Since the initial release of the iPhone on June 29th, 2007 Apple has steadily upgraded iOS to include many features that iOS users had been hoping to see. Over the course of 1,487 days since the release of iOS 1.0 and iOS 4.3.5, Apple has made significant strides when it come sot releasing features. Some of the features added since iOS 1.0 include the App Store, copy and paste, MMS, multi-tasking, push notifications, FaceTime, iBooks, custom wallpapers, and much more. Apple has not ceased development on iOS, they have released iOS 5.

iOS 5 has improved on many of the features that were released with iOS 4.x. The new features include: Full Twitter Integration, new notifications options, a new built-in Reminders/To Do list, Turned-based matches within Game Center,, iMessages, NewsStand, Airplay enhancements, iCloud, iTunes Match, and iTunes Wi-Fi Syncing. These are the biggest changes and we’ll dive right into them.

Twitter Integration

Twitter iOS 5 Integration

Twitter is about to get a whole lot bigger. Despite its explosion over the past couple of years no single company could impact the popularly of the social networking site as significantly as Apple. Apple already has millions of iOS 5 compatible devices like the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, already in the marketplace and is the release of a new iPhone is only going to increase that number. With so many iOS users it is more than likely that there will be a measurable increase in new Twitter subscribers.

Twitter is fully integrated within iOS 5. You still need a Twitter application to fully utilize Twitter, but developers are now able to more tightly integrate Twitter into their application through the use of Apple’s APIs instead of having each developer implement their own Twitter APIs. This means that developers are also not required to learn a new API to accomplish the same functions. This is a definite win for both consumers and developers as there is now a consistent way that many Twitter posts will be shown on iOS.

The Twitter integration also signifies Apple’s acceptance that the service is robust enough to be able to handle the traffic load, which means minimal downtime and creates a more user-friendly experience.

Notifications

iOS 5 Notification Center

One of the ways that users are alerted to items needing attention is through notifications. In all iOS versions prior to iOS 5, notifications have been done through the use of popup notifications. The issue with this method is that if you have a significant number of notifications that a user will be forced to acknowledge all of the notifications one at a time. This could be a problem if you had 50 notifications. Notifications include, text messages, calendar events, and even notifications from any other applications like Facebook. This was partially rectified with badges, but it was never eliminated. Apple has changed the way that notifications are handled. Instead of each one being its own individual popup message they are now in the Notification Center.

The Notification Center is an area that is accessed by swiping down from the top to bring up notification center. By Default, all applications are shown within Notification center, you see the Stock Ticker and Weather widgets. In addition to applications, calendar events and email notifications are included. This way you can get a quick glance at what items may be waiting for you.

The Notification Center makes it much easier to triage a significant number of messages quickly. You are able to click on an item and it will open up that item. If it’s an email, it will open with Mail, if it’s a calendar event it will open with iCal. If it’s a notification from an application, that application will open.

Sometimes a user may not want to receive notifications in Notification Center, instead desiring to switch back to the standard ‘Alert’ message, or even turn off notifications for an application entirely. This can now be down within Notification Center preferences under Settings. For each application a user can choose to set the following, Whether the application’s notifications appear in Notification center, how many times to show (1, 5, or 10), Alert style, whether the Badge icon shows or not, whether sounds play or not, and Whether to view the notification while the iOS device locked.

iOS5 Notification Center Options

iOS5 Notification Center Options

Remember, this on a per-application basis. So those noisy applications can have their alerts turned off, but still show in Notification center. You do also have the option of turning the Weather and Stock ticker widgets off if you do not wish to have them showing and leave more room for your other notifications.

Reminders

iOS5 Reminders Calendar View

iOS 5 RemindersOne of the new applications with iOS 5 is the Reminders application. Reminders is a to-do application that does more than just a basic to-do list. Reminders kills off many other to-do applications.

Reminders allows for individual “To Do” lists through the use of each configured email account that supports tasks. For instance, I have Hotmail, the Exchange server at work, and iCloud Reminders. Each of these is it’s own list. You can view them all as a list or view the actual to do list for each.

This means that you can keep your home to do tasks separate from items that you must tend to for your job. If your company runs an Exchange Server and allows, or has assigned, you an iOS device you have the option to use Reminders in conjunction with Tasks within Outlook. This is compatible with Microsoft Exchange back to Exchange 2003, if not Exchange 2000.

Reminders allows you to edit any individual task to set a priority, Reminder date, which List the reminder should be on, and also allows you to add any notes to a task. This is an elegant solution that allows you to instantly move a task from work to home or Vice Versa without having to re-enter in an entire task. Reminders makes it is an easy way to keep track of items that you need to take care of regardless of the task.

Newsstand

Apple has introduced something new with iOS 5, Newsstand. Newsstand is a lot like iBooks, except for magazines and newspapers. If you have a subscription to a newspaper or magazine it should appear within your Newsstand. Newsstand allows magazine and newspaper publishers to forego the creation of an iOS application and allow users to purchase individual issues or subscriptions. If you currently subscribe to a newspaper or periodical it will appear within the ‘Newsstand’ application. Unfortunately, I was not able to test this out in time for the release of iOS 5 to the masses.

Game Center

Game Center has been around for a little over a year, yet it has it turned into one of the most useful additions to iOS for game developers. Game Center allows you to keep track of which games you have played, which achievements you have received in your games, and even allows the matching of players in one-on-one games.

Apple has enhanced Game Center a bit for iOS 5, by including matching for turn-by-turn games. This is a huge improvement for users who enjoy playing games such as Words with Friends, Role Playing Games, or even games like Tic-Tac-Toe. It will be interesting to see what game developers come up with to take advantage of this new feature.

Camera

iOS5 Camera Locked

The Camera within iOS 5 has seen some significant improvements. Most notably is that a user is now able to quickly take a picture by simply double-clicking on the home button and tapping on the Camera icon. Once in the Camera application, you can take pictures or videos as much as you would like. There is a catch however, you cannot access any of your previous photos, only the ones that have been taken during that session.

An additional feature of iOS 5 is that the volume up button now becomes a button to take a picture. This is a great feature to be able to quickly snap a photo without losing the shot. One positive side effect of this method of taking pictures is that the camera application loads much more quickly than it would under iOS 4. This is due to the camera app not being required to load all of your pictures in the Camera Roll before allowing you to take a picture. As a note, the volume up button does also function within the standard mode of Camera.app.

Safari

With iOS 5 a few features have been added to Mobile Safari. Some may find them to be annoying, others may not even know that they are available and others will totally love the new features. They are Reader, Reading List, and tabs. Let’s look at the first feature, Reader.

iOS5 Safari Reader

Reader is an option with Safari that allows a user to remove much of the cruft that has become apparent on modern webpages by showing the user just the page without all of the advertisements and potentially unwanted items. There are some potential issues, which will be explained later.

iOS5 Reading List

The second Safari feature is ‘Reading List’. Reading list is simply a bookmarking mechanism that allows a user to save an item that they are browsing and read it at a later point. When you bring up the Reading List you are presented with two options, look at All of the times that are in your reading list, or just look at the Unread. If you want to add an item to your Reading List you simply click on the ‘Bookmarking’ icon and click on ‘Add to Reading List’. It is quite simple.

If you are looking at All items you can easily discern between the read and unread due to the unread items being a bit bolder than those that have already been read. You can still manage your reading list just like most other items within iOS by swiping to delete. Reading List is available on all iOS Devices that support iOS 5.

 

iMessages

iOS 5 iMessages on iPhoneApple has never been known to shy away from a implementing a feature merely because it might encroach one of their partner’s businesses. Apple has not broken that with iOS 5, they have introduced iMessages, simply called Messages.

iMessages is a platform for exchanging messages that does not require the use of SMS messages and being forced to pay potentially exorbitant fees to carriers. All you need is an email address and iOS 5 enabled device to be able to exchange messages between people. If you have an iPhone iMessages is built right into your existing Messages application.

In order to tell the difference between a standard message and an iMessage, iMessages should appear green instead of the standard blue when you are sending messages. This makes it much easier to determine what type of message that you are sending.

iMessages is a way for Apple to bypass carriers, allow low-cost messaging around the world without the requirement for an expensive SMS plan, and facilitate communication across all iOS 5 devices. iMessages also allows parents to provide the messaging capability that many kids have come to expect without forcing them to pay for text messages.

AirPlay

Apple introduced Airplay with iOS version 4.2. AirPlay allows a developer to send their application to an AppleTV. If a developer chooses to implement this technology they can send either audio or video to their application. With iOS 5 developers can now have mirroring over Airplay. This means that an application can display the same thing on both an AppleTV and an iOS device. This has huge ramifications for those who are trying demonstrate an application to a large group of individuals. Imagine being able to show a group how to play a song in Apple’s Garageband or being able to demonstrate an application’s functionality through video instead of just describing it to someone. The possibilities are endless.

iPad specific changes

With the introduction of iOS 5 there have been a few changes specifically around the iPad. There are two specific items that come to mind, the keyboard, and Safari. Let’s look at the keyboard.

iOS 5 Standard Keyboard

Many people who use an iPad like to hold their device in landscape mode. This can pose a problem when it comes to doing any sort of typing. Many thumb typers cannot reach all of the keys with their thumbs. Apple has found a solution to this problem. They have put in an option to create a split keyboard. In order to activate the split keyboard you simply drag the ‘hide keyboard’ icon on the right side, up and down. As you move it up and down it will begin to separate the keyboard and make the keys smaller.

iOS 5 Split Keyboard with "Keyboard Tray"

With the split keyboard you are able to move it anywhere, vertically, on the visible screen. With the ability to move it anywhere on the screen you can then more comfortably hold you iPad. The split keyboard works in both vertical and landscape orientations.

The second feature that is specific to the iPad is within Mobile Safari. You now have the option of using tabs for multiple browsers instead of having to use swipe left to right or look at a grid of nine browsers to determine which tab you were trying to open. This change mimics the desktop version of Safari.

iOS 5 Safari Tabbed browsing

iTunes

iOS 5 iTunes Match

With iOS 5 comes a new iTunes, iTunes 10.5. iTunes 10.5 now enables two specific features, iTunes Match and iTunes Wi-Fi Syncing. Both of these perpetuate the desire of many users to not be completely tied down to a computer.

iTunes Match is a paid service, from Apple, that allows you to sync all of your music between computers and devices. iTunes Match will also match your collection against iTunes to determine which songs you own and allows you to upload the items that iTunes Match does not recognize. iTunes Match costs $24.99 per year, to store up to 25,000 songs on Apple’s iTunes Match service.

To Enable iTunes Match, you must first purchase iTunes Match service. This can be done from within iTunes by going to Store -> Turn on iTunes Match. Once you have walked through the purchasing, iTunes will have to analyze your music to match what you have locally with what iTunes has in the cloud. This can take a few minutes. THe music that iTunes does not have have in the cloud will then be uploaded to iTunes. This process can take several hours, to fully finish.

iOS5.iTunes.Match.Finished

To Enable iTunes Match on your iOS device go to Settings -> Music, then turn on iTunes Match. At this point your iOS device will warn you that the music library on your device will be replaced. This is your last chance to cancel and keep the music that is on your device. One thing to remember is that iTunes Match on your device will not replace podcasts or audiobooks, just music. Podcasts and Audiobooks are still synced through your computer.

When you upload these items you allow Apple to store them so you can retrieve them at a later point. iTunes Match can be quite helpful when you’re upgrading to a new device. Instead of having to determine what to sync, you can have your entire iTunes library right at your fingertips. You can download entire playlists to your device to save you the trouble of having to download each song individually.

iTunes Match on your iOS devices allows you to download almost all of your collection. In addition to allowing you to manage, create, and edit playlists. You can add songs to current playlists, create new playlists or even delete playlists you no longer wish to have in your library. Any playlists that you modify on your device will get updated on your computer automatically. This is a huge advantage when you want to change or modify playlists while on the go.

There are a few of things to keep in mind when using iTunes Match. If you associate a device with your iTunes Match account, which is the same as your iTunes account, all of the music on your device is replaced with iCloud music. Therefore, if you have some music that you do not want to lose, make sure you transfer it to your iTunes library and upload it to iTunes Match before enabling iTunes Match on your device.

The second thing to remember is that iTunes Match is not free. It costs $24.99 per year, but that includes the hosting of your songs in Apple’s cloud. Any other service may cost significantly more to accomplish the same and it will not have the same integration as iTunes Match does with iOS.

The third item to keep in mind is that items purchased from iTunes do not count against your 25,000 song limit. The last thing is that you can only upload music from one computer. this may change in the future. You can however sign 5 different computers into your account, so it should be enough for many households.

iTunes Match alleviates the stress when a hard drive dies by giving you access to your Music library. This can be a good service in case of emergencies. Additionally, it does not cost an exorbitant amount of money to store you music in the Cloud, a mere $24.99 per year.

iTunes Wi-Fi Sync

iOS5.iTunes.Wi-Fi.Sync

One of the features that other music platforms, like Microsoft’s Zune, have had for quite a while is the ability to sync your device wirelessly. This feature has been completely possible on iOS, through an application called “Wi-Fi Sync”. This application is only available to jailbroken phones. Apple has changed this with iOS 5.

With iTunes Wi-Fi sync, you can now sync you music, applications, photos, ringtones, TV Shows, Podcasts, iTunes U content, and books all without having to hook up your iOS device to your computer. This feature does require Wi-Fi connectivity between your device and you computer. For a vast majority of users this is not a problem. iTunes Wi-Fy Syncing works on both OS X and Windows.

To Use Wi-Fi Syncing, you need to plug your iOS 5 device into your computer, click on the Device on the left, and click on ‘Sync this [iOS Device] over Wi-Fi”. Where [iOS Device] is iPod, iPad, or iPhone. After you have enabled Wi-Fy Syncing, your device can automatically sync if you plug your device into power, and if your device and computer are on the same network.

iOS5.iTunes.Wifi.Sync.iPad.10072011

You can always initiate a sync by going to Settings -> General -> iTunes Wi-Fi Sync -> Sync Now. This screen will show which computer is used to sync Wirelessly, what the last time that a Sync has occurred, this would be wired or wireless, and what items are synchronized over Wifi.

It is good to see Apple bringing iOS into the 21st Century, despite other platforms having Wireless syncing for a couple of years now. It is rather nice to not have to plug in your device just to retrieve new content.

iCloud

iOS5.iCloud.Backup.Start

I have decided to leave the potentially biggest item for last, iCloud. Apple has developed its own storage mechanism called iCloud. iCloud is a replacement for MobileMe. With iCloud some things are moving over and others are disappearing completely. The items from MobileMe that are staying are Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Bookmarks, Find my iPhone, and Back to My Mac. This means that iWeb Publishing, Gallery, and iDisk are all disappearing.

So what is new with iCloud, and why the transition. In late 2010 Apple began operations within it’s North Carolina data center. It is speculated that iCloud, iTunes Match and other services are being hosted at this facility, and Mobile Me is being hosted elsewhere, probably near Apple’s headquarters. It is likely that Apple wants to utilize its investment in the new data center, plus Mobile Me has a bad reputation since the horrendous launch back on July 11, 2008.

New within iCloud is the ability to automatically backup your documents, iOS configuration, applications, books, and iTunes Music. iTunes Music in the cloud has already been discussed under the iTunes Match service.

iCloud backup is enabled automatically for all applications. With iCloud you get 5GB for storage for free. If you need more storage, then you can always purchase more storage. There are three different additional options, 10GB for $20 per year, 20GB for $40 per year, and 50 GB for $100 per year. These amounts represent additional storage, so the totals would be 15GB, 25GB, and 55GB respectively.

iCloud leads into the last feature, Computer-Free Setup.

Computer Free Setup

When you get a new iOS device, from iOS 5 forward, you are no longer required to plug your device into your computer to activate with iTunes, it is completely Computer free. If you were to upgrade your current iOS device to iOS 5, run a backup to iCloud on that device, you can restore the entire backup to you new device right from iCloud.

You can still do backups on your computer, they will just not automatically backed up to your computer. In order to backup to your computer manually, just open iTunes, connect your device, right mouse click on your device on the left, and click “Backup”. It will take a few minutes, but the device will be backed up to your computer.

A local backup makes it quicker to restore your device, should something go awry and you need to restore.

Incremental Upgrades

iOS5.Incremental.Software.Update.Up.To.Date

As part of a computer-free upgrade iOS 5 now supports incremental upgrades. Incremental updates allow a user to upgrade their device to the latest version by merely downloading the update via WiFi. You can update your device by going to Settings -> General -> Software Update. If there is an update, you will have the option to download and install. If your device is up to date you will see the screen below.

If you do need to restore your iOS firmware, you will need to plug the iOS device into a computer, and click on restore. If you tie this with iCloud backup, you do not need to be at your computer to restore your iOS device, you can do it while on the go. This means that if you are traveling you can restore all of your items.

Potential Issues

iOS 5 is not without its issues. None of these are deal breaking, but little annoyances, or potential annoyances that might disturb some users. The first is Safari Reader.

The only potential issue with Safari Reader that I can see is that Safari Reader removes advertisements. For some websites this is how they stay free. If enough people started using Reader, it may become more expensive for these sites to run given the possible reduced revenue stream from fewer ads being shown. I am not sure how many sites will be affected by this, but there may be a few.

The second issue is with the split keyboard. While the split keyboard is a great addition to iOS 5, it can block the view of a webpage with the “keyboard tray”. It is true that you can move the webpage up and down outside of the blocked area. It is also true that the “keyboard tray” is partially transparent, but it still can be hard to read some webpages. This only affects iPad users but they are a significant portion of the iOS community.

iOS 5 Split Keyboard with "Keyboard Tray"

The last issue is regarding around iMessages. There is a certain segment of the iOS who might have multiple email accounts across one or more Apple IDs. When you sign in to iMessages you are required to have a valid, and verified iMessages account, you can only have one active account. If you have more than one Apple ID, you cannot have both signed in simultaneously. Therefore, if you have a developer account, that is not tied to your iTunes account, you cannot thoroughly test all features without logging in and out of accounts. It is a smaller segment of the population that this will be affected by this issue.

Desired Features

There are some desired features that I know I would like to see in a new iOS release, maybe iOS 5.1. They revolve around widgets, syncing, the split keyboard, and integration.

iOS 5 Notification Center

Regarding widgets, There are the two widget options, stocks, weather that can be shown within the Notification Center. I have some changes that I would like to see. Currently there is no way to create widgets that could be displayed and updated in the notification center. I could imagine companies creating widgets to easily show internal data that users may wish to keep tabs on. It could be an internal sales growth chart, trouble ticket statistic widget, or any other type of widget.

Syncing, the addition of Wi-Fi Syncing is a definite plus with iOS5, but there is another means of syncing that I would like to see. It would be syncing over VPN. Sometimes I find myself out and about and wishing to download the latest podcasts that have been downloaded to my Mac. Sure, I could use an application like Stitcher, but the play counts within Stitcher do not count towards a total number of plays, and it is just another means of having to download the same thing. If Apple were to offer Syncing over VPN it could be a huge perk for companies, and a significantly smaller percentage of the general iOS population. Many companies like to keep some of their information private and only available over VPN. If it’s a video, or audio clip, that needs to be watched by employees, wouldn’t it be easier to allow syncing over VPN rather than having to worry about all sorts of other syncing issues with multiple PCs and the like. It may be a very small subset of companies, and consumers, who wish to have Syncing over VPN, but it could be rather useful.

On the split keyboard, I have one request for a feature, allow the “keyboard tray” to be removed entirely. It blocks the view of the text, and it can be rather troublesome. By allowing users the option, it gives them the control to configure their iOS device in the manner that they wish. Some may wish to keep the keyboard tray, while others may wish for it to disappear.

A Second option is to have a slightly transparent keyboard option when all you are doing is scrolling. This method would allow users to be able to see the get on the screen more easily and, again, give users more control to setup their iOS device as they see fit.

The last feature I would like to see is the option for companies to tightly integrate into iOS as tightly as Twitter has. While it is entirely within Apple prerogative to select which companies to best integrate their software with, it does leave a slightly bad taste when a company gives preferential treatment to a single company over another.

Those are just a few of the things that I wish Apple would add to iOS 5. I am not sure if they intended on adding more features but had to decide on a feature set and are leaving some of these off until iOS 5.1, or even iOS 6, but they are features I would like to see nonetheless.

Final Thoughts

Overall iOS 5 is a huge upgrade for all users. Typically iOS upgrades make the older devices sluggish and slow, but this is not necessarily the case with iOS 5. iOS 5 has a ton of new features that make it worth the upgrade. iOS 5 works quite well on iPhone 4s with no lag.

The addition of iCloud, Computer-free setup, and iTunes Match will change the way that iOS users will use their devices. I know a significant portion of the population will give iOS devices a new look now that they do not require a computer in order to use and setup. iCloud backup will allow users to keep all of their iOS devices backed up. iTunes Match will allow users to pick and choose which music is on their device with the piece of mind of having all of their songs in the cloud. iOS 5 is a solid upgrade that should bring something for everyone.