As promised, Apple dropped iOS 5 to everyone this morning. This new update to the iPhone, iPod, and iPad brings a lot of new features to Apple’s mobile devices, some which were sorely needed.
Custom messaging ringtones
Originally, iOS only allowed you to assign ringtones to people in your address book. Now you can assign custom ringtones to events such as text tones, email sending and receiving, tweets, and voice mail.
Double-tap the home button while locked for camera and iPod access
The one thing that annoyed me the most about the iPhone was the time it took to get to the Camera app. You had to unlock your phone, click the Camera app icon, and wait for the aperture to open. Now, all you have to do is double-tap the home button and you have instant access to the Camera app. You also have limited access to your music.
One major annoyance about iOS in the past was the way the phone handled notifications. If you got more than one, there was no way to look at the history of the notification that were sent to you. Now, you’re shown all your notifications on your home screen that came in since the last time you checked. What’s better is you can now swipe down from the top of your screen and see a longer notification history. You also get a scrolling stock ticker at the bottom of the notifications list.
If you get a notification while using your phone, instead of a giant dialog box intruding on your work, the top 100 pixels or so will “rotate” down like the answers in Family Feud, and display your notification that way. You can then choose to tap the notification to read it, or simply ignore it.
Instead of sending messages over SMS, Apple has created a new system called iMessage which allows you to send text, pics, and movies to anyone else that has iOS 5 with iMessage. Now you no longer have to send messages over the clunky SMS system, you can do it all over 3G and Wifi. You can even send messages to multiple people. If the person you’re sending the message to has iMessage as well, their name has a blue bubble. If not, they have a green bubble.
Originally, all you could do in iOS to remind yourself about anything was to use the Notes app. Now, iOS 5 has a Reminders app that not only keeps your list of reminders, but also pushes everything to iCloud, so it wirelessly syncs across all your devices. You can set priorities, and tell Reminders how often to remind you about your…reminder.
When you take a picture on your iPhone, or add one to your iPhoto library on your Mac, it’s automatically sent to all your devices.
One of the first things you’ll notice when you launch the Camera app is the grid lines it puts up by default. This is an excellent way to make sure your pictures are as straight as possible. Nobody wants their pictures to look crooked, as if they were taken in a villain’s lair from the old Batman TV show. HDR is also an option now so that you can take the high dynamic range pictures along with regular pictures.
Some people didn’t like that you had to touch the camera icon in the Camera app to take the picture because it was in an awkward position, so you can now use the volume up button on the iPhone 4 to snap the picture.
Software updates over the air
While beta testing iOS over the last few months,
I was able to update iOS over the air. I found that iOS will pull the update for you and let you know when it’s ready so that you don’t have to wait for it to download. You can, of course, do it manually. I was at a concert one evening when I got the notification that there was a new update available. I told my iPhone to proceed and was updated in less than 15 minutes. The downside is that if something does go wrong, you want to be close to your computer to restore from a recent backup. I would suggest not doing an over the air update unless you’re backed up and near a computer in case something goes wrong.
Sync and backup over Wifi
This is one feature that’s long overdue. I didn’t like that I had to attach my phone to my Mac every time I wanted to do a backup. Now, you can tell your iPhone to do its backup over Wifi. It has to be done over the local network where your computer resides, or at least have some kind of VPN access to it over the Wifi network you’re connected to.
While some people might not think that iOS 5 is a major upgrade, I saw a lot of little things that I absolutely love about it. iTunes Match won’t be ready for another few weeks, so watch here for our review of that service.