iOS 5 revealed

Perhaps the most interesting of the announcements at WWDC 2011, Apple has today unveiled iOS 5 with several compelling improvements.

Firstly, the notification system has been entirely overhauled into what’s now known as the Notification Center, which can be accessed by swiping down on any screen. New notifications will now appear at the top of the screen, rather than interrupting the current app. The Lock screen has been improved too such that more than one notification can be viewed at a time. This is a real improvement over current versions of iOS.

iMessages is a new messaging service for iOS5. It takes the features of similar programs such as WhatsApp and LiveProfile, which in turn copied the feature set of Blackberry Messenger. Although this isn’t completely new, as we’ve already had similar third party programs for a while, it’s a welcome addition.

Seperate from iBooks, Newsstand is designed for newspaper and magazine content which is updated regularly. New issues are pushed to the device in the background, so they can be downloaded and read later in areas where there isn’t a strong internet signal, for example, on a train.

Reminders are an amazing feature as they can be linked into locations. Imagine you need to do something as soon as you get to work – as soon as you get close, the device will remind you, without needing to manually second guess what time you’ll get there.

Twitter has now been completely integrated into iOS, so now it’s possible to tweet directly from Safari, YouTube or Maps, for example.

The camera features of the iPhone have now been updated, and it’s possible to access the camera app directly from the app screen – perfect for when you need to quickly take a new picture. It’s now easier to zoom, with a natural pinch rather than a slider, and the volume up button now works as a shutter release. The Photos app has been updated too – it now integrates crop, rotating, enhancing, and removing red-eye. Currently you would need to open Photoshop Express for this functionality.

Safari has a new mode – ‘Safari Reader’ – which claims to display web pages without ads. It now has tabbed browsing on iPad. Finally, Apple claims it also has better performance, something which is always appreciated.

New iOS devices can now be set up without a PC or Mac. Apple have taken the step of examining everything we’ve needed a computer for, and included it in iOS 5. The ‘connect to iTunes’ screen is now gone, replaced by a wizard. Downloading new iOS updates can now be performed on the device directly.

When the device is plugged in, iOS can now wirelessly sync with iTunes. I’m hoping this will also work as a manual sync too, when the device isn’t connected.

Although it’s disappointing that we haven’t seen details of any new hardware today, it’s encouraging that there is plenty of innovation in the new iOS. Surprisingly, it is compatible with the iPhone 3GS, which many had believed wouldn’t have been the case. There’s been no details of availability yet, but I expect it to be released around September, where we can also expect to hear details of the iPhone 5.

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