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iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch

iOS 5 First Impressions

New iOS 5 Notifications

With Apple’s annual World Wide Developer’s Conference underway, the annual keynote from Steve Jobs introduced new versions of the Macintosh OS X and and iPhone iOS operating systems. Development builds for both were released Monday night to members of the Apple development program to begin making sure their software works in anticipation of the general release in the fall.

As a developer, I installed iOS 5 on an iPhone 4 to try out the new features. While Apple outlined 10 new major features, not all of them are implemented yet. My most anticipated feature is the new wireless syncing between iTunes and the iPhone, but unfortunately it isn’t active yet (the sync button is currently in the settings but yet usable), so I will be focusing on the features as they are now.

News Stand – Apple’s introduction of an iBookstore app for magazines and newspapers could have transformative effects on the periodical market like the Kindle and iBookstore have had on the ebook market. There aren’t currently any available magazines to test it with, but the app is laid out like the iBookstore and appears to work similarly.

Camera – Apple made two big changes to the camera usage. The first is to put a camera button on the main screen when double tapping the button when the phone is turned on. This is much simpler than opening the phone, finding the camera app and loading it before taking a picture. The second major addition to the camera is using the volume up button as a shutter button on the camera, a feature that previously got Camera Plus banned from the app store.  It is convenient to have a real button to press to take the picture on the side of the camera and just feels better than the on screen button.

Tweet button in the Photos sharing menu

Notifications – Gone are the big blue bubbles in favor of a more streamlined notification system. If the phone is off, the notifications are listed in rows on the front screen and can can be dragged across to open directly into that app. If the phone or an app is being used, a bar appears across the top informing the user that there is a new message, but does not interrupt the current usage. Taking a note from Android, by dragging down from the top bar, a list of current notifications appears along with current stock quotes and weather. It’s a much improved system and gives the push notifications the overhaul they need.

Twitter Integration – When viewing an app like Photos or Safari, when clicking the share button, along with email and print buttons is a new Tweet button. Once adding your username and password in the settings, any app can send a message to your Twitter account from the app natively instead of having to load a Twitter app to do it.

Reading List – In an Instapaper like feature, when browsing a webpage, it can be added to the Reading List, which will allow a reader to filter out the garbage and show only the relevant content to what you are reading. It will also add them to a list that can not only be read later but the list syncs with OSX Lion, to be read on the Mac later.

Reminders – Going shopping? Need to remember to set the alarm when you get home? iOS 5 adds a to do list that is also location relevant so you get your reminders when you get to or leave the place you need them when you need them.

iMessage – SMS messaging on the iPhone grows up to be a full featured BBM replacement. Unlike BBM, iMessage integrates with the text messages so that it can move across devices as the conversation progressed and the user changes from iPhone to iPad to iPod Touch. If data is unavailable or the other user isn’t on an iMessage capable device, the iPhone seemlessly moves between texts and iMessage, without the user having to do anything. This is a much simpler system than finding out if your friend has a Blackberry, asking them for their pin and setting up a handshake before messaging.

iCloud – Although not fully implemented yet, iCloud will help keep your music, apps, contacts and other data synced across multiple devices. For now, it can keep purchased iTunes items, like apps and music, synced across devices and if you purchase on one, it can auto download to all the other devices a person owns.  It seems very convenient and look forward to the full implementation when I can have my pictures, music and apps everywhere.

Wireless sync, split keyboard and over the air updates/setting up without pc – Although these are the other three features outlined at the keynote, I have been unable to test them. Since the iPhone needed to be setup from the MacBook as a developer and no updates have been released yet, the ability to set up or update the iPhone without the computer couldn’t be tested by me yet. Same with the split keyboard, which is an iPad feature to allow thumb typing, but I only installed on the iPhone so far. My most anticipated feature truly is wireless syncing, so my iPhone can sync across wifi with my iTunes from another room. Having to plug in and wait to sync is a necessary annoyance, but one that will not exist much longer.

These are just the major announcements of iOS 5, which is supposed to have 200 updates and advancements. One of my favorite minor new ones is the ability to use the iPhone while it is syncing. Instead of showing the battery on screen while it charges, the syncing icon appears in the top bar and the rest of the phone and its apps are still usable while the phone syncs. All these changes just make me more excited for the full release this fall and what the next version of the iPhone will bring us.

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