Apple unveils iOS 5, many new features you won’t actually see until “this fall”

Today is Apple day. The Californian fruit company has had its annual WorldWide Developers Conference keynote, and in it the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, was unveiled. This was of course widely expected, since Apple itself previously revealed what it will be talking about at WWDC.

iOS 5 will follow iOS 4, but not anytime soon. For years, Apple announced OS updates pretty close to the actual release date, and that made us very happy (the general rule of thumb in the industry was best signified by Nokia, which announced things often, but always shipped very late after the announcements). However, unfortunately Apple seems to have lost its way in this regard, and has now talked about features that will only make it into your iDevice sometime “this fall”.

That’s the exact time frame that Apple has given. Nothing more specific. So let’s talk some more about Apple’s gigantic tease – here’s what’s new in iOS 5.

First of all, the notification system has been revamped, and dare I say it, inspired (a lot) by Android’s. As it should be, since that system seems to work quite well. The annoying blue pop-up will disappear, in its place being a message at the top of the screen – which can be ignored. The new Notification Center is something you arrive at by swiping from the top of the screen downward – exactly as on Android. That area will host your notifications, as well as some rudimentary form of widgets (weather info, for example). At this rate, expect Android-like widgets to make their way into iOS 6.

Notifications are also shown on the lockscreen, and you can swipe on any individual notification to instantly unlock your iDevice and go straight into the necessary app.

Next up, Newsstand is the iBooks for newspapers and magazines (why not iNews?). It’s the same concept, although you subscribe to things in a new, dedicated space in the App Store. Then the items you’ve subscribed to appear in Newsstand ready to read.

Safari has also been improved, with Reader being a new feature that brings the important content of a page to front, making it more readable (Apple has something similar in the desktop Safari – the idea is the same). Reading List allows you to save articles for reading later on any iOS device you own. Tabbed browsing is also in, and should make for easier navigation between open pages.

Something rather unexpected is the low-level Twitter integration that iOS now has. This lets you log in to Twitter in iOS settings, and then tweet stuff right from your Camera, or from Photos, Safari, YouTube, or Maps. Also, you may not have to log in to Twitter on every Twitter app in the App Store, since these apps can now use your already existing iOS Twitter login. Neat functionality, but rather pointless, since the obvious thing to do here to enhance how easily people share things was copy Android’s global Share menu. Ah well, perhaps we need to wait for iOS 6 or 7 for that. Until then, the Twitter integration should serve your instant sharing needs well. Unless you’re a Facebook addict, of course. Which begs the question: why not Facebook? It has a lot more users than Twitter. Who knows?

iMessage will also be part of iOS 5, and it probably means the death of at least some ‘SMS-like’ messaging apps for iOS. These sometimes cross-platform apps seem to be everywhere now, allowing you to send messages over the data connection, without being charged for SMS. Who knew messaging was so prohibitively expensive for so many people? Anyway, besides text, you’re also able to send pictures and videos, and see when other people are typing (IM much?) and also get delivery and read receipts. All of the major apps do all of the above, and iMessage will too. And since this is an Apple-made solution, it’s bound to be more successful (for Apple hardware owners) than the other apps. Tough luck.

The Camera can now ‘instantly’ be accessed right from the lockscreen, and its start-up time has been improved, to let you snap pictures faster. You can also use the volume-up button as a shutter key (does this mean that the next iPhone will finally have a dedicated shutter key?) . ‘Tap to focus’ is also in, as is support for ‘rule of thirds’ grid lines (if you don’t know what that means, don’t worry, you’re probably not going to use it). The new Photos app lets you crop, rotate, and enhance pictures, as well as remove red eyes.

Oh, and iDevices don’t depend on iTunes for initial set up anymore. You can do all that on the device with iOS 5.

Even iOS software updates will go the OTA (over the air) route, and be delivered directly to your device, without a need to hook up to iTunes. iTunes Wi-Fi sync is also a go, allowing for wireless transfer of your content between your iDevice(s) and your computer(s).

Game Center now lets you add photos to your profile, as well as purchase new games straight inside it. There are also easier ways to find new friends and add games.

AirPlay mirroring will let you wirelessly mirror what’s on your iPad on an HDTV through Apple TV. A split keyboard will be available system-wide for the iPad, to make it easier to type. Mail enhancements include draggable addresses, and a new formatting bar.

iOS 5 beta and the developer SDK are available now for developers. When it’s finally released to the world, iOS 5 will be installable on iPhone 3 GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch 3rd and 4th generation, iPad, and iPad 2.

Overall, Apple claims that iOS 5 will have more than 200 new user features. Even if that number looks nice and round, even some of the ‘major’ features (listed above) that Apple has demoed at WWDC can count more as “needed enhancements” or “required fixes” than revolutionary new features. And it seems like that’s going to forever be the case with iOS releases – mostly evolutionary stuff, maybe something really new every other refresh cycle.

And consumers seem to be okay with that, since Apple is doing just fine having sold 200 million iOS devices already.

Images via Engadget

Author: Vlad Bobleanta

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