of lower quality.