Apple officially unveiled the next version of iOS mobile operating system, iOS 5, during the keynote address of WWDC 2011. Unfortunately, iOS 5 is introduced without the much-awaited iPhone 5 (or iPhone 4S). Nonetheless, iOS 5 is probably a do or die firmware software upgrade for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, which face increased competition from Android phone and tablets, and the upcoming Windows 8.

New Features in iOS 5

Apple announces that there are more than over 200 new features and 1,000 new APIs been included and added in version 5 to the iOS, the most advanced mobile operating system, though iOS 5 will probably remembered as a watershed version that Apple tries to catch up (read: copying) instead of innovate ahead of rival platforms, where most of the new features are either already built into Android, Blackberry and/or Windows Phone, or already provided by third-party apps.

iOS 5 App Icons

Highlights of New Features in iOS 5:

  1. Notification Center – Android style notification bar is finally coming to iOS platform with the introduction of an unobtrusive way to easily view and manage notifications of text messages, missed calls, calendar alerts, app alerts and all other notifications in one place without interruption. Notification Center can be accessed from anywhere within iOS 5, by swiping from top down. New notification arrived will appear briefly at the top of the screen without interrupting current app’s operation, and user can choose to tap on the alert to go to the notifying app, or “X” to close the notification instantly.

    Currently, a notification pop-up alert is displayed on the center of screen, which stops the current app briefly until user tap on Close button, or View to go to the notifying app.

  2. Lock Screen Enhancement on Notifications – Notifications now appear on the lock screen instead of pop-up alerts which disappear once screen is unlocked. Swiping across the notification (similar to unlock screen but on the line of notification) will take user to the notifying app directly.
  3. iMessage – A new messaging service (but not so new as it’s built right into Messages app which means Messages is now iMessage) that lets user easily send text messages, photos, videos and contact information between all iOS devices – iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Messages are sent via Wi-Fi or 3G, and can be sent to single individual or a group. All iMessages are automatically pushed and synced to all your iOS 5 devices. iMessage also features delivery and read receipts, typing indication and secure end-to-end encryption.

    WhatsApp probably has to go permanently free with iOS 5 release. Luckily iMessage only supports inter-IOS messaging. But we keep wondering why Apple even need to spend time to develop iMessage, as there are plenty of apps under Social Networking category that already provide such messaging capability, with most is cross-platform between iOS, Android, Blackberry and even Windows Phone or Symbian.

  4. Newsstand – a new way to purchase and organize your newspaper and magazine subscriptions in bookshelf style.
  5. PC Free – Means no connection to iTunes is required to activate and set up iOS device, and iOS software updates are delivered and installed over the air (OTA).

    It’s interesting to Apple calls the feature “PC Free” instead of “iTunes Free” or “Cable Free”, as currently iTunes on PC or Mac is required, and not PC is required. Goes PC Free may also start the decline of iTunes, in favor of iCloud.

  6. OTA Delta Updates – Only differences or changes are been pushed over the air to iOS device, instead of whole update package.
  7. Wi-Fi Sync – If you can leave iTunes, Wi-Fi Sync in iOS 5 transfers and backs up the content securely over SSL between iOS devices and iTunes. Any new purchased content is wirelessly synced from device to your iTunes library too.
  8. Twitter Integration – Single sign-on with Twitter and iOS 5 supports tweeting directly from Twitter-enabled apps, including Photos, Camera, Safari, YouTube and Maps. User can also sync contacts with Twitter. Third-party apps can take advantage of Twitter integration with availability of new APIs which allow access to Twitter single sign-on information.

    Unfortunately, there is no Facebook integration, yet – we hope, which proved to be much more popular than Twitter among novice Internet users.

  9. Safari Reader in Safari – Finally Apple is tackling one aspect of Safari web browser that renders it virtually usable especially on iPhone and iPod touch, that it’s extremely weak in resizing font on web pages to a readable size in single vertical scroll column. Android’s browser has been excelling in this aspect. Safari Reader is an attempt by Apple to catch up with Android, though Apple markets it nicely as a way to “gets all the clutter out of the way and sets the right font size on a web page, so you can easily scroll and read through a story”.
  10. Reading List in Safari – Unlike bookmarks, Reading List saves articles to read later and the list is automatically show up on all your iOS devices.
  11. Tabbed Browsing in Safari.
  12. Reminders app – A tasks management app that lets user create and group tasks together. Features ability to set time or location-based reminder alerts, priorities and due dates, or when you arrive or depart a given location. Tasks in Reminders can be synced and updated to iCal and Outlook.
  13. Instant launch of Camera app from lock screen by double pressing the Home button, and tap on Camera icon beside the unlock bar.
  14. Snap button to capture photo – Long overdue feature which uses the volume-up button to quickly snap a photo instead of tapping on snap button on screen.
  15. Enhancement to Camera app – Optional grid lines to help line up objects, and a tap will lock focus and exposure settings on one subject, useful when capturing creative scenes that require focus on object which is not a main subject.
  16. Enhancement to Photos app – Ability to auto enhance, crop, rotate, enhance and remove red-eye, and organize your photos into albums right on the device to share them on the go.
  17. Split Keyboard – System-wide split keyboard mainly for use on iPad by dragging keyboard with thumb at the top of iPad.
  18. Dictionary – iOS 5 will come with a built-in dictionary which can be utilized by all the App Store apps.
  19. Game Center enhancement – Features ability to add photos to your profile, purchase new games from within the Game Center app and easier ways to find friends and new games via automatic recommendations.
  20. Mail enhancements – Include another long overdue ability to compose messages using draggable address field to rearrange name, and a new formatting bar with bold, italics, underline and indention controls, aka HTML rich text formatted email messages. Also supported is ability to add or delete mail folders from within the Mail app.
  21. Calendar enhancements – Year view on iPad and week view on iPhone and iPod touch, with ability to view event attachments from within the Calendar app.
  22. New multitasking gestures for iPad, e.g. using four or five fingers, swipe up to reveal the multitasking bar, pinch to return to the Home screen, and swipe left or right to switch between apps.
  23. AirPlay Mirroring – wirelessly display iPad 2 screen to HDTV screen through Apple TV.
  24. iCloud – The strength of Apple marketing is probably to pack several features into one and keep saying it’s a breakthrough innovation, and the believers accept it without doubt. But kudo to Apple, their approach may be more elegant and easier to use. iCould is a cloud-service seamlessly integrate with your apps to automatically and wirelessly sync and keep all of your mail, contacts, calendars, photos, apps, books, music and more, up-to-date across all iOS devices without ever having to connect to a computer. It inherits all features of the failed Apple MobileMe service, put iTunes Store on the cloud, and has music store that competes with Google Music and Amazon Cloud Player.

    iCloud

    Here’s breakdown of various iCloud features and offerings:

    1. Completely free former MobileMe services – Contacts, Calendar and Mail synchronization across all iOS devices and with computers with iCal and Outlook through iTunes 10.3 or newer version. With iCloud, users can share calendars with friends and family, and the ad-free push Mail account is hosted at me.com. No surprise here as PIM synchronization is a must since very early existence of smartphone since Palm and Pocket PC era.
    2. App Store and iBookstore allows download of purchased iOS apps and books to up to 10 iDevices at no additional cost. Download is easily accessible after logging in with Apple ID as purchase history is shown with iCloud icon to start the download.
    3. iCloud Backup – A feature naturally must available as iTunes is no longer compulsory. iCloud Backiup automatically and securely backs up content on iOS devices to iCloud daily over Wi-Fi when you charge your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Backed up content includes purchased music, apps and books, Camera Roll (photos and videos), device settings and app data. The backed up data can be restored to new iOS device by just entering the Apple ID and password during setup. The function is currently performed by iTunes.
    4. iCloud Storage – Offers up to 5GB of free storage to seamlessly store all documents created using iCloud Storage APIs, including Pages, Numbers and Keynote (iWork), and push/sync to user’s all iOS devices. The space is also been used to store mail and backup. But music, apps and books purchased from Apple does not take up the available free space limit even though they’re also stored online at the cloud.

      With most iOS devices internal storage starts from 16GB to as high as 64GB, additional storage purchase will probably be yet another service that generates huge income for Apple, especially from people who takes a lot of photos and videos, or get music and movie from non-Apple source. Unlimited iTunes storage costs $24.95/year.

    5. iCloud Photo Stream – Automatically uploads the photos you take or import on any of your devices and wirelessly pushes them to all your devices and computers. Only the last 1,000 photos are stored on mobile devices, and iCloud will store each photos for 30 days for pushing to all connected devices. Photo Stream is built into the photo apps on all iOS devices, iPhoto on Macs, and saved to the Pictures folder on a PC.
    6. iTunes in the Cloud – Allows users to download previously and newly purchased iTunes music to all own iOS devices at no additional cost, manually or automatically. A new “Purchased” tab is included in iTunes for this purpose.
    7. iTunes Match – For $24.99 annually, iCloud will scan and match all music stored on local drives against iTunes’ online database of 18 million songs. If any is matched, the songs are replaced with a 256 kbps AAC DRM-free version stored on iCloud. The songs are instantly available on the iCloud without having to upload the complete local music files, and enjoy all benefits similar to music purchased from iTunes. Only unmatched songs are uploaded.

      But, do you like to be charged double to enjoy music that you’re already owned? Of course, unless you have thousands of illegally downloaded music wanted to be “converted” into legal versions, hosted on iCloud, which probably will become biggest pirated music hosting service. And unfortunate again, iTunes Match and iTunes in the Cloud is for iOS ecosystem. If you also have Android, Blackberry, Nokia Symbian, Windows Phone 7 or other mobile devices, Catch Media’s Play Anywhere, available through Best Buy Music Cloud is a similar service that even preceded iTunes Match.

    Many online storage service provider such as Dropbox, Box.net and SugarSync has already provided cloud backup and sync service with added advantage of cross-platform support, though it can’t really integrates with native apps of iOS due to closed system nature of iOS.

    Anyway, the good thing of iCloud is bring to an end the costly MobileMe, which priced at $99 yearly subscription. Instead, most of MobileMe original services are now available for free, including Find My iPhone which was made free in 2010. If you have paid up, you can get full refund if your license is used less than 45 days.

A video introduction of iOS 5 from Apple:

More information with screenshots of iOS 5 is available at http://www.apple.com/ios/ios5/.

iOS 5 is available free of charge for iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPod touch 3G, iPod touch 4G, iPad 1, iPad 2 and Apple TV 2G. It will definitely come as factory-installed for new iPhone – named either as iPhone 5 or iPhone 4S. The beta version of iOS 5 and SDK are available for free download for iOS Developer Program members at developer.apple.com, with final version for end-users scheduled to be released by fall 2011.

Update: iCloud and iOS 5 are live.

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