iOS 5 Keeps the 'Smart' in 'Smartphone'

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In the last article, I extensively reviewed the iPhone 4S; however that review could not be complete without a proper understanding of the new features provided by Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 5. I already covered some of the new iOS 5 features in a previous article, but it that was pre-release; now I have the opportunity to provide some hands-on opinion about their successes, failures and room for improvement.

At first glance, iOS 5 looks and feels like its previous iteration; however the changes come from some of the major features introduced in it:

iMessage

New feature iMessage was at first thought at first to be a rival to blackberry’s messaging system; however iMessage turns out to be just the simple SMS system found on the iPhone, yet messages can now be sent for free between Apple device users. While iMessage doesn’t guarantee the fast paced conversation frenzy enabled by BBM, it will allow users to save on SMS cost if used within certain data limits. This feature is especially welcome in the Middle East since unlimited data plans are not available in the Middle East and texting bills are excessively high. iMessages are displayed in Blue, however it is not always simple to know who exactly has the feature, and conversations with multiple users is not yet supported.


iMessage Screenshot Apple-for-u-Blog

Notification Center

One of iOS’s most annoying features was its pop-up push notifications that used to come out of nowhere, disrupt your current activity, and then get lost with other notifications. Now Apple has created a very elegant and neat notification center, which not only allows you to keep track of every incoming notification but also allows you to access it directly by sliding down the screen and then accessing the item directly, whether it’s from a calendar, email or tweet. As a bonus, Apple has even folded the “Stocks” and “Weather” apps into the notification center so you can see stock prices options and the weather forecast live here as well. This is easily the best major addition to iOS. Android users had a good notification center for awhile, but this gives the user even more versatility when addressing to-dos.

 
Notification Screenshot from cnet.com

iCloud

Another major addition to iOS 5 is the addition of iCloud, a revamped version of Mobile Me. iCloud gives users 5GB of free storage and allows them to easily and seamlessly sync mail, contacts, calendar, bookmarks and even data from select applications on servers on the “cloud.” The data can be pushed up or down to any of your devices effortlessly. Also you can sync your camera reel with iCloud, up to a limit of 1000 photos.

iCloud is an interesting feature; however as a function it still has a lot of room for growth. First, developers now need to take into account its usage when developing new apps. Next, 5GB storage nowadays is not very much and this might force some people to upgrade to more costly options. Finally, the slow upload rate in the region might make syncing on the cloud more time consuming than syncing on your computer.

 
iCloud Screenshot from Engadget

Camera

iOS 5 has simplified access to the camera; now even when the phone is locked, clicking twice on the home button will get you a small camera icon you can use to directly access the camera. The volume button, although not very well positioned, can be used as a shutter button and now a 3x3 grid can be placed on the screen to frame shots better. These minor but necessary improvements make an otherwise hard-to-use camera system easier to use.

Safari

Safari has now multi-tab browsing, limited to nine tabs, which are easier to navigate than nine independent open pages.

Twitter Integration

Another feature that received some publicity when iOS 5 was announced is its direct integration of Twitter. You can set your credentials once at setup, and then from anywhere on the phone, you can instantly tweet anything from photos, to links to articles.

Wrap Up

With iOS 5, Apple is delivering us both a functional, easy to use and well-designed operating system. It is well-polished and appears to have few to no bugs. As usual, Apple keeps innovating with constant integration of new services, creating a convergence between our visions of the future and the products in our hands. Other companies have been working hard on closing the gap and have to some extent managed to gain some ground, but with iOS 5, Apple reminded us who’s putting the term “smart” in “smartphone.”


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